Advertising & Promotion Archives

Holidays Promotions (or lack thereof) at Top-20 Banks

By Jim Bruene on December 31, 2014 4:12 PM | Comments

For the past 10 years, I've done a year-end post examining holiday promotions at the largest U.S. banks. And surprisingly, fewer banks than at any time since 2004 were running holiday messages in the days before Christmas. This year, only four of the 20 largest banks referenced the holidays on their homepages. That compares to nine banks last year, eight in 2012, and 10 in 2011.

I'm at a loss to explain the retreat. My guess is that holiday promotions simply don't drive measurable sales lift. But these are massive retail banks and I'd think that virtual holiday decorations would be in the branding budget. Perhaps that, too, was tapped out by year end.

Here are the holiday participants this year:

As usual, PNC Bank led the pack with its three-decades-long holiday CPI (Christmas Present Index). Fifth Third and Comerica were reasonably decked out for the holidays. Finally, Citizens (RBS) had a small holiday message in the lower right (see screenshots below).

While we catalogued only the top 20, many other banks and credit unions displayed creative holiday promotions and/or messaging. For example, Navy Federal Credit Union featured several holiday messages on its hompage the day before Christmas Eve (see screenshot) and Huntington Bank used an eye-catching graphic to pitch its rewards card (screenshot below).

The scrooge list: top-20 banks with no holiday promotions or graphics on 24 Dec 2014: 
Bank of America, Bank of the West (BNP Paribas), BB&T, BBVA Compass, Capital One & Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct), Chase, Citibank, Harris Bank (BMO), HSBC, Key Bank, SunTrust, TD Bank, Union Bank (Mitsubishi UFJ), US Bank, Wells Fargo, Zions Bank.

Following is a quick overview of the promotions, including a 1- to 5-bulb rating.

Previous year-end holiday posts: 2013, 2012, 2011 (big banks), 2011 (CUs/community banks), 2009 part 1, 2009 part 2, 2007, 2006, 2006, 2004


Top-20 banks in the holiday spirit
(rated from 1 to 5 bulbs; screenshots from Tuesday morning, 24 Dec 2014)

PNC Bank

  • Animated Great Carol Comeback tied to its annual 12 Days of Christmas CPI price index (which it has published for the past 30 years)
  • Visa tie-in for holiday spending (lower left)

Score: imageimageimageimageimage

Hompage: PNC is leading with its "12 days of Christmas" price index


Landing page: Each of the 12 items from the famous song have humorous animations (link)



Fifth Third Bank

  • MasterCard Gift Card promo (#3 in 3-promo rotation)
  • Happy holiday greeting (#2 in 3-promo rotation)

Score: imageimageimageimage

Homepage promo #3


Homepage promo #2




  • Gift card promo in lower-left of main homepage
  • Large gift card in main promo area on main personal page (#1 in 3-promo rotation) with engaging holiday graphics (same promo ran the last 2 years)

Score: imageimageimage






Citizens Bank (RBS)

  • Holiday tie-in for credit card cashback

Score: image



Bonus standout: Navy Federal Credit Union

  • Happy holiday message with snowman at top of page
  • Cash rewards credit card offer displayed mid-page with bright holiday colors
  • Holiday rewards reminder in lower right

Score: imageimageimageimage



Bonus #2: Huntington Bank

  • Triple rewards credit card offer in mid-page with bright holiday colors

Score: imageimageimage



1. Observations taken between 6:30 AM and 8 AM, Eastern Time, on Wed, 24 Dec 2014, from a Florida IP address, running Mac Chrome browser with cookies cleared.
2. Animation from


Holiday Website Promotions at the Top 20 Banks

By Jim Bruene on December 26, 2013 6:05 PM | Comments

Banks have ratcheted up the design aspects of their websites substantially during the past 18 months. But in my annual look at holiday website designs, I found little change over past years. Only nine of the 20 largest U.S. banks displayed any holiday graphics or promos this year. That's one more than last year, but still one less than 2010.

Here's a rundown of the 2013 holiday UIs:

Once again PNC Bank led the pack with its three-decades-long holiday CPI (Christmas present index). Zions Bank and Comerica (with the same promo as last year) were decked out in full-screen holiday graphics. Union Bank, BB&T, US Bank, TD Bank and Wells Fargo also displayed notable holiday imagery. Chase just hinted at the holidays, earning a single bulb.

Many smaller banks and credit unions post creative holiday imagery. For example, Austin, TX-based Amplify Credit Union ran four holiday elements on its hompage on Christmas Eve (see last screenshot).

The scrooge list: top-20 banks with no holiday promotions or graphics on 24 Dec 2013: 
Bank of America, Bank of the West (BNP Paribas), Capital One, Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct), Citizens (RBS), Fifth Third, Harris Bank (BMO), HSBC, Key Bank, SunTrust, Union Bank (Mitsubishi UFJ)

Following is a quick overview of the promotions, including a 1- to 5-bulb rating.

Previous year-end holiday posts: 2012, 2011 (big banks), 2011 (CUs/community banks), 2009 part 1, 2009 part 2, 2007, 2006, 2006, 2004


Big banks in the holiday spirit
(rated from 1 to 5 bulbs; screenshots from Tuesday morning, 24 Dec 2013)

PNC Bank

  • Animated Gift Maker tied to its annual 12 Days of Christmas CPI price index (which it's published for 30 years)
  • Visa Gift Card promo (lower left)

Score: imageimageimageimageimage

Hompage: PNC is leading with its Gift Maker and 12 days of Christmas price index




  • Large gift card in main promo area (#3 in 4-promo rotation) with engaging holiday graphics
  • Gift card promo in bottom center position with green background

Score: imageimageimageimage



Zions Bank

  • Default "Merry Christmas" message with holiday graphics across the page (#1 of 4-promo rotation)

Score: imageimageimageimage



Union Bank

  • Rewards credit card (#2 in 3-promo rotation)

Score: imageimageimage




  • Checking account promo with holiday graphics
  • Small Visa gift card promo near the bottom of the page

Score: imageimageimage



TD Bank

  • Holiday budgeting tips

Score: imageimage



Landing page



US Bank

  • Customers (1st screenshot) saw some PFM messaging, the "Holiday money manager," which was touting the bank's online banking and alert functions (U.S. Bank does not offer advanced PFM functions)
  • Non-customers (2nd screenshot) saw a "Tis the season" checking-account promo

Score: imageimage

Hompage displayed to visitors known to be customers (via cookies)


Homepage displayed to non-customers



Wells Fargo

  • Holiday message in lower left (below the fold)
  • Plush pony for opening new account

Score: imageimage



Chase Bank

  • Credit card offer: "Save on holiday balances and new purchases"

Score: image



Bonus standout: Amplify Credit Union

  • Holiday bells integrated with logo
  • Skip-a-payment promo to free up holiday cash, with humorous holiday graphic
  • Holiday closures schedule
  • No payments until 2014 on auto loans

Score: imageimageimageimage



1. Observations taken between 9 AM and Noon, Pacific Time, on Tue, 24 Dec 2013, from Seattle IP address, Chrome browser with cookies cleared
2. Animation from


Top 11 U.S. Financial Services Advertisers and their Online Spend

By Jim Bruene on July 1, 2013 5:16 PM | Comments

image The annual U.S advertising spend-report just arrived from Advertising Age. As usual, financial brands were big spenders. Eleven financial brands were in the top 100, including two in the top 10 (JP Morgan Chase and American Express).

Internet spend (note 1): Experian was the #1 spender online among all companies in all industries with a reported $350 million. That amounts to more than 3% of the entire $10 billion spent online in the United States last year across all industries. The credit-reporting giant didn't spend enough offline to crack the top 100 in total advertising, which means at least 80% of its total spending is online.  

Among the big overall spenders, estimated Internet spending varies widely. American Express, BofA, Capital One, and State Farm all spent a bit more than $100 million.

In terms of percentage of all advertising, the totals varied widely. On the low end, JP Morgan, Discover and Visa devoted 2% to 3% of their budget to online advertising. On the other side, Capital One, Citi, and Progressive all placed around the 9% mark.   


Table: U.S. advertising spending
Total of measured media and estimated unmeasured*

Company** 2012 2011 %Chg Internet % Internet Top-100 Rank
1. JP Morgan $2.1 bil $2.4 bil (11%) $46 mil 2.1% 8
2. AmEx $2.1 bil $2.1 bil (3%) $120 mil 5.7% 9
3. BofA $1.6 bil $1.7 bil (5%) $110 mil 6.9% 18
4. Capital One $1.3 bil $1.0 bil +22% $110 mil 8.5% 26
5. Citi $930 mil $980 mil (5%) $81 mil 8.7% 41
6. Progressive $800 mil $800 mil -- $77 mil 9.6% 51
7. Allstate $790 mil $740 mil +8% $52 mil 6.6% 54
8. State Farm $780 mil $800 mil (3%) $110 mil 14% 55
9. Discover $600 mil $460 mil +30% $12 mil 2.0% 68
10. Wells Fargo $580 mil $610 mil (5%) $21 mil 3.6% 70
11. Visa $480 mil $490 mil (1%) $12 mil 2.5% 83
Total $12.1 bil $12.1 bil -- $750 mil 6.2% --
Experian INA INA INA $350 mil 80%+ NA

*Source: Advertising Age, 24 June 2013; methodology; The % change number was calculated with more precise annual spend numbers than what appears above
**We did not include Warren Buffet's conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway which owns Geico and had the following numbers: 2012 = $1.6 bil; 2011 = $1.4 bil; +13%; Internet $31 mil, 1.9% of total


1. Internet spend covers desktop display/search only. Does not include mobile or video ad units. 


Mobile Marketing: USAA Embeds Preapproved Loan Offers within Mobile App

By Jim Bruene on May 9, 2013 11:33 AM | Comments

Now that the U.S. personal credit crisis of 2008 to 2010 is in the rear-view mirror (but still visible), banks and credit unions are getting more aggressive with credit. And guess what new marketing vehicle is available in 2013 that didn't exist five years ago? Yep, mobile this and mobile that.

So far, the sales component in mobile banking has been minimal. Generally, users must already be a customer of the bank and even pre-registered with online banking. And cross-selling? About the only thing you can buy remotely is an ATM withdrawal.

But that will change as more customers only deal with their bank and cards through mobile apps, a number that is already pushing 30% of the online banking base of Bank of America (see previous post).

Eventually, most financial products will be sold through the mobile app. Not convinced? Look internationally where mobile was a thing even before the iPhone. I still remember Bankinter's 2007 BAI Retail Delivery presentation where they said 20% of their retail interest-rate swaps were done via mobile phone.

In the United States, we are starting to see banks pushing the envelope. USAA has been the leader in most areas. So no surprise that they are the first (that I know of) to place preapproved credit offers within their mobile app (see screenshots below).

In the bank's Dec. 2012 update (see inset), it added the ability to:

  • Accept pre-approvals in the app
  • Apply for checking and savings accounts in the app
  • Apply for life insurance after getting a quote in the app

Bottom line: The power of the pre-approved credit offer is well known. Traditionally, snail mail has been the medium of choice. But that's expensive, time-consuming, and oftentimes not delivered at the optimal moment. Delivering offers via mobile phone can solve all those problems.

And as an added bonus: The sales results will create a better business case for your entire mobile initiative.


USAA delivers preapproved credit card offer within its mobile app (Dec 2013)
Note: Screenshots shown are from a customer with an existing USAA life insurance relationship.
Price disclosures (right screenshot) displayed after clicking "Rates and Fees" under "Accept Offer" (left screenshot)

image         image

Source: comScore Q4 2012, Mobile Financial Services Advisor


Note: We cover online mobile delivery and marketing in depth in our subscription-based Online Banking Report.


Duke Energy Advertises Savings Account Alternative on

By Jim Bruene on April 15, 2013 10:13 AM | Comments

image Above a Paul Krugman Bitcoin commentary on today, Duke Energy is pitching Premier Notes, a liquid savings account alternative that pays 1.5% for "deposits" of $50,000 or more, 1.3% for $10,000, or 1.1% for less than $10,000 (see screenshot below). Minimum opening amount is $1,000. There is no online application, but you can print a PDF and mail it back with your check.

The timing of the advertisement is no coincidence. March and April are the months when deposit balances swell temporarily with tax refunds. 

The Duke Energy rate is pegged at 0.25% higher than the taxable money market average, though that benchmark is essentially zero right now (2 basis points last week). So, it's hard to know whether this is a promotional rate that could decline to 27 bps in the near future, of if Duke Energy will keep it above the highest bank rates. That will likely depend on how much money they attract.

The notes were introduced in early 2011, and have carried similar rates since for at least the past year. A May 2012 post at lists the top rate at 1.6% and lowest tier at 1.25%. Apparently, GE and Ford offer similar programs. Those two are both paying 1.0% (for $10k) and 1.1% (for $50k+).

Bottom line: Banks have been competing for deposits with non-insured money market vehicles for decades. So, this isn't a new threat, nor one that you are going to lose sleep over. But it could become a material issue if more non-financial companies target the retail saver.


Duke Energy banner ad in today's NT Times website (link, 15 April 2013)
Note: Capital One 360 maintains its presence in the small upper-right-corner logo

Duke Energy pitches Premier Notes on

Duke Energy Premier Notes landing page (link)

Duke Energy Premier Notes landing page


1. For more info, see our Online Banking Report (Nov. 2008, subscription) detailing various ways to leverage your online/mobile channel to boost deposits.


Holiday Website Promos at the Top-20 Banks

By Jim Bruene on December 24, 2012 11:43 AM | Comments

In my annual look at holiday offerings from major banks, I found that Scrooge still roams the halls at many of the big names. Only eight of the 20 largest U.S. banks are using holiday-themed promotions or graphics (note 1). That's one more than last year, but still two less than 2010.

As usual, PNC Bank is the exception with their two-decade long holiday CPI (Christmas present index). BB&T, Comerica and Fifth Third are also festive this year with gift card promotions supported by seasonal graphics. And US Bank, Citi, Key and Regions Bank used some holiday imagery.   

The scrooge list: top-20 banks with no holiday promotions or graphics on Dec. 20): 
Bank of America, Bank of the West (BNP Paribas), Capital One, Chase, Citizens (RBS), Harris Bank (BMO), HSBC, ING Direct (Capital One), SunTrust, TD Bank, Union Bank (Mitsubishi UFJ), Wells Fargo

Following is a quick overview of the promotions, including a 1-to 5-bulb rating.

Previous year-end holiday posts: 2011 (big banks), 2011 (CUs/community banks), 2009 part 1, 2009 part 2, 2007, 2006, 2006, 2004


Big banks in the holiday spirit
(rated 1 to 5 bulbs; screenshots from Thursday, Dec 20)

PNC Bank

  • Gift Hunt tied to its Christmas CPI (based on the song 12 Days of Christmas)
  • Visa Gift Card promo (in rotation of four homepage promotions)

Score: imageimageimageimageimage

Hompage: PNC is leading with its 12 days of Christmas price index


PNC Bank microsite with gift hunt link


Also running gift card promo in rotation


BB&T (20 Dec 2012)

  • Holiday themed graphic featuring mobile check deposit
  • Small ad for gift cards




Fifth Third

  • Rotation of three holiday themed promotions
    -- Holiday billpay sweeps
    -- New Years savings promo
    -- Gift cards





  • Prominent gift card promo across page and in lower-left corner




Key Bank

  • Holiday graphic, but no product promotion





  • Toy shopping background image




US Bank

  • Pitch for online banking, convenient while shopping



Regions Bank

  • Small saving money tips




1. Observations taken between 2pm and 3pm Pacific on Thurs Dec 20 from Seattle IP address, Chrome browser with no cookies
2. Animation from


Oklahoma Employees Credit Union Posts Seven Specials for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

By Jim Bruene on November 21, 2012 11:37 AM | Comments

imageDuring the past few years we've reported on Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions at financial institutions (last year). ING Direct is the only large bank that has consistently used the post-Thanksgiving holiday in its marketing (see below) and we are glad to see it continue under Capital One ownership.

imageThis year we found another new entrant for our database of holiday offers, 42,000 member Oklahoma Employees Credit Union. It has a prominent black tag on its homepage announcing a "Black Friday Money $ale" (see first screenshot). 

And from the looks of it, the CU has created a pretty hot offer, leading with car loans as low as 1.49% with no payment due for 90 days (well after holiday spending subsides). But that's just one of the seven holiday offers (second screenshot). The CU is also offering:

From Black Friday to Cyber Monday (Nov 23 to 26)

  • 1.49% APR* on New or Used Auto Loans 
  • 1.00% APR^ Off Unsecured Loans
  • Surcharge Free Gift Cards***
Black Friday to the End of the Year (Nov 23 to Dec 31)
  • 90 days no pay**
  • $149 Mortgage Loan Origination Fee^^
  • $49 Credit*^ with New MasterCard
  • 0.49%tt Business Loan Origination Fee


    Oklahoma Employees Credit Union homepage with Black Friday specials (Wed, 21 Nov 2012)


    Black Friday landing page (link)


    ING Direct homepage with Black Friday offers (21 Nov 2012)


    ING Direct Black Friday teaser page (link)
    Note: The bank does not reveal the actual offers until midnight Thursday



    Fine print on Oklahoma Employees Credit Union offers:

      *Annual Percentage Rate. 640+ credit score. Max term 60 months; estimated payment $17.31 per $1,000 borrowed. Min amount $10,000. Existing OECU loan min advance $2,500. Requires automatic payments and eStatements. 
      ** Borrower may defer initial auto loan payment up to 90 days. Interest will accrue from date of advance. 
      ^ Annual Percentage Rate. Reduction from regular earned rate as determined by credit score. 
      *** Up to 5 cards
      ^^ Max 12 years up to $250,000 and 75% loan-to-value as determined by appraisal or AVM. 
      *^ Initial transaction must be made by 1/10/13. Credit to be issued by 2/10/13. 
      tt Owner occupied commercial real estate. Max loan $500,000. Additional closing costs may apply. Normal lending policies apply.


      Display Ads in Gmail Morph into Email Ads with One Click

      By Jim Bruene on October 17, 2012 9:54 AM | Comments

      image Evidently, Google has been testing new Gmail ad formats for a year. But yesterday was the first time I'd tested it. It's a very different experience, one that could be appealing for financial advertisers.

      How it works
      Yesterday, Lifelock served me a display ad within Gmail. Once you click on it, the ad  morphs into an email (see first screenshot below). It is not only a quick way to evaluate the offering (saving the trip to a web-based landing page), but also allows users to treat the ad like an email by saving it to the inbox, forwarding it, or dismissing the ad forever (the action items run above the message).

      If you choose "Save to Inbox" the message shows up in the Everything Else category as a message from yourself (see second screenshot). At that point it's just like any other message and can be flagged, archived, forwarded or deleted.

      Bottom line: The ad format could make offers more sticky. It's a promising model for financial products, which are usually not quick, spur-of-the- moment purchases. It's worth testing anyway, if you have a big enough customer base using Gmail.


      Lifelock display ad in Gmail opens up into an embedded email (16 Oct 2012)


      Once saved in the inbox, the ad shows up under "Everything Else" as a message from yourself


      Lifelock landing page (after clicking on Join Lifelock Now) in email ad



      Mobile Marketing: Leveraging the iPhone App Update Process

      By Jim Bruene on July 30, 2012 4:53 PM | Comments

      image As customers have adopted ever-more convenient delivery methods, the customer communications process has changed dramatically. Each channel has its own ways of communicating with customers:

      • Branch/mail: Signage, statement inserts, chance conversations in line, direct sales pitches
      • Phone: On-hold messages, prompts on the phone tree, direct sales pitches
      • Online: Email, interstitials, display ads, website content, popups, online chat
      • Mobile: Similar to online plus notifications, text messages and app updates (see below)

      In the mobile channel, the process for updating native apps provides a unique marketing opportunity that is virtually without cost and guaranteed to be read by a large portion of your mobile customers (previous post). App publishers have a screen of free real estate to explain the benefits of the new feature(s).

      I've read thousands of these update descriptions and there is huge variety of approaches. Some publishers take maximum advantage of the "free publicity" to engage their customers (see Yelp below), pump up the new features (see USAA), and seek additional feedback (see Redfin, SimplyUs examples).

      Other publishers don't pay enough attention to readability (Wells, Bank of America, US Bank examples, see note 1) or just put the minimum effort into a bulleted list (E*Trade). 

      Bottom line: Each time you push out a new update, use it as an opportunity to educate users and reinforce your mobile brand.


      iPhone App Update Examples


      Yelp reinforces its playful brand with        USAA is more matter of fact, but  
      enthusiastic and humorous copy                   does a good job highlighting new
      announcing its v.6.0.                                           features in its v.4.9.

      image     image

      Redfin released a minor bug fix in             SimplyUs gets right to its bullet
      v.3.3.2 but includes its email address        list of features, with just enough
      to report any issues.                                           info to explain the v.1.0.17 update.
      Nice touch!                                                            Plus email and Twitter handle.

      image     image

      Need work

      Wells does an OK job, but the first               Similarly, Bank of America has an
      bullet reads like something lifted from        acceptable message for its v.3.3.351. 
      project checklist. And the second                  But the copy is a little confusing and
      is too long-winded. Plus, a floating             has an asterisked point floating mid-page.                       "Bug fixes" hovers at  the bottom                        
      of its v.2.1 update.

      image     image

      US Bank's v. 1.6.8 message is                    E*Trade's 2.6 update sounds like it
      confusing. Something about being             has a bunch of new features, but
      asked to accept a quick update, but          it did nothing but list them with
      no specifics on why or what has                no explanations.

      image    image


      1. These examples were all taken from updates I downloaded today. They are not necessarily indicative of every update from these companies. At major releases (such as Yelp's v6.0), most publishers will step up the copy-writing quality.


      First Arkansas Homepage Goes All In with Social Media

      By Jim Bruene on May 31, 2012 8:17 PM | Comments (2)

      image I don't know how long First Arkansas Bank & Trust has had a big Facebook-like image dominating its homepage (see below), but it's timely given all the attention the social network has received of late. Despite a little blip with the IPO, Facebook is one of most significant brands on the planet. So associating your financial brand with it is a good move.

      FAB&T is using the homepage to create awareness of its four social network outlets:

      • Facebook | Like
      • Twitter | Follow
      • YouTube | Watch
      • Blog | Read

      The huge Socialize With Us image is eye-catching and would garner a fair number of clicks, except for one problem. The entire center graphic, including the social media icons, are not clickable. The only way to get to the sites is to click on their icons in the upper right corner of the homepage (note 1). This is a strange design decision.  

      Bottom line: While I like the approach of exposing all the trendy social media icons, I'm not sure FAB&T should be sending people to all four. The bank's Facebook page is good, with a modern design, frequent updates, and 755 fans (see second screenshot). So, it makes sense to encourage users to visit and like it.

      However, the other social media sites are a little anemic. The blog hasn't been updated since the end of 2011; there has only been one tweet in the past 2 months; and the YouTube channel has limited content.

      Like most financial institutions, FAB&T would probably be better served by focusing on Facebook (note 2) and letting the other sites go, or at least stop referring customers to them from the homepage. 


      First Arkansas Bank homepage (31 May 2012)

      First Arkansas Bank homepage (31 May 2012)

      First Arkansas Bank Facebook page (link)

      FAB&T Facebook page  

      First Arkansas Bank Twitter page (link)
      Note: The bank had one tweet in May, zero in April and a couple in March.


      First Arkansas Bank Blog (link)
      Note: The last post was almost six months ago. And the site is hosted on the Google's free blogging platform, Blogger, which doesn't really do much to help with the brand image.



      image 1. And those all require users to click through a "third-party warning" before redirecting the user to the social network sites. That further gums up the user experience.
      2. See our Online Banking Report "Banking in Facebook" published in Feb. 2012 (subscription).

      Comments (2)

      A Less Taxing April 15 from America First Credit Union

      By Jim Bruene on April 13, 2012 2:16 PM | Comments

      imageLooking for a little Friday afternoon diversion, I visited the website of the recent winner in the humor category of CUNA's credit union marketing awards, America First Credit Union.

      I liked the clever homepage graphic for its loan "billion dollar loan sale" (inset above). But what inspired this blog entry, was the credit union's recognition that thousands of its members will be slogging through their Federal income tax returns this weekend (note 1).

      America First put a prominent orange band across the top of its website (on all pages) reminding members where they could find 2011 tax info on their accounts (screenshot below). And like many financial institutions this time of year, the CU posted a link to TurboTax online for those needing last-minute assistance.

      America First Credit Union homepage (13 April 2012)



      Note: U.S. national income tax returns must be filed by April 17, 2012, by anyone in the country with any income last year. 


      Holiday Promotions from Credit Unions and Community Banks

      By Jim Bruene on December 27, 2011 1:45 PM | Comments

      imageLast week we looked at the holiday efforts (or lack thereof) of the 20 largest U.S. banks. But aside from PNC Bank's "Christmas cost index" and ING Direct's "12 days of mobile," not much this holiday season was particularly noteworthy (inset for Midland Bank gift cheques, circa 1956, see credit below).

      For inspiration, you need to look at the smaller banks and credit unions. Here are five we found through random googling today: 

      1. Michigan State University FCU: 6.9% Holiday Loan (homepage promo #2)


      2. Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union: Visa Gift Card (homepage promo #2)


      3. OnPoint Community Credit (Oregon): Mobile gift cards (homepage, promo #1) , Visa Gift Card (promo #2)



      4. Community First Credit Union (Florida): iPad giveaway for eStatements (homepage, promo #3; landing page)


      5. Texas Bank: "Stash the Christmas cash" (homepage, one of four rotating promos; landing page)
      Note: "Stash the cash" is similar to BofA's "keep the change;" debit card purchases are rounded up to nearest dollar with the extra 1-99 cents deposited into savings. The holiday promo included a 5% bonus match on each transfer in December (website powered by Bancvue)



      imageNote: Picture credit. Midland Bank advertisement for holiday checks from The Illustrated London News, 17 Nov 1956. (Click to enlarge, for sale here). 


      Holiday Promotions at the Top-20 U.S. Banks

      By Jim Bruene on December 21, 2011 4:38 PM | Comments

      Since I began blogging in 2004, I've usually run a year-end post looking at the holiday marketing efforts of the top-20 U.S. banks (links below). This year, only 7 of the 20 banks are using holiday or seasonal imagery on their homepages. That's a decrease of 3 over last year.

      As usual, PNC Bank is the gold standard for holiday bank promotions, with its long-running (25+ years) "cost of Christmas index" which quantifies the cost of procuring all the items mentioned in the famous song, "12 Days of Christmas." Following is a quick overview of the promotions, including a 1-to 5-bulb rating. 

      Previous posts: 2010, 2009 part 1, 2009 part 2, 2007, 2006, 2006, 2004


      Big banks in the holiday spirit
      (rated 1 to 5 bulbs)

      PNC: Christmas cost index

      • Cost of Christmas based on the song 12 Days of Christmas

      Score: imageimageimageimageimage



      Landing page: Amazing microsite, wonderful graphics, and slow loading (link)


      Fifth Third: holiday sweeps

      • Pay Your Bills sweeps with holiday graphics
      • Small ad with a card wrapped with ribbon which directs users to branches for "holiday shopping made easy," presumably for gift cards, but neither the ad nor the landing page make that clear

      Score: imageimageimageimage


      ING Direct: Mobile usage sweeps

      • 12 Days of Mobile sweeps

      Score: imageimageimageimage


      Landing page


      Chase: sweeps and car loans

      • Winner Wonderland, credit card sweeps with one entry for every credit card purchase and 5 entries for every donation put on the Chase card
      • Add joy to your wallet, car refinance promotion

      Score: imageimageimage


      BB&T: Visa gift card

      • Small advertisement in lower right

      Score: image image



      TD Bank: Visa gift card

      • Small advertisement in lower right (below the fold on my laptop)

      Score: image



      Key Bank: gift cards

      • Very small gift-card promo, below the fold on my laptop and rotating with a half-dozen other items

      Score: image




      1. No holiday imagery on the homepages of BofA, Wells Fargo, Citibank, HSBC, US Bank, SunTrust, Capital One, Citizens, Regions, Harris, Bank of the West, Union Bank, Comercia
      2. Screenshots taken from Ft. Myers, FL, IP address, between 7 and 8 PM, 20 Dec 2011    
      3. Credit: Happy Holidays animation from


      Cyber Monday in Banking

      By Jim Bruene on November 28, 2011 4:46 PM | Comments

      imageI've written about Black Friday promotions at ING Direct (see note 1), Service Credit Union, and the growing Small Business Saturday event spearheaded by American Express (which even earned a tweet from  Obama).

      This year I also noticed a trickle of activity on Cyber Monday as well. It's probably better than Black Friday for online/mobile campaigns. Better yet, use the approach of Visions FCU (screenshot 2 & 3) and use the entire weekend to maximize the impact. 

      Cyber Monday promos:

      • 50% off credit-monitoring products from Quizzle, the spinout from Quicken Loans (see email below)
      • Visions Federal Credit Union offered a loan special from Black Friday through Cyber Monday (screenshot below). The CU reported $10 million in loans on Friday alone.
      • Navy Federal Credit Union offered bonus rewards-points for purchases made online


      Cyber Monday email from Quizzle (link; Monday, 7 AM Pacific, 28 Nov 2011)

      Cyber Monday email from Quizzle

      Visions Federal Credit Union Thanksgiving weekend loan special (28 Nov 2011)

      Visions Federal Credit Union Thanksgiving weekend loan special

      Visions landing page (link)

      Visions FCU landing page Black Friday landing page

      Navy Federal Cyber Monday cashRewards promo (link)
      Note: Given the date shown, this page is likely a carryover from 2010. But it's still available via "Cyber Monday" searches on Navy Federal's website.

      Navy Federal Credit Union Cyber Monday landing page

      1. ING Direct was at it again with seven offers over the Thanksgiving weekend (Deposit Accounts has the full rundown). However, the specials did not extend into Cyber Monday.   
      2. 1st Financial Federal Credit Union ($210 million, Wentzville, MO) and Heritage Community Credit Union ($200 million, Sacramento, CA) offered loan deals on Black Friday according to


      Guess What I've Been Researching Online?

      By Jim Bruene on November 22, 2011 10:01 AM | Comments

      imageI realize that ads based on recent activity are effective. But it's still slightly unnerving, wondering whether you've lost every last bit of privacy or that you've been hit by an adware virus. But overall, it's good to get relevant offers, especially when one has a $10 bonus in it (see AmEx below).

      Here's the two ads tossed my way while I was checking the status of my son's flight today:

      Amex Serve and Geico ads

      I wrote a blog post on Serve yesterday (see AmEx promo on top of the page) and have been banging around insurance sites (see Geico ad on right) for the past two weeks as I wrap up a report on the subject.

      AmEx Serve offer
      Perhaps because I didn't sign up yesterday, American Express is throwing me $10 to try Serve, its P2P payments service. Here's the excellent landing page (link):

      American Express Servce landing page

      After entering your email address, the button turns to a thank-you. It's good feedback for the user and keeps them from accidentally submitting the form twice.


      Here's the email sent a few moments later:

      American Express Serve email


      1. Button credit
      2. We covered P2P payments two years ago in our Online Banking Report (subscription).


      Square Updates its Merchant Platform

      By Jim Bruene on November 15, 2011 6:48 PM | Comments

      image In 15+ years of accepting credit cards, there have been few notable communications from our acquiring bank or payments gateway, other than normal transactional messages (note 1). Square looks to be changing that with a focus on merchant (and end user) experience.

      For example, today I received an email outlining Square's latest platform enhancements (see first screenshot). The message included an enticing Open for Business with an invitation to watch a 70-second video outlining enhancements to its merchant platform, including built-in rewards capabilities (note 2). 

      The company has grown quickly. Basically starting at zero at the beginning of the year, they are now doing up to $11 million per day in card volume. More impressively, they are up to 800,000 merchants. Assuming a $65 to $70 average ticket, that's around 150,000 transactions per day, or 4 to 5 million per month. But that also means the average merchant is only doing 1 transaction every 5 or 6 days. 

      imageAnd the user experience is far from perfect. Square has suffered growing pains as it learns to manage a business fraught with fraud and uncertainty. We tried to use Square at Finovate last May and couldn't get transactions authorized, apparently due to tight account limits in force then.

      Four months later at FinovateFall, most transactions were authorized, much to the delight of attendees who used it. But unbeknownst to us (note 3), the money just sat in the Square account waiting for us to confirm our bank account. One small test-transaction had been sitting there since May.

      Bottom line: The company flat-out does a great job with design and UX, very Apple-esque. I expect to see a lot of innovation out of Square given its funding, valuation, and celebrity founder. The promise of turning transaction receipts into a dynamic communication is especially interesting (previous post).


      Email from Square (received 1PM Pacific, 15 Nov 2011)


      Landing page (not logged in; link)



      image1. It could be that I've simply forgotten messages received years ago. But I can say for sure that there have been very marketing/customer service messages, because I pay attention to them. My acquirer is not one of the major players. 
      2. TechCrunch has a good rundown of the new features.
      3. In fairness to Square, they did mention on the merchant receipt that we needed to verify the bank account. But during the heat of the conference, I never noticed that. Click on inset to see the company's transaction receipt (highlighting mine).  
      4. I wonder what it will take to convince Japan's Square-Enix Holdings, creator of Final Fantasy (video game) to part with the domain name (which is currently unused). 


      11/11/11 Promotion at Notre Dame Federal Credit Union

      By Jim Bruene on November 11, 2011 11:11 AM | Comments (1)


      Today is a big day for number nerds (note 1), as 11/11/11 makes its once-per-century appearance. So last night, I started looking for banks or credit unions using the date for a price promotion (note 2). With U.S. interest rates hovering around the 1% mark, I figured it would be pretty easy to find financial institutions offering CD specials at 1.11% APY, hopefully the 11-month variety.

      But after googling for at least an hour, I came up empty. I found a few 1.11% APYs for longer-term CDs, but no one that was promoting it as a Nov 11 special. I was about to give up, but tried "1.11% discount" and up popped Notre Dame Federal Credit Union going all in on the 11/11/11 theme. 

      The home page (below) features a huge ad for its 1.11% APR holiday loan of exactly $1,111. And can you guess the term of the loan? Yep, 111 days! Thank you NDFCU marketing dept, you rock.

      image Fine print: There is one small catch. To get the loan, members must apply for and be approved for the credit union's Visa Platinum card (presumably you can still get the holiday loan if you already have the CU's card). So it's really a credit card promotion in disguise, but that seems fair. It's a good price, and allows for a little expansion of the holiday budget, but with the discipline of a loan that must be repaid before April tax time (note 3).   

      The offer is good through the end of November. And the loan application can be made online.


      Notre Dame FCU hits all 1's on its homepage (11 Nov 2011)

      Notre Dame FCU hits all 1's on its homepage (11 Nov 2011)

      1.11% loan landing page (link)

      1.11% loan landing page NDFCU

      1. I've been one for a long time. When I got my first calculator, I pressed "+1" on it 111,111 times just to fill the screen with 1s, the hard way.  
      image2. Most U.S. financial institutions are closed today for Veterans Day, making it less likely to have a special one-day promotion. 
      3.  Members also have the options of rolling the balance onto their NDFCU credit card at the end of the term.
      4. Digital clock image from UK's Daily Telegraph which had a 9-hour head start on the day.
      5. Other 11/11/11 news:
      - NY Times looks at 11/11/11 promotions
      - DealerTrack marked the day with a press release about hitting the 1,111 lender milestone.
      - The only promotional email I received using the day was from Starwood hotels (see inset)

      Comments (1)

      Capital One Driving Mobile Use with Sweepstakes

      By Jim Bruene on November 9, 2011 5:54 PM | Comments

      imageBoosting mobile engagement has a promising ROI. Among other benefits, the potential $6+ saved per displaced call center inquiry can have a meaningful impact on the bottom line (note 1).

      And while volumes are growing, Capital One says mobile usage is up 5-fold compared to last year, it's still a lightly used channel compared to phone (voice) and online.

      Yet, for a card issuer, mobile is THE most important channel for the NFC/Square/GoogleWallet future.

      So it makes a ton of sense to pull out the stops now to get customers using the bank's mobile app. Capital One in particular, as one of the last majors to get into the app store, likely has an awareness problem with mobile cardholders. Even if the CapOne native app was downloaded, it's buried so deep on the iPhone's screens, that users forget about it. In my case, it's on screen number eight and I rarely see it even though I use my card almost every day.

      To attract more mobile uptake, the card giant launched a usage sweeps today. Between now and Jan 6, each cardholder will get one sweepstakes entry every day they log in to the mobile app or mobile web (SMS activity does not appear to count). One person will win a 16GB Wifi iPad2 each day. And a grand prize of a Chevy Volt will be awarded at the end (full rules). The total prize package is $80,000, less than the cost of one 30-second spot on an about-to-be-cancelled sitcom. 

      The sweeps is being promoted with a small homepage link and a prominent mention on the main mobile banking page (see second screenshot below).


      Capital One mobile sweeps landing page (link, 9 Nov 2011)
      Note: The call to action, text "power" to 80101, was not working in my test. 
      Update 10 Nov: Fixed 



      Main mobile banking page (link)

      Main mobile banking page Capital One

      1. Of course, you also have to put in place a mobile channel strategy that actually does displace call-center inquiries. That's easier said than done. Also, financial institutions paying mobile vendors for each active user, may not want to boost mobile usage in this way. 
      2. Despite the name of our subscription newsletter, Online Banking Report, we cover mobile issues almost every month. 


      The Day Before BTD, More "Switch" Efforts

      By Jim Bruene on November 4, 2011 4:01 PM | Comments

      image In banking, we haven't had as much hype over a single day since Y2K. But with every major bank back-pedaling on debit card fees, the power of tomorrow's Bank Transfer Day has  diminished somewhat. Yet, it still should be a good week for smaller players to grab market share.

      The Deposit Accounts blog had a run down of some special offers in effect tomorrow, including the "gloves off" homepage promo from Seattle's Verity Credit Union (click inset to enlarge; note 1).

      And here are a few more switch pages. Last week, I highlighted Freestar Bank's effort. Here are four more (screenshots/links below):

      • Community 1st CU
      • 1st Advantage CU
      • First Bank and Trust
      • Bank of Tennessee, which has the most interesting landing page by a long-shot (see last three screenshots)

      All but the first are are powered by Deluxe's SwitchAgent (note 2).


      Community 1st Credit Union homepage (link; 31 Oct 2011)

      Community 1st Credit Union

      1st Advantage FCU homepage (link)

      SwitchAgent at Homepage: 1st Advantage FCU

      First Bank and Trust homepage (link)
      Note: You cannot click through this ad. The call to action is "visit your banker"

      Homepage: First Bank and Trust

      Bank of Tennessee homepage (link)


      Bank of Tennessee landing page, part 1 (link)

      Bank of Tennessee switch Landing page, part 1 (link)

      Landing page part 2

      Landing page part 2

      Landing page part 3

      Landing page part 3


      1. While you are at Verity click over to its Verity Mom social media effort (powered by Currency Marketing) and see the amazing turnout they had for their second annual spokester contest, 69 one-minute videos were submitted.
      2. The reason why I'm showing so many Deluxe examples is because I used "SwitchAgent" in my search and found interesting examples. They have 14 clients using the new service, which we first heard about at BAI Retail Delivery a few weeks ago.
      3. We write about these issues and much more in our subscription service, Online Banking Report.


      Capital One Pays to Play in Zynga's Virtual Worlds

      By Jim Bruene on September 28, 2011 8:11 PM | Comments

      imageLike most, I've been amazed at how fast Zynga was able to build a 250+ million user base for its social games. But I'd never actually played one.

      Until now. So make that 250 million and one users, because I couldn't resist checking up on Capital One's new product placement in three Zynga games (more on what players could do). The bank's Facebook page, which has grown to 2.3 million likes, has details on the promotions (screenshot 1).

      image Although, it appears I may have missed my chance to interact with the CapOne goat, Visigoth statute or a virtual branch (the promo only ran one week), there are still credit card ads and mystery gifts available, at least in Farmville, the only game I tested.

      Capital One viral gift & banner ads
      Capital One may have ended the in-game elements for now, but they still have a presence in the game. Starting Farmville for the first time, I was greeted by a number of social elements, one of which is sending a Capital One gift (screenshot 2). There is no indication of what the gift actually is. Maybe that's part of the fun, but it seems like a weakness to me. Am I sending someone a virtual goat or a solicitation for a CapOne card (mystery solved)? 

      The company is also running banner ads within the game (screenshots 5 & 6). Clicking on them takes users to the usual Capital One pre-approval page within a separate browser window (screenshot 7). Once you land on the CapOne site there is no mention of Farmville.

      Discover Card & Citibank bonus offers
      Game players are encouraged to buy all kinds of virtual goods. They can earn virtual currency in a number of ways, including using real world cash to buy credits. But users can also earn currency by participating in sponsored activities.

      Both Citi and Discover are offering users virtual cash to apply, and be approved, for a credit card. Discover is offering virtual currency worth about $75 and Citi is handing out about $50.

      My take: With 250 million users, the large brands owe it to their shareholders to see if they can make hay in Farmville and any other popular virtual world. And I suspect there will be a positive ROI for the right mix of promotion/offer. I have no idea what the magic formula is, but you know the direct marketing wizards at CapOne, Citi and the others will figure it out sooner rather than later (note 1).


      1. Capital One Facebook page (27 Sep 2011)

      1. Capital One Facebook page

      2. Capital One "free gift" in Farmville (27 Sep 2011)

      Capital One "free gift" in Farmville (27 Sep 2011)

      3. Choose friends you want to receive the gift

      2. Choose friends you want to send the gift to

      4. Before you send the gift, you have the opportunity to see what the notice looks like to the recipient, and you can add a personal note

      3. Before you send the gift, you have the opportunity to see what the notice looks like to the recipient, and you can add a personal note

      5. When I got back to the game, there was a large Capital One banner
      Note: Starbucks promotion in lower right

      4. When I got back to the game, there was a large Capital One banner

      6. Another Capital One banner ad served while playing Farmville
      Note: Bank of Internet ad on right

      5. Another Capital One banner ad served while playing Farmville

      7. The banner ad in Farmville, led to Capital One's usual pre-qualification form

      6. The banner ad in Farmville, led to Capital One's usual pre-qualification form

      8. Discover Card and Citibank have powerful offers in the "earn cash" area.
      Note: Discover offers 475 Farm Cash (worth about $75) for card approval, Citibank 300 (about $50). 


      9. The first screen after choosing Discover's offer

      7. Discover Card and Citibank have more powerful offers, though it's buried in the "earn cash" area. Discover offers 475 Farm Cash (worth about $75) for card approval, Citibank 300 (about $50).

      10. Clicking Continue above leads to standard Discover Card app (in new browser window)

      8. Clicking Continue above leads to standard Discover Card app (in new browser window)


      Note: If you are interested in a fictional look at where the commercialization of Internet gaming is headed, I highly recommend Cory Doctorow's For the Win.


      Launching: ING Direct Unveils $10 Million Campaign for Teen Banking

      By Jim Bruene on August 30, 2011 4:18 PM | Comments

      image Just last month we published a report (here) about the large, and mostly unmet, opportunity to bank tweens/teens AND their parents.

      Evidently ING Direct didn't need our report. The direct bank, soon to be part of Capital One, is launching an aggressive $10 million advertising campaign for its new MONEY account (note 1). There's no official mention of the program at ING Direct, except for a wall post on its main Facebook page (see last screenshot).

      However, several online elements have been released:

      Product: There's only a few sentences describing the product, but it sounds like a standard checking account with debit card access. It will have no fees and no minimums and can be managed online (duh) and through a smartphone app.

      Campaign: The $10 million campaign (note 2) is primarily fulfilled via Facebook (see screenshots below) and includes:

      • Advertising on Facebook and online
      • Supporting sweeps has (10) $1,000 prizes, (10) MacBooks, (20) iPod Touches
      • Those submitting pictures of themselves, may get it projected on a Times Square Jumbotron for 15 seconds (begins Sept. 15)

      Our take: With 1% rates killing its traditional value proposition, it makes perfect sense for ING Direct to build for the future by positioning itself as a place that caters to the banking needs of the entire family. Well played.


      1. ING Direct's teen-banking microsite at (30 Aug. 2011)
      Note: In the lower right is a "pre-registration form" where the bank collects the name and email address of interested parties

      ING Direct teen banking microsite at (29 Aug 2011)

      2. Parents are encouraged to send a message to their children to let them know about the sweeps
      Note: The lower right contains a place for parents to send email messages to their children

      2. Parents are encouraged to send a message to their children to let them know about the sweeps

      3. Facebook page at <>

      3. Facebook page at <>

      3. Facebook page info page (Facebook app)

      3. Facebook page info page

      4. Facebook page sign-up form

      4. Facebook page signup form for ING Direct Money

      5. Thank-you page after pre-registering


      6. Wall post this afternoon on main ING Direct Facebook page (link, 30 Aug. 2011)

      6. Wall post this afternoon on main ING Direct Facebook page (29 Aug 2011)


      1. New agency Berlin Cameron is spearheading the effort according to today's Adweek article.
      2. That's about 40% of ING Direct's projected $25 million media spend for 2011.
      3. Hat tip: MyBankTracker
      4. For more on teen banking, see our recent Online Banking Report.


      Citibank Running Front-page WSJ Facebook Campaign

      By Jim Bruene on August 16, 2011 9:45 PM | Comments

      imageCitibank is using some of the most expensive real estate on the planet, the front page of the Wall Street Journal, to promote its Facebook page (see inset and below). The bottom-of-the-page banner invites readers to Like Citibank on Facebook to "find amazing ways to use your (ThankYou) points," and directs them to Citi's main Facebook page,

      Visitors are shown a special page promising exclusive access to an upcoming Beyonce concert for Citibank ThankYou customers (see first screenshot). After, clicking the Like button, a new screen appears with a "coming soon" message (second screenshot).

      As of 11:30 Eastern this morning, Citi had 34,500 likes, by midnight the total had grown by about 2,000 to 36,500. I don't know where they started the day, but according Visible Banking, the Citi Facebook page debuted in mid-November 2010 with 7,000 likes, mostly from employees. 

      Bottom line: I like the idea of creating exclusive benefits for Facebook fans. And perhaps Citi's goal is to make this into a "teaser" campaign. But overall, I was disappointed not to receive any immediate info to reward me for taking the time to visit/like the bank's Facebook site.


      Citibank banner ad, bottom of first page of WSJ (Western edition, 16 Aug. 2011)

      Citibank banner ad on bottom of first page of WSJ  

      Citibank's Facebook page, before "Liking" (16 Aug. 2011, 8:30 AM Pacific)
      Note: This is the landing page displayed when using the primarily URL,

      Citibank's Facebook page, before "Liking" (16 Aug 2011, 8:30 Pacific 

      Citibank's Facebook page, after "Liking" (16 Aug. 2011, 9:15 PM Pacific)


      Comments Shoppers Prompted to Select Discover Card as Default Payment Option, with a $1 Million Carrot

      By Jim Bruene on August 12, 2011 5:34 PM | Comments

      image A few months ago, American Express provided five free song downloads as incentive for its cardholders to make Amex the default card option within the iTunes store (previous post).

      Today, I noticed Discover offering an eye-opening incentive to get their card listed as the default option for one-click purchases on

      A chance to win $1 million every time you pay

      This offer is part of the year-long Discover Everyday Giveaway usage sweeps. 


      Discover Card's $1 million promotion on (12 Aug. 2011)
      Note: A small ad first appeared in the upper-right part of the screen, this is what it looked like after I chose "Expand"

       Discover Card's $1 million promotion on

      How it works (link)
      Note: This screen presented when clicking on "Learn more" from above banner



      Truliant Federal Credit Union Gives Away iPads to Promote FinanceWorks PFM

      By Jim Bruene on August 11, 2011 4:04 PM | Comments (1)

      image There are three huge usability challenges with online personal financial management (PFM):

      • It's hard to get started
      • It's a pain to keep up with tagging transactions to make the data meaningful
      • It can be disconcerting for many users to view spending summaries

      That's why so few Americans engage in PFM, despite its obvious benefits (note 1). One way to tackle the first problem: Offer a sweepstakes or bonus to induce trial.

      Truliant FCU is doing that with a late-summer sweeps encouraging members to log in and give its FinanceWorks (powered by Intuit's Quicken) program a try. Members who sign up for the PFM between July 6 and Sept. 29 are automatically entered into the sweeps. There is no cost for the service (note 2).

      Prizes include:

      • $100 awarded each week
      • iPad 2 awarded each month

      Total value of the prizes is about $3,000.


      Truliant FCU PFM sweeps (11 Aug. 2011)

      Truliant FCU PFM sweeps

      1. For more on online personal financial management (OFM), see Online Banking Report (published May 2010).  
      2. We urge FIs to consider charging for value-added services such as online PFM. See our recent Online Banking Report, Creating Fee-Based Online & Mobile Banking Services (published May 2011) for the rationale.

      Comments (1)

      Bank of America Sponsoring Free Wi-Fi for Smartphones on Alaska Airlines Flights

      By Jim Bruene on August 9, 2011 6:34 PM | Comments (1)

      imageA few days ago I was on a Chicago-Seattle flight on Alaska Airlines and was surprised to hear an overhead announcement about Bank of America sponsoring free wi-fi on the flight. But it came with a catch, the free access applied only to smartphones (notes 1, 2).

      While I'm a big user of airborne wi-fi on my laptop, there isn't much I want to do on a smartphone connection at 35,000 feet. But my curiosity got the best of me, so I gave it a shot and found the free connection was delivered as promised. I had simply to type in my email address, agree to the terms and conditions, and hit the big blue button (see first screenshot).

      It didn't take me long to figure out why BofA was being so generous. The second page of the sign-on process included a full-page ad for the bank's Alaska Airlines affinity card (see second screenshot).

      My take: Sponsored wi-fi is an effective way to reach the lucrative smartphone-carrying market. But the credit card application user experience was flawed. The bank dumps the whole app and disclosures onto a single mobile webpage, which required scrolling down about eight screens' worth of info (see screenshots 3, 4, and 5). And the fonts were way too small to engage most users.

      If BofA were to build a proper mobile-optimized credit card application form, they'd likely increase app volume two- to three-fold. In the meantime, the bank should add an option for the user to request a full-sized app to be completed later on their laptop. 

      1. First screen of free wi-fi promotion on Alaska Airlines (7 Aug. 2011)

      1. First screen of free wi-fi promotion on Alaska Airlines

      2. BofA credit card solicitation on page 2 of the login process

      2. BofA credit card solicitation on page 2 of the login process

      3, 4, 5: The rest of the mobile application (click to enlarge)
      Note: This shows only the beginning of the disclosures; the full text ran several more screens down the page.

      image  image  image


      1. I didn't test it, but I assume it would have been free on the iPad as well.
      2. I believe they said the offer would continue through the month of August.

      Comments (1)

      PerkStreet Financial Targets USAA Debit-Rewards Customers with Ads on Facebook

      By Jim Bruene on July 15, 2011 4:32 PM | Comments

      image Every once in a while I stumble onto Facebook, usually by following a link from a credit union or banking site. It happened a few days ago, when I clicked a link in the middle of Visions FCU Rocks, a cool youth banking microsite from Visions Federal Credit Union.

      The Visions Facebook page was fine, but it was the little ad in the lower-right that grabbed my attention (see inset and screenshot below).

      imagePerkStreet Financial, which has perhaps the richest debit-rewards program in the nation, with 1% to 2% cash back, is targeting USAA customers who just lost their debit card rewards program altogether. The landing page (see screenshot below) does a good job laying out the financial benefits and funneling visitors to the online app.

      Bottom line: It's a good time to tout debit card rewards, if you are sure you are keeping it. And targeting USAA customers specifically seems worth testing.

      But if I was a USAA customer doing whatever people do on Facebook, I think I would find the, "Your USAA Account Changes" headline vaguely misleading. It might be better to use a headline more like the first sentence of the ad, "USAA is ending debit card rewards" or even, "Be glad USAA ended debit rewards."  

      That's it for my attempt at teaching "headline writing 101." Class dismissed. Have a great weekend.  

      PerkStreet Financial targets USAA customers with Facebook ad (12 July 2011)

      Perkstreet Financial targets USAA customers with Facebook ad (12 July 2011)

      PerkStreet landing page (link)



      TD Bank Uses Interactive Online Banner Ad to Capture Mobile Numbers

      By Jim Bruene on July 5, 2011 7:56 PM | Comments (1)

      image I was reading one of my favorite personal finance blogs today, Lazy Man and Money, and I noticed an intriguing ad from TD Bank. Actually, the blog is covered in TD ads, with the faces of spokescouple Regis & Kelly peering out from every corner.

      But originally I noticed only the ad in the upper-right corner (see first screenshot below). The mobile interactivity, along with the 10 spaces asking for my number, grabbed my attention. 

      The text-message campaign is powered by Cielo Mobile, whose URL was displayed in the browser status bar after I clicked the banner.


      How it works 

      1a. Users type their mobile number into the interactive banner ad (upper-right).


      1b. The banner returns this thank-you message:


      2. The link in the text message (left) opens the mobile webpage (right).

      image     image

      3. The app is downloaded from the iTunes App Store and this is the first screen at launch:




      Apparently, I'm not the target audience for this banner ad since I don't have an account at TD Bank. But if inclined to change that, I'd like a little more help opening an account. The bank does better than most by including links to its call center and webpage on the first screen of its native iPhone app (see #3 above), but there should be a direct call to action, or even a different app, for non-customers. 

      Comments (1)

      Homepage Hits: Bank of America Promotes Image ATMs

      By Jim Bruene on April 21, 2011 5:58 PM | Comments

      imageI look at banking sites a lot, and sometimes a page or promotion strikes me as a cut above the  rest. For example, today's Bank of America promotion of its image ATMs is eye-catching and must be gathering substantial clickthroughs (more on that below). 

      Technically, everything about the promotion is first-rate, from the color to the typography to the copy. But what I really like is how this positions the bank as the place for anyone who appreciates elegant technology solutions to their everyday problems. 

      Bank of America personal homepage (21 April 2011, Seattle IP address, customer cookies)

      Bank of America homepage (21 April 2011, Seattle IP address, customer cookies)

      However, the landing page (below) leaves a lot to be desired. A video of someone using the ATM would be perfect. How about links to an FAQ for those with more questions about the technology, risks, costs, guarantees, availability and so on? And a link to the checking account signup form would seem appropriate. But at least BofA did direct people to its ATM finder (in two places). 

      Landing page


      Bottom line: This BofA effort reminds me of the advertising adage that the worst thing you can do is put out good advertising for a bad product. Before the bank put such an appealing visual on its homepage, it should have put together more content for those clicking through. It's not bad, just a bit of a wasted opportunity. 


      Chase Bank Plays the Ecommerce Card: Offers $100 Bonus for its "Instant Storefront" Solution

      By Jim Bruene on April 4, 2011 7:51 PM | Comments

      image Chase Bank is aggressively pushing its latest small biz initiative, Instant Storefront, billed as a way for old-school "9 to 5" businesses to sell online 24/7. Here's where I ran across it last week: 

      • A radio ad a few days ago (in Seattle)
      • Full-page ad in the San Francisco Business Times (p. 24 of March 25-31 issue)
      • On the main account management page within online banking
      • Small ad on Chase's business banking public page today (see last screenshot, note 1)
      • Email yesterday offering a $100 bonus to give it a try (see first screenshot, note 2). 

      The email is short and sweet with a good subject line and appealing design. The green button leads to a landing page with more info (second screenshot). The page includes an old-school, and very effective lead-gen technique, offering to email the $100 coupon to interested visitors (third screenshot).

      The cost is $30 per month, and the bank throws in a $350 POS terminal and waives $150 in startup fees for new Chase Paymentech merchant customers.

      To redeem the offer, customers must visit with a business banking specialist in a Chase Branch. Ecommerce website development seems like a bit of a stretch for a business banker to be conversant with, but hopefully it's very turn-key. And I like how the service positions Chase as an online partner to small biz, so it may be a brilliant branding tool.

      Using a browser with cookies removed (note 1), I don't see any mention of the new service on Chase's website and searching for "storefront" in its site search returns nothing (note 3). So Instant Storefront may be a western market test.


      Chase Bank email to business customers about Instant Storefront (30 March 2011)

      Chase Bank email to business customers about Instant Storefront (30 March 2011)

      Landing page for Instant Storefront (link)

      Landing page for Instant Storefronts

      Lead-gen page where users enter their email address to get the $100 coupon

      Chase Lead-gen page where users enter their email address to get the $100 coupon

      Chase public business banking site (with Washington state customer cookie)

      Chase public business banking site (with Washington state customer cookie)

      1. The ad appears only on the browser I use to access my Chase account. On browser with cookies disabled, I do not see the Instant Storefront ad.
      2. The print and radio ads also offer the $100 bonus.
      3. The bank uses the URL: in its radio ad.
      4. For more info, see Online Banking Report: Micro- and Small Business Online Banking (published Oct. 2009)


      ING Direct Running Large Ad on Homepage

      By Jim Bruene on March 17, 2011 5:59 PM | Comments

      ING Direct (USA) is a large online advertiser. And because I frequently click on financial ads, I'm sure they are served to me far more than the average Jo(e). Still, the placement of ING Direct's ad today at surprised me.

      First, I'm not sure I realized that Amazon had turned over that much homepage real estate to third-party advertisers. It must be lucrative. Second, how does it pencil out for ING Direct? That has to be an expensive ad. How many 1% deposits do you have to get to cover those acquisition costs?

      Amazon homepage (17 March 2011, 5 PM PDT, Seattle IP)


      Landing page (link)
      Note: While I like online video for sales support, the length of this 2.5 minute video on how to open a savings account seems a little excessive.


      Off topic: ING's St. Patrick's Day graphic
      ING Direct's homepage today placed its orange ball in a pot 'o gold -- a nice touch -- but I was slightly disappointed they didn't animate the ball jumping into the pot. Clicking the pot took users to the bank's We The Savers blog, with the greeting,"Top o' the mornin' to you, Saver."



      ING Direct Advertises on Email Alerts

      By Jim Bruene on February 23, 2011 10:06 PM | Comments

      image ING Direct (USA) has been a prominent sponsor within Mint's online PFM. However, this is the first time I've noticed the bank advertising via email alert. And specifically, the direct bank is pitching its fee-free Electric Orange Checking account on the bottom of an email alert about a fee on my U.S. checking account. Excellent timing! 

      It's unusual to see an ad on a alert. I spot-checked a dozen or so during the past two months, and this is the only one with any direct marketing. But if it works, I'm sure we'll see more of it. Context-sensitive advertising is what the Web has been built on. email "fee charged" alert (16 Feb. 2011) email alert that a fee was charged to my U.S. Bank business checking account

      ING Direct landing page focusing on lower fees (link)

      ING Direct landing page focusing on lower fees


      American Express Wants to Power Your iTunes Purchases

      By Jim Bruene on February 15, 2011 4:05 PM | Comments (1)

      image How much does the average American Express cardholder spend in the iTunes store each month? A lot. And how often do you go to iTunes and change your default card? Never. Is it worth $5 to have your card powering an iTunes account? To American Express it is.

      I'm sure the card company's spreadsheet shows a payback within a year or two on incremental interchange alone. But more important is the added stickiness these frequent Apple purchases give to the card. Plus, it can't hurt to associate your brand with the most valuable tech company on the planet.  

      The fine print
      To earn the five-song credit, cardholders must make a purchase with their Amex card between Feb. 10 and March 15. That earns a statement credit equal to five song downloads. It doesn't say which song price-point is used in the calculation, but I'm guessing the standard $0.99.

      Relevance to Netbankers
      It's always good business to get your card installed as an automatic payment source. Interchange goes up, credit card receivables improve, and you've added one more electronic hook to the account. So consider taking a similar approach and offering a small bounty after your card is used with a new biller.

      iTunes promo on main Amex account page (Business Gold, 11 Feb. 2011)

      iTunes promo on main American Express account page

      Enrollment screen (link)

       Amex Enrollment screen

      Comments (1)

      Chase Bank Uses QR Code in Homepage Banner

      By Jim Bruene on January 20, 2011 5:16 PM | Comments

      Here's the first time I've seen a QR code used on a bank's homepage. After an animation sequence (below) announcing Chase Bank's new Android mobile banking app, the final graphic displays a code that Android smartphone users can scan to download the new app. Very clever.  

      Chase Bank homepage (20 Jan. 2011)

      Chase homepage announing android mobile banking app

      Landing page (link)

      Chase landing page for its new android mobile banking app

      Animation graphic 1:


      Animation graphic 2:


      Animation graphic 3:



      USAA Promotes Teen Checking Accounts

      By Jim Bruene on January 11, 2011 6:16 PM | Comments (2)


      In doing some initial research for a report we are planning for Q1 on "family bank accounts," I started where I usually do, on Google. The only financial institution advertising specifically on the term "teen banking" was USAA (see note 1).

      The top-of-the-page ad led to a well-designed landing page devoted to Teen Checking (see screenshots below) with a clever call to action: 

      We won't take any of your teen's allowance.
      Teen checking without hidden fees.

      USAA even has a dedicated site with its own URL to support its youth-banking efforts:

      Relevance for NetBankers: Teenagers may be one of the most lucrative segments to attract to your financial institution. They not only spend billions themselves, but also could literally stick with you for a lifetime.

      The thinking goes something like this:

      1. Attracting the children of your customers helps you retain the parents
      2. Retaining the parents helps you retain the kids as they become young adults
      3. Young adults become parents
      4. Repeat

      This didn't work so well in the old branch-based world because one of the first things the kids did when they moved away was open a checking account at the closest branch to their new apartment or dorm room. In an online/mobile-centric world, that no longer has to happen. 

      Google search for "teen banking" (see note 1; search conducted at 5:00 PM on 11 Jan. 2011 from Seattle IP address)

      Google search for "teen banking"

      USAA's "Teen Checking" landing page

      USAA's "Teen Checking" landing page

      1. First-page organic results included (note, search was limited to items posted in past month) 
      -- Fremont FCU
      -- North Shore Bank
      -- Coast Hills FCU
      -- U.S. Bank (Visa Buxx)
      -- S.T.A.R Community Credit Union
      -- American Riviera Bank (my new favorite bank name)
      2. If anyone wants to point out great examples of teen/youth/family banking efforts, please drop me an email or leave it in the comments. Thanks.

      Comments (2)

      Holiday Marketing at the Top 20 U.S. Banks

      By Jim Bruene on December 23, 2010 2:43 PM | Comments (1)

      image For five of the seven Decembers I've spent blogging, I've perused the holiday Web-based marketing efforts of the 20 largest U.S. banks. This year, 10 jumped on the holiday bandwagon, an increase of 67% over the six last year. In 2004, only 4 of the 20 were running holiday promotions (on Dec. 21).

      Previous posts: 2009 discussion, 2009 screenshots, 2007, 2006, 2006, 2004


      Big banks in the holiday spirit
      (rated 1 to 5 bulbs)

      PNC: 12 Days of Christmas index (23 Dec. 2010, 1:00 PM Pacific)
      Quick take: Rotating spot, prominent, seasonal graphics, unique, leads to microsite
      Score: imageimageimageimageimage


      TD Bank: gift cards
      Quick take: Prominent spot, not rotating, seasonal graphics, fits in well with entire green homepage
      Score: imageimageimageimageimage


      Regions: gift cards and rewards
      Quick take: Rotating spot, prominent, seasonal graphics, small corner graphic
      Score: imageimageimageimage


      Fifth Third: gift cards
      Quick take: Rotating spot, prominent, seasonal graphics, small graphic in upper right
      Score: imageimageimageimage


      Bank of the West (BNP Paribas): POP Money (p2p payments)
      Quick take: The first promotion on a three-ad rotation, pushes P2P payments as a holiday gift-giving option, the first time we've seen that (updated 12/25 because we missed it the first time we looked at the site)
      Score: imageimageimageimage


      Harris (BMO): gift card
      Quick take: Rotated with five spots, seasonal graphic, quick animation, not very prominent
      Score: imageimageimage


      ING Direct: seasonal graphic
      Quick take: Seasonal graphic, prominent location, leads to landing page
      Score: imageimageimage


      Chase: gift cards
      Quick take: Small ad, minor seasonal graphics
      Score:  image image


      Key Bank: gift card
      Quick take: Prominent position with no rotation, no seasonal graphic
      Score: imageimage


      Bank of America: cash rewards card
      Quick take: Small ad with seasonal graphic 
      Score: image



      The scrooge list (top-20 banks with no holiday promotions or graphics on Dec. 23): 
      BB&T, Capital One, Citibank, Citizens (RBS), Comerica, HSBC, SunTrust, Union Bank (Mitsubishi UFJ), US Bank, Wells Fargo


      Note: I either have accounts with, and/or previous visits to, all 20 banks which could alter what's shown on the homepage.

      Comments (1)

      Out of the Inbox: Cascade Bank Drives Customers to Branch with One-Day iPad Giveaway

      By Jim Bruene on December 3, 2010 5:01 PM | Comments

      image I've long been an admirer of Cascade Bank, a $1.7 billion bank headquartered in Everett, WA. A friend was marketing director there for a number of years, and I learned a lot from her about community bank marketing and management.

      While I used to have a mortgage at Cascade, I don't have any accounts now; hence, the email I received earlier this week. The bank invited prospective customers to come to one of its 22 branches (today only) and enter their name in a drawing to win an iPad. Five iPads were being given away bank wide.

      And while in the branch, hoping to pick up a free ipad, the bank dangled an attractive duffel bag in front of visitors as a premium for opening a new checking account. And Cascade promised to drop an extra $25 in your account if you traded in your old check register from the competition.

      Bottom line: Thanks to the iPad and some great graphic design, the mailing had a stunning visual, good title, and compelling offer. Excellent work.

      Email announcing the giveaway (received 30 Nov. 2010)

      Cascade Bank Email announcing the giveaway (received 30 Nov 2010)

      Cascade Bank homepage (3 Dec. 2010)

      Cascade Bank homepage (3 Dec 2010)

      Landing page pitches free checking with duffel bag premium and $25 bonus 

      Cascade Bank Landing page pitches free checking with duffel bag premium and $25 bonus

      Note: For more ideas, see Online Banking Report: Growing Deposits in a Digital Age.


      Service Credit Union Doubles Up on Black Friday Hoopla, Also Promoting Cyber Monday Offers

      By Jim Bruene on November 26, 2010 1:52 PM | Comments

      imageING Direct ran a slew of Black Friday offers again this year (see screenshots below; last year's coverage). And they weren't the only one. Service Credit Union also ran a homepage-dominating ad for its 6 AM-to-noon "doorbuster deals" today:

      • 10% APY 3-month CD with maximum deposit of $1000...$23 in extra interest compared to its regular CD (pre-tax)
      • Fee-free Visa gift cards (limit 5)
      • 1% rate reduction on new personal loans
      • $25 Visa gift card for opening a new credit card
      • Unspecified "in-branch checking account specials"

      The credit union's U.S. branches opened at 6:00 AM to mimic the retail craziness on the day after Thanksgiving. Specials were available until noon only, and all required a branch visit to redeem.

      I was going to say something about the lack of online-redemption options, but luckily I checked back after noon and found that a Cyber Monday promotion had taken the place of the Black Friday ad. Online users are being offered similar specials on this coming Monday (aka Cyber Monday):

      • 7% APY 3-month CD with $1000 max deposit (a $17 interest bonus)
      • $100 bonus for opening a new checking account (requires direct deposit and estatements)
      • $25 Visa gift card for opening a new credit card
      • Free personalized credit card design for first 100 members ($9.95 value)
      • $25 Visa gift card for a referral

      Bottom line: The dual promotion was a clever way to involve both online and in-branch members.

      Service Credit Union placed a bold advertisement on its homepage promoting its Black Friday deals (10:00 AM Pacific, 26 Nov. 2010)


      Later in the day, the CU posted Cyber Monday specials on the homepage (1:00 PM Pacific)


      Landing page (link)


      ING Direct homepage on Black Friday (26 Nov. 2010


      Landing page (link)
      Note: Offers are good for the entire weekend



      Capital One's Online Prequalification System Rocks

      By Jim Bruene on November 17, 2010 1:47 PM | Comments

      image If you've read Netbanker a bit, you know I can get pretty excited at just about any new and shiny bit of fintech. So if you went only by my blog posts, it might be hard to differentiate between a cool new feature and a major strategic disruption. 

      Well, take note, this is one of the big ones if Capital One can deliver on the promise. And that is a very important caveat. The card giant better be able to fulfill cards to the vast majority of those it prequalifies online or it will have legions of disgruntled applicants.

      What the company has done is place a pre-qualification form between its online ads (see banner running on TechCrunch below) and the full application. The form asks for name, mail address, and last four digits of the Social Security Number, plus two multiple-choice questions about desired features and credit self-evaluation. 

      The whole process can be completed in as little as 35 seconds (in my test it took 24 seconds to fill in the blanks; 8 seconds for the results to be displayed).

      Importance: Credit-savvy consumers, about the only ones who'll be approved these days, know that every credit application negatively impacts their credit score, at least temporarily. Therefore, many are hesitant to complete an online app if they think there's a chance they won't be approved. Being able to test your creditworthiness (note 1) without a credit bureau hit is a powerful incentive to move consumers into the sales process.

      The other advantage of this system is that even if you don't complete the full application after the pre-qual, Capital One has captured your name, address, and a positive match with your SSN. So they can hit you with followups in the near future. However, I am surprised the company doesn't ask for your email address. It must have dampened response in testing. 

      Capital One banner ad across TechCrunch (17 Nov. 2010)









      Landing page emphasizing the lack of risk to your credit score (link)Capital One Landing page emphasizes lack of risk to your credit score

      Pre-qualification form

      Capital One prequalification form

      Results page with a recommended card and two alternatives
      Note: I indicated a preference for travel rewards in the pre-qualification form.

      Capital One prequalification results page

      Online application
      Note: Users must start over as none of the pre-qualification form info is transferred over


      1. At the end of the pre-qualification process, the company only says you are "pre-qualified." There is no guarantee you'll get the card or credit limit you want.
      2. For more on online lending, consult our previous OBR reports:
      - Online Lending v5.0 (part 1) (Nov. 2005)
      - Online Lending v5 (part 2) (Jan. 2006) 


      Flash Marketing Addendum: Co-branded Payments

      By Jim Bruene on July 28, 2010 7:23 PM | Comments

      In my post yesterday about flash marketing via Groupon and LivingSocial, I neglected to mention another interesting opportunity: working directly with the marketing companies to add your brand to the service.

      imageBecause payments and credit are crucial to ecommerce success, financial brands are a logical addition to the checkout process. And Visa just so happens to be featured today at LivingSocial (see inset and screenshots below).

      Anyone who buys today's Seattle deal, a $25 restaurant certificate for $10, automatically gets a second certificate to use as a gift, if they pay by Visa Signature card (see notes 1, 2). It's hard to say what Visa is paying for the promotion, but given the massive website traffic and transaction activity, it's likely a pricey sponsorship (note 3).

      Email from LivingSocial with Visa branded add-on offer (28 July 2010)


      Landing page (link)


      1. Some interesting items in the fine print for the Visa-sponsored comp certificate:
      - valid only for Visa Signature cards, which might irritate some non-Signature Visa customers
      - offer not valid for purchases made via iPhone (there must be something in the shopping cart that does not work on the iPhone)
      2. My saved credit card in the site is a MasterCard; when I went to purchase the deal, there was no mention of the free certificate, nor any prompt to switch to Visa.
      3. The merchant is receiving $5 for each certificate issued under the main deal. Visa's sponsorship would need to cover some compensation to the merchant, but perhaps at less than $5 each, since fewer of the gifted certificates will be redeemed. It looks to be a popular offer, having sold almost 2,600 units (by 7 PM), with almost 10 hours remaining.


      Flash Marketing: Can Groupon/LivingSocial Work for Banks and Credit Unions?

      By Jim Bruene on July 27, 2010 8:28 PM | Comments

      imageThe coffee shop where I do much of my writing held a huge sale yesterday. But you wouldn't have known it from the sparse late-July mid-day crowd. The event took place entirely online through local deal-of-the-day marketer, Groupon.

      The day-long sale resulted in nearly 3,000 half-price $10 coupons being sold, a huge influx of customers for a 3-location coffee shop (see screenshot below). I'm working somewhere else tomorrow when the coupon buyers start coming in. 

      imageGroupon is the leader in the burgeoning field of localized flash marketing (aka social/group buying) having taken more than $170 million in VC funding to expand to more than 150 cities.

      The other major player is Living Social, which I've successfully used a few times to buy gifts. LivingSocial has raised $50 million and recently expanded to 52 cities. Both companies have nearly 5 million unique monthly U.S. visitors (see below). And with minimal barriers to entry, there are dozens of copycat sites in operation.

      There's another sub-category in flash marketing, companies that specialize in certain types of merchandise. The pioneer here is the geeky and irreverent gadget and T-shirt marketer, Woot with 2.3 million monthly visitors. The site was scooped up by Amazon for $170 million last month. In women's fashion, Gilt Groupe has a cult following and nearly 1 million monthly visitors.

      U.S. traffic at Groupon (blue), Living Social (green), Woot (orange), Gilt Groupe (red)

      Source: Compete (link)

      Flash marketing is not a new concept, and it's not much different than the $299 laptop on the cover of the Best Buy circular. Savvy shoppers know to show up early at the store if they want to claim one of the few loss leaders in stock.  

      Web-based flash marketers use email, Facebook and Twitter to inform potential customers of the latest deal. There is usually a time limit, typically a single day, and/or a limited number for sale. All the Groupon deals expire at midnight local time. Woot runs all its deals for 24 hours, or until they sell out, beginning at midnight Central Time.

      Opportunity for Netbankers
      While I haven't seen a financial product sold on Groupon or LivingSocial yet, there's no reason it wouldn't work. In a quick search, the only financial institution participant I found was First Tech Credit Union, a recent recipient of sponsorship recognition in a LivingSocial deal for half-off tickets to the 2010 Bellevue (WA) Jazz Festival (see second screenshot).

      But the promotions can be costly. The flash marketing companies typically take 50% of the sales price and require a deep discount, usually 50% or more off list prices. So retailers are getting as little as 25 cents on the dollar in the promotions (see note 1). Quantities can be limited to protect against too many takers.

      While financial services don't lend themselves to online flash sales as well as spa visits or fine dining, there are fee-based services that could work. For example: 

      • Checking account: $15 annual fee (first year) instead of $96 list price (note 2)
      • Credit monitoring: One year for $50 instead of the $150 list
      • Credit report: One 3-bureau report for $10 instead of the $30 list
      • Financial plan: $50 instead of $200 list
      • Prepaid MasterCard/Visa: One $25 card for $15 instead of the $29.95 list (assuming $4.95 issuing fee)
      • Savings account: $50 initial deposit for $15 fee (note 2)
      • VIP banking package: $25 annual fee instead of more than $100 if bought separately (rewards card, premium service, free VIP online banking, credit report, rate discount, etc.)

      Or FIs could go the First Tech route and work with local restaurants, theatres, or nonprofits to sell a product bundle. For instance, a $20 dining certificate, 50% off on theatre tickets and a $10 Visa card for $20. 

      Groupon Seattle deal-of-the-day at Zoka Coffee Roasters (26 July 2010)

      Groupon zoka coffee offer

      First Tech Credit Union gets top billing on recent LivingSocial deal (link)


      1. That assumes all coupons are redeemed. But typically a large portion, as much as 50%, go unredeemed. That means fewer new customers in the door, but it also helps limit the amount of discounts that must be honored.
      2. The problem with many financial product offers is that not all customers will be approved. But you could offer refunds for anyone declined for a checking account.
      3. For more info on selling online, see our Online Banking Report on Lead Generation.


      ING Direct (USA) to Offer Special Independence Day Bonuses July 1 & 2

      By Jim Bruene on June 24, 2010 3:52 PM | Comments (1)

      imageI love holiday-themed online promotions. It's the low-hanging fruit of online marketing. Why not dress up your website for the holidays and offer a little savings on the side? Worst case, you get a smile from your customers. Best case, you turn a tidy profit on the effort.

      Last fall, I wrote about ING Direct's Black Friday (pre-Thanksgiving) sale. I liked it so much, I am now the proud owner of an ING Direct mortgage refi thanks to the $683 incentive to apply that day.

      Knowing what a fan I am, the bank provided me with a preview of the offers planned for next weekend to celebrate the events of 1776:

      • Investing for financial freedom: Investors who open a new ShareBuilder account receive a $76 bonus (after making one transaction). 
      • Pursuing the happiness of homeownership: Prospective homeowners who apply for a mortgage  receive $776 off closing costs, a 40% discount. 
      • Liberation from checking fees: A surprise promotion for its no-fee Electric Orange Checking account. 
      • Spreading the wealth of savings: An undisclosed boost to the bank's usual refer-a-friend offer.

      More details will appear on the bank's landing page at 12:01 AM on July 1 <> (see teaser page below, first screenshot). The teaser campaign has already been implemented on the bank's homepage, Twitter page, and Facebook page (see screenshots below).

      Anyone else have something special planned for next weekend? Add it to the comments below or drop me an email.

      Landing page teaser (link, 24 June 2010)

      ING Direct 4th of July sale landing page

      ING Direct homepage

      ING Direct USA home page with indpedendance day sale teaser

      Twitter page preview (link)

      ING Direct twitter page with July 4 teaser

      Facebook page (link)

      ING Direct Facebook page with 1776 sale teaser

      Comments (1)

      Chase Bank Offering Small Business Clients $2,000 in Free Remote Deposit Capture Services

      By Jim Bruene on June 15, 2010 6:26 PM | Comments (1)

      image Two thousand is the largest banking premium I've ever seen, although Chase's out-of-pocket costs are probably less than $500. The offer was made last week via email (see first screenshot) to existing business-banking customers not already enrolled in Chase Quick Deposit, a scanner-based remote check-deposit service.

      The details:


      From: Chase Bank 
      To: Business Banking clients
      Date: 10 June 2010 (1 PM)

      Offer: Two years of free remote deposit services (Chase Quick Deposit), normally $50/mo, plus the $855 Panini 50-50 business-class scanner to power it. Total retail value = $2,055 

      Fine print:
      -- Users must deposit at least 10 checks per month to maintain fee-free service
      -- New Quick Deposit users only; not valid for current or previous users
      -- $500 cancellation fee if discontinued within 12 months
      -- Offer good through July 31, 2010

      Notes: This offer does not appear to be available to the general public. On the bank's website, the current offer is a free scanner with a 2-year contract at $50/mo.


      Analysis: It's definitely attention-getting and will drive new remote-deposit business. But I'm a bit surprised Chase is giving away both the razor and the blades (see note 1). Perhaps the bank is testing different offers. But it will be two years before Chase finds out what percentage of its users convert to paying customers. Of course, they are also banking on an account-retention lift to repay the significant cost of the offer.   

      Email from Chase offering free remote deposit services (10 June 2010, 1 PM)


      Landing page


      Users accepting the offer must first log in to their account to enroll


      1. Offer made to a single-service (DDA) small business checking client converted from WaMu.
      2. For more info, see Online Banking Report: Micro- and Small Business Online Banking (published Oct. 2009)

      Comments (1)

      Truliant FCU Raises Fear of Being Declined in New Website Pitch for Opt-in Debit Card Overdraft Protection

      By Jim Bruene on June 10, 2010 3:50 PM | Comments (1)

      image Three weeks ago I noticed that North Carolina-based Truliant Federal Credit Union had posted a highly visible opt-in overdraft pitch on its login page (see screenshot #5, below). I checked back today and found that the CU is still running a login page ad, albeit smaller (ss #2), and has also taken the message to its homepage (ss #1).

      The new ads are more fear-based compared to the previous friend-of-the-customer approach (see note 1). In addition, the 180,000-member CU has moved to an online opt-in form (ss #4). Previously, customers could only ask for someone to contact them (ss #6).

      Truliant has considerably simplified the landing-page message. In May, it offered a credit line option in addition to the simple $29-per-item system (ss #6). Apparently, that wasn't working as well as hoped. Now, members clicking on either the homepage or login-page promo receive a short, semi-urgent message (ss #3) that links to the online opt-in form.

      Analysis: While I think the CU does an adequate job explaining the new opt-in options (see note 2 for suggested improvements), I'm disappointed it moved away from giving the credit line option equal billing. With an APR of 6.5% to 11.5% and no transaction/advance fees, it's a much more cost-effective option (note 3).   

      1. Truliant FCU homepage visitors receive a large homepage pitch to opt-in for overdraft protection (10 June 2010)
      Note: It must be a brand new banner since the underlying hyperlink, after the ads have cycled once, has a typo causing it to lead to an error page (9:25 AM PDT)


      2. Overdraft protection message on login page (link, 10 June 2010)


      3. Landing page (link, 10 June 2010)       4. Opt-in form (link,10 June 2010)
      Click to enlarge                                           Click to enlarge

      image    image

      5. Previous login page had two ads for OD protection (20 May 2010)


      6. Previous landing page included a line-of-credit option (link, 20 May 2010)
      Note: In May there was no online opt-in form; interested members could only select a "contact me" button. The landing page now links to the form shown in #4 above.


      I hate singling out Truliant for this post. It has one of the best blogs in all of banking that does a great job educating and connecting with members. And because the CU has done a decent job with the overdraft opt-in process, I'd give it a B or B- grade. But my job is to look for potential improvements, so here goes.

      1. Is making members afraid of using their Truliant debit card really a good way to endear them to the brand? Sure, the ads are likely to produce clickthroughs and they definitely don't cross over into the misleading category, but is there a little "crying wolf" here? Something to think about.

      2. Other suggestions for improvement:

      • The three choices on the online form are not as clear as they could be. The most popular choice, number 2, has both a YES and NO in it. That's the kind of wording that gives your members a headache. It would be far simpler if you just asked customers to tell you which types of transactions they want covered:
           A. Paper checks and automatic drafts (yes/no)
           B. Debit card transactions that don't require a PIN (yes/no)
      • The landing page confuses the matter by using three different terms (debit without PIN, debit, and signature debit) without providing a detailed definition. At minimum, a link to a clear definition of the term should be included.
      • The landing page says you have to "opt in again by August 15." That sounds like I need to do something now and something again later this summer.
      • The "nightmare" scenario presented on the landing page, being denied at the grocery store POS when you have a hungry family to feed, is a good example of the downside of not electing to have debit-card OD protection. And even though the $29 charge is mentioned in the previous paragraph, members skimming the landing page may still not understand it will cost them $29 to avoid this embarrassment/hassle. I'd go overboard here and place an asterisk by this line and disclose the $29 fee again in fine print at the bottom.  

      3. If the problem is that it's too hard to qualify for the credit line, the CU should consider a higher-APR and/or more-fee version for riskier members.

      Comments (1)

      Wells Fargo Bank Offers $25,000 to Go to Paperless Statements

      By Jim Bruene on May 20, 2010 7:17 AM | Comments (1)

      image Full disclosure: I’ve always liked sweepstakes. Even though I’m a Diet Coke addict fan, I’ll gladly grab a different cola if it has an “instant win” cap. It’s like a free lottery ticket.

      So when banks try to save a few coins switching customers over to estatements, I think it’s the perfect time to give some of it back in the form of a sweepstakes. You’ve created a little excitement in online banking and likely made it all back with a lift to the estatement response rate. ING Direct, Chase and many others have taken this approach in the past (previous coverage).

      Wells Fargo’s current sweeps is pretty straightforward (link to details). For every account switched to paperless statements, customers get one entry in the sweepstakes. Ten customers will win $2500 each and one will get $25,000. A relatively small, but effective $50,000 prize pool.

      The contest runs from April 12 through June 4.

      Login splash screen (interstitial) (19 May 2010)


      Landing page after choosing “Switch now” above
      Note: Link to View Samples (see below)


      Sample statement (click to enlarge)


      Comments (1)

      Logout Marketing: PayPal’s 20-Word “Bill Me Later” Sales Pitch

      By Jim Bruene on May 14, 2010 1:24 PM | Comments

      image Although it usually takes me 40 pages or more to get my points across in Online Banking Report, I am a strong believer in succinct online copy. I especially love online pitches that take no more words than Google’s homepage (the gold standard).

      Today I found a great example after logging out from my PayPal account:

      You are Pre-Approved to use Bill Me Later!
      One Click. Two Questions. No Third Degree.

      Choose Bill Me Later when you checkout with PayPal.

      20 words. Point made. Give the copywriter a bonus.

      PayPal’s logout pitch (14 May 2010)


      Landing page (link)


      Note: I’m counting Bill Me Later as one word since it’s a brand name.


      Amplify Credit Union Ready for Valentine's Day

      By Jim Bruene on February 12, 2010 3:23 PM | Comments

      image If you've read Netbanker for awhile, you already know that I'm a little obsessed about the lack of imagination most financial institutions display when it comes to dressing up their websites for major holidays.

      It's not that big a deal, but still, unless you are purposefully trying to project an image from the late 1990s (maybe not such a bad idea for many banks, given the current backlash), you might consider investing in a few graphical tweaks to keep up with other Internet retailers (see our Dec. 24 post).

      Today, while looking for mobile banking examples, I happened across Amplify Credit Union, one of my favorite examples of financial marketing. They didn't have mobile on the homepage, but they were sure decked out for Valentine's Day, which is just 48 hours away.  

      The CU not only swapped out their normal background graphic on its homepage, but also sweetened its logo with a heart, ala Google, and changed its tagline:

      From: Bank Less. Live more.

      To:    Bank less. Love more.

      These are three alterations I've not seen from a financial institution. In addition, the Valentine's theme was carried out with:

      • Red shading to the sides of the page, providing a very professional finish
      • A "share the love" promotion for the CU's $25 refer-a-friend promo

      Overall, it's very clever and supports the credit union's innovative brand image.

      Amplify CU altered its homepage and logo for Valentine's Day (12 Feb. 2010)
      Note: Pause button in upper-right keeps the promotion from automatically cycling to the next one.


      Share the Love landing page (link)



      Banks Help Fundraising Efforts for Haiti Relief

      By Jim Bruene on January 18, 2010 1:47 PM | Comments (2)

      image One of the lasting benefits of the Internet is it's ability to quickly rally resources. The latest proof point: raising funds for Haitian earthquake relief. The big Internet companies, such as Amazon, Google, Bing, Craigslist and PayPal, post links almost immediately to provide site visitors with a trusted path to donate funds (see screenshots below). 

      Consumers trust those companies and visit frequently, so it's a great way to raise awareness and funds. But there's another group of Internet powerhouses that historically have not participated in Web-based fundraising: financial institutions.

      Even during the New Orleans flooding in 2005, we found only three top-50 banks linking to the Red Cross. It's not a whole lot better this time. But one major bank, Citibank, has a homepage link to earthquake relief (screenshots below). Also, we found two other top-50 banks with homepage links: Astoria Federal and Webster Bank (see screenshots below). None of the largest 10 credit unions had links up on Saturday.

      Several major banks, such as Wells Fargo and Chase, have homepage references to their own donations, but no way for their customers to participate directly. 

      Online bill-pay fundraising
      imageAnother welcome addition to bank-enabled fundraising was launched by Online Resources just two days after the earthquake hit. The bill-pay provider created banners and splash pages for its clients to use in publicizing the availability of bank bill pay for use in donating to the Red Cross (see inset right and top of the page; link to ORCC page with examples).

      As of Friday, ORCC had commitments from about 10 clients to participate in the effort.

      Mobile fundraising
      imageIt was also interesting to see the role mobile is taking in the current crisis. Websites and television networks have done a great job publicizing a simple way to donate $10 to the Red Cross: text "Haiti" to the shortcode 90999. Once you authorize the transaction via a return text message, $10 is automatically added to your mobile phone bill. The service is powered by mGive, a nonprofit based in Colorado. In a Friday blog post, the organization said $8.5 million had been raised so far, a number likely exceeding $10 million by now.

      Banks with links: Citibank, Astoria, and Webster Bank (18 Jan. 2010)

      image              image 

       Links for Haitian relief at Google, PayPal, Amazon, Craigslist, and Microsoft Bing (18 Jan. 2010, 11 AM PDT)

      image  image


       image              image

      Comments (2)

      Cardlytics Launches Innovative Debit Card Incentives Program

      By Andrew Dolbeck on January 13, 2010 1:39 PM | Comments (2)


      Would you like your bank statement to be more interactive? Cardlytics is betting you would. The company's patent-pending technology allows merchants to present their customers with rewards and incentives for shopping with existing bankcards, without needing extra coupons or promotional codes.

      But the clever part is that the incentives are placed directly in the customer's online bank statement. The consumer can activate an offer by clicking on it and then using their card at the merchant. No coupons necessary.

      Here's how it works:

      (1) Bank clients log into online banking. The bank statement includes special offers based on the client's previous spending. As shown below, offers are presented next to the transaction record:


      (2) To get more information, users click the expand link.

      (3) Accepting the offer activates the promotional deal.


      (4) Once the promotion has been activated, the cardholder simply uses the associated debit or credit card at the merchant. The reward dollars are then automatically credited to the account at the end of the next month. Nothing needs to be printed or carried to the store.

      (5) Qualifying transactions are instantly confirmed in the consumers' online banking statement.

      Analysis: The Cardlytics system is a useful tool for banks seeking to develop incentive programs. According to Cardlytics CEO Scott Grimes, consumers in the current economy are no longer buying into the "pay for it later" mentality fostered by credit cards, making this the perfect time for banks to provide debit card incentives. Merchants fund the rewards in exchange for the highly targeted advertising.

      The appeal for the merchants is obvious. They are able to make highly targeted offers directly to customers of their competitors. In the example above, McDonald's places its famous Golden Arches in front of a Burger King customer. That's a definite score.

      As a result, more than 50 national retailers have signed up for the platform.

      One cautionary note: Will Burger King customers feel they've been sold off to McDonalds by their banks? It's a real concern. Customer education will be important so that consumers understand that no personally identifiable information is being released to advertisers.

      The ultimate test for Cardlytics will come from the consumer. Will the Cardlytics program increase bankcard use? It might if the deals are attractive enough to change behavior. So far, the company reports positive results, with an average response rate of 15% and some going as high as 40%.

      I'll be watching my bank statement.

      Comments (2)

      Screenshots of Holiday Promotions at Top-20 US Banks

      By Jim Bruene on December 24, 2009 10:15 AM | Comments

      Here are the screenshots that support our previous blog entry.

      Holiday Promotions and Themes from Top-20 Banks

      5. PNC Bank (22 Dec. 2009)


      Landing page <>
      Note: According to Compete, received 25,000 unique visitors in Dec. 2008


       13. TDBank (22 Dec.)
      Note: The promotion was gone when we checked back today (24 Dec.)


      Landing page


      14. Citizens (RBS) (22 Dec.)
      Note: The gift ad was gone when we checked back today (24 Dec.), but the free electronic calendar (to the left of the gift ad) was still running.


      Landing page


      15. Regions (22 Dec.)


      16. Fifth Third Bank (22 Dec.)


      17. ING Direct (24 Dec.)


      20. Harris Bank (BMO)
      Note: The points ad had been pulled down when we checked back this morning (24 Dec.)


      1. Previous Netbanker December holiday-marketing posts (2007, 2006, 2006, 2004)
      2. Rankings based on deposit on 31 Dec. 2008 (list here)


      Banking the Holidays: 2009 Edition

      By Jim Bruene on December 24, 2009 10:41 AM | Comments

      imageIt's a bit of a holiday tradition at Netbanker (note 1), checking out the top-20 banks to see if they've upped their retail game during the year-end holiday period. Or at least pushed out a holiday greeting to visitors, such as Google's greeting to Gmail users yesterday (inset). 

      It was pretty much business as usual at most large bank sites. The only top-10 bank with any major holiday message this week was PNC Bank, with its clever Christmas Price Index, which values the items listed in the 12 Days of Christmas song. The total this year: $21,500, up 1.8% over 2008 (press release).

      PNC has calculated the price index for 26 years and displays a bar graph at their CPI microsite (below). It's been online for a number of years; we first blogged about it in 2004.

      This year, we surfed the 20 largest U.S. banks on Dec. 22 and Dec. 24 (screenshots are in the next post; note 2). On the first visit, we found six top-20 banks with a holiday mention on the homepage (rank in parenthesis). We took a tour again this morning expecting to find a few more holiday messages. There was only one newcomer, ING Direct, and surprisingly, three of the original six had pulled down their holiday ads already. In all only four top-20 banks have a holiday message today (24 Dec., 9 AM Pacific time). 

      December 22 December 24
      5. PNC Bank 5. PNC Bank
      13. TD Bank 15. Regions Bank
      14. Citizens (RBS) 16. Fifth Third
      15. Regions 17. ING Direct
      16. Fifth Third  
      20. Harris Bank (BMO)  

      Luckily, an astute reader emailed yesterday to let us know that their bank was decked out in the holiday spirit, $2 billion (deposits) Union Bank and Trust (below) headquartered in Bowling Green, Virginia.

      Union Bank & Trust (24 Dec. 2009)


      1. Previous Netbanker December holiday-marketing posts (2007, 2006, 2006, 2004)
      2. Rankings based on deposits on 31 Dec. 2008 (list here)


      Stanford Federal Credit Union Readies Launch of Geezeo-Powered MyMo PFM

      By Jim Bruene on December 18, 2009 11:48 AM | Comments (1)

      image It looks like we are just days away from the launch of the first Geezeo-powered private-branded online PFM. Fifty-thousand-member Stanford Federal Credit Union, one of the first financial institutions in the world to offer Internet banking in the mid-90s, has been promoting the soon-to-be-launched personal financial manager for several months.

      The service, called MyMo is currently in final testing with SFCU employees. It will run both online (screenshot 1 and 2, below) and through a mobile app (inset).

      imageMyMo has been the lead story in the CU's in-house newsletter for two months running (see screenshots 3 and 4). In November, the service was said to coming "this month." Then in December, it hedged with a "coming soon" message. There's still no specific info on when MyMo will launch, but there's a promotion running on the middle of the SFCU's homepage and Facebook page (see screenshots below), so it must be soon (note 1).  

      The future: While private-branded online PFM is not new, Bank of America has several million users of its Yodlee-powered solution, the concept appears to be gaining momentum. Intuit/Digital Insight are now powering hundred of FIs while Wesabe and Jwaala have also made in-roads into the CU world. We'll see lots of innovation in this area in the coming decade (see note 2).

      1. MyMo desktop: Dashboard view (link)


      2. MyMo desktop: Add a goal


      3. SFCU's November 2009 newsletter (link)


      4. SFCU's December 2009 newsletter (link)


      5. SFCU homepage (17 Dec. 2009)


      6. SFCU Facebook page (link)


      1. While I think it makes sense to run a teaser campaign for a new product, SFCU should provide more detail on when the service will launch and why it's been delayed. Members want the service to be fully tested, so they won't mind waiting a bit longer as long as the CU is upfront with them about the timing.
      2. For more information on the PFM space, see our Online Banking Report on Personal Finance Features.

      Comments (1)

      HSBC Checking Account Upsell

      By Jim Bruene on December 8, 2009 6:28 PM | Comments

      image These days, most major banks and credit unions do a pretty good job of exposing their various products and services to website visitors. But when it comes to actually moving visitors through the sales process, it's a mixed bag. The best have account selection tools, online applications (see note 1), readily available help, good benefits-oriented copy, and so on.

      But you still won't mistake banking sites for a retailer. Most banks still assume that visitors are already familiar with their brand and are predisposed to buy. While that thinking works fine with walk-in traffic to bank branches, on the Web it's a different environment, with near-infinite choice.

      You need to quickly impress visitors, then provide incentives to get them to take action. I always go back to the AIDA framework from Marketing 101: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. Many financial sites are effective only for consumers already ready to take action. They are missing crucial financial AID (sorry for the weak effort at banking humor).

      HSBC diverts customers to a lower-cost checking account
      However, there are many exceptions. For example, HSBC's U.S. website. The site really sells. There are dozens of little things they do right, and a few that could be improved, but here's something I've not seen before.

      When looking at checking account options, I clicked on the Basic Banking package. Instead of telling me about the account, I was greeted with a popup, on top of the grayed-out screen, explaining how I could save the $3 per month charge by choosing Choice Checking (see screenshots below).

      I never thought I'd see a major bank, or large retailer for that matter, trying to push me into a lower-cost option (see caveat below). But it makes a ton of sense. HSBC knows that most website visitors are expecting a no-monthly-fee checking account. So why not direct them that way instead of just hoping they find it before heading off to ING Direct or other online options?

      But I wonder how many visitors are happy with this recommendation? Choice Checking is only conditionally free (which is disclosed in the popup). The account has a direct-deposit or minimum balance requirement to avoid the $8 monthly fee. Customers unable to muster those hurdles would be better off with the account they were originally looking at, Basic Checking. And, many visitors, especially outside the branch footprint (note 2), might prefer the Online Payments Account from HSBC Direct.  

      Only HSBC knows whether the end results are positive, but it's a great marketing technique regardless. 

      HSBC Basic Banking landing page (8 Dec. 2009)


      Landing page for "lower cost" option
      Note: It's only free if you have direct deposit or maintain a $1500 combined balance (highlights below are mine).


      1. For more information on the online sales process, see Online Banking Report: Online Account Opening.
      2. We have several HSBC branches in the Seattle area, so the results of this cross-sales experience could have been different if I'd been searching from a different IP address. It's possible they had a cookie on me from present visits as well.


      Launched: PerkStreet Financial Focuses on Debit Card Rewards and Free Checking

      By Jim Bruene on December 2, 2009 6:32 PM | Comments (7)

      image With growing debit card usage, and few rewards programs with meaningful payment bonuses (note 1), the market seems right for a focused debit-card-rewards provider.

      But the market has not evolved as fast as many thought. Capital One threw in the towel on its decoupled debit rewards program. Finovate alum (video hereTempo Payments is refocusing on affinity-branded cards, which often have a reward component paid for by the affinity partner.

      But a new entrant, PerkStreet Financial (powered by The Bancorp Bank) may have the right answer: reward levels on par with credit-card programs, 1% of spending value, 4x the average debit card program (note 1). The company emphasizes rewards paid via free coffee (nice tie-in to the name), music downloads (going after the youth market), or gift cards from name-brand retailers (adds retail interest to the account). See the first screenshot.

      But with lower interchange, and no monthly fee (note 2), how can a bank afford such high rewards?

      • No branches
      • Rewards paid out on retail stored-value cards which are provided to the bank by retailers at prices less than face value
      • $30 overdraft charges (but it's OPT-IN optional)

      $50 new-account bonus: If you navigate directly to the website, there is no new account bonus (see screenshot 2). But if you use Google, it's hard to miss PerkStreet's ad (screenshot 3) or the affiliate deals. Going to the site through those options earns you a $50 bonus (screenshot 4), and in the case of the Google ad, an additional $50 qualified satisfaction guarantee (screenshot 5). 

      1. PerkStreet perks page (link; 2 Dec 2009)


      2. Standard homepage with no offer, emphasizing free


      3. Google search for "PerkStreet Financial" (2 Dec 2009, 5:30 PM Pacific from Seattle IP address)


      4. PerkStreet homepage accessed via affiliate (Doughroller link)
      $50 bonus with $25 opening deposit and three months of activity


      5. Landing page offer (link, 2 Dec 2009)
      $50 bonus now with direct deposit, and $50 more if not satisfied within eight months.
      To qualify as not satisfied, you must have set up direct deposit within 60 days of account opening, made 10 or more debit transactions per month for six straight months, and have closed your account within eight months of opening.


      1. According to the fine print disclosures on PerkStreet's homepage, 17% of debit cards provide rewards with an average value of 0.23% of spending (source cited: BAI/Hitachi 2008 Study of Consumer Payment Preferences).
      2. The account has a monthly fee ($4.50) only if there is no activity.

      Comments (7)

      ING Direct Black Friday Screenshots

      By Jim Bruene on November 27, 2009 6:53 PM | Comments (1)

      As a followup to our pre-Thanksgiving post, here's what the ING Direct website looked like on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving).

      ING Direct Black Friday homepage (27 Nov 2009, 1 PM Pacific)


      Black Friday deals landing page <>
      Note: All the "Learn more" links went to the regular product pages


      Comments (1)

      Another Black Friday Banking Special: Service Credit Union

      By Jim Bruene on November 27, 2009 10:20 AM | Comments

      imageING Direct wasn't the only one with a Black Friday promotion (yesterday's post).

      Portsmouth, NH-based Service Credit Union also took advantage of the U.S. vacation day to promote a special 10% APY 3-month CD ($1,000 max deposit) and 1% off loan rates (promo page). But unlike ING Direct, the CU's special offers were redeemable only in its branches, which opened at 5 AM to mimic giant retailer early-morning specials.

      The offer was promoted in a rotating banner on the homepage (see inset and screenshot below). And it had its own landing page (see screenshot below).

      I like the creativity, so I'll give them an A for effort. But seriously, opening at 5 AM? Maybe they were hoping for PR exposure, but it's just not right (note 1). I understand (sort of), heading to Best Buy in the middle of the night to save a couple hundred on a TV. But who would go to their bank at 5 AM to make an extra $20 on a CD (note 2) or apply for a car loan (note 3)?

      But there was one offer in the fine print that was more valuable for a typical Black Friday shopper, fee-free gift cards until noon. Although, I'm not sure why they limited the number to five per customer. 

      Hat tip: Bank Deals blog

      Service Credit Union Black Friday promo page (link, 27 Nov. 2009, 9 AM Pacific)


      Service Credit Union homepage


      1. Now if you have in-store branches, it's another matter. Desert Schools FCU opened its 24 WalMart branches at 5 AM along with the retailer.
      2. Extra interest on a $1000 CD for 3 months is about $7 per month, or $20 total. And that's before tax.
      3. The almost unreadable type on the bottom of the small banner mention great prizes and giveaways, but the landing page makes no mentions of prizes. Now, free stuff would make it worth a trip to the branch, so I wonder why the CU didn't mention that on the promo page? Maybe they didn't want people to show up only for the prizes? 


      Holiday Themes: ING Direct Offers Up Anti-Black-Friday Tease

      By Jim Bruene on November 25, 2009 1:34 PM | Comments (1)

      imageRarely does ING Direct disappoint when it comes to adding a little holiday pizzazz to its website. And it's no turkey this year.

      The bank's homepage is given over entirely to a flash animation that starts with its trademark orange ball rising over a cityscape. Then a decked-out turkey joins the scene and its revealed that its a play on tomorrow's NYC Thanksgiving Day parade balloons.

      But the more interesting development is the small orange "Black Friday" sale tag in the upper right corner (see inset). ING Direct has four Black Friday specials that will be revealed at one past midnight this Friday at <>.

      imageWe are sworn to secrecy on two of the deals, but we can tell you that there will be a $683 discount (the average amount American's spend on holiday gifts) on ING mortgage products (currently 3.75%) and a 20% off ShareBuilder deal.

      The Black Friday tease was also emailed to ING Direct customers this morning (see inset).

      My take: The Black Friday promotion, which is being pushed out to media outlets in advance of Friday, is brilliant. It plays perfectly into the more-conservative budget mindsight in the country and gives the press something else to write about beside the long lines at Best Buy at 4 AM Friday.

      Grade: An A+ and an extra helping of sweet potatoes to ING Direct for both timing and creativity.  

      In a quick survey today of the 25 largest retail banks, three others had holiday promotions or themes: 

      ING Direct (USA) homepage (23 Nov 6 PM Pacific)


      ING Direct black friday landing page (25 Nov 2009)


      Zions Bank homepage (23 Nov 7 PM Pacific)
      Note: Trusteer promotion on homepage


      Wells Fargo homepage (25 Nov 2009, 1 PM Pacific)


      Note: For future reference, this post was made on the day before Thanksgiving.

      Comments (1)

      The Financial Service that Made Ad Age's 40 Hottest Brands

      By Jim Bruene on November 18, 2009 9:34 AM | Comments

      image The latest Advertising Age profiles the 40 hottest brands in the United States. In the current climate, I wasn't expecting to see a financial brand. But there was a one financial tech company that made the list.

      Intuit's TurboTax. It even made the cover photo montage (see inset), although you have to look carefully to see the box laying flat in front (note 1).

      Who would have thought tax prep software could be cool? Part of the reason: TurboTax's marketing VP, Andy Young, has been pushing the envelope looking for novel ways to market tax prep services. For example, last year TurboTax was the first company to use a Google program that displayed an Intuit tweet stream on AdSense partner sites such as Facebook, MySpace and VentureBeat (see screenshot below from our previous post). Clickthroughs went to Intuit's Twitter page, rather than its main website (note 2).

      And things were clicking last year for TurboTax with 11% growth to 18 million units, despite an 11% decline in boxed-unit sales. The growth driver? Online of course, up 36% year over year.  

      image Implications for FIs: Banks have driven users to TurboTax for years earning a slice of revenue under affiliate deals. But the potential to provide TurboTax services is set to grow exponentially.   As announced in September's Finovate, tax prep/TurboTax will soon be integrated directly (e.g single signon) in Digital Insight's FinanceWorks

      VentureBeat home page (9 April 2009)


      1. I might have missed the TurboTax box, because I was too fixated on the Five Guys cup on the left, which is coming to Seattle very soon.
      2. For more info on leveraging Twitter, see our report published in May, Online Banking Report: Connecting to Customers with Twitter.


      Bank of America's Launches Personal Finance Tips Site

      By Jim Bruene on November 17, 2009 1:47 PM | Comments (2)

      image Bank of America's latest online effort is a personal finance educational site at <> that includes consumer polls, money savings tips, videos and articles. Bank products are sprinkled throughout but the marketing is relatively restrained.

      It's a solid effort. Good, concise copy married to an attractive graphical layout. And for a bank the size of Bank of America, it makes perfect business sense. The site moves a little product, builds the brand, shows off the bank's consumer-friendly side, provides material for PR campaigns, and gains some CRA credit (note 1). 

      But I'm not sure how much usage it will get other than the curious driven to it from banners within online banking. That's how ended up there today after paying my BofA credit card bill online (see second screenshot below).

      Given Bank of America's 30 million online banking customers, they must not be driving much traffic to the site yet. According to Compete, traffic surpassed 100,000 for the first time in October. July was the first month that traffic was registered at the site.

      Unique monthly visitors to BofA's personal finance tips site (July through October, 2009)

      Source: Compete

      Other than enabling an RSS feed for article updates, the site has no Web 2.0 or social media features. No blog. No forum. It's just a very pretty face on personal finance 101 material. It will be interesting to see where they take it. homepage (link, 13 Nov. 2009)
      Note: I completed the poll on the middle of the page, so the results are shown rather than the poll question.


      Logoff screen (13 Nov 2009, 3 PM Pacific)


      1. CRA = Community Reinvestment Act which requires banks to help meet the financial and credit needs of low- to-moderate-income consumers.

      Comments (2)

      Innovators: Incredible Bank Breaks the Direct-Bank Mold

      By Jim Bruene on November 9, 2009 10:15 AM | Comments (1)

      image The ink's barely dry on the news that ING Group will divest its U.S. bank, ING Direct, within the next 48 months (note 1), when someone else has already launched a direct bank with a distinctive orange theme (note 2):

      The new brand: Incredible Bank from River Valley Bank, an 18-branch, $900 million (assets) bank headquartered in Wausau, Wisconsin.


      The strategy: Like the original orange bank's Electric Orange account, Incredible Bank offers a high-yield checking account, currently paying 2%, that's 100% electronic. No paper checks (note 3), no paper statements. And unlike the hundreds of rewards-checking products, this one comes with no strings attached. The full rate is paid on all balances up to $250,000, then it drops to 1%.

      Other account features:

      • Debit card
      • Free online bill pay
      • Unlimited ATM reimbursement
      • Overdrafts are $34 each with max 10 per day
      • Incoming wires are $5 each, outgoing are $20
      • Mobile banking (which is highlighted on the home page, see below and note 4)
      • ACH in/out (coming soon)

      I've always wondered why, other than ING Direct and Kiwi Bank, only the U.K. direct banks seemed capable of a light-hearted brand positioning online (see update below). While we've seen many good social media and microsite efforts using humor, few financial institutions have dared use this approach on their core websites. Leave it to those spirited cheeseheads in Wisconsin to break the mold finally (note 5).

      Initially, it's the 2% rate that will bring cash to Incredible Bank. But longer term, for any direct bank to add value to the parent's franchise, it must create loyal customers who won't bolt to the next newcomer offering a 15-basis-point rate advantage. This is a good start for River Valley, but they'll need a lot more than this bare-bones website to create long-lasting relationships.     

      Hat tip: Bank Deals blog.

      Update 9 Nov: The Financial Brand's Jeffry Pilcher reminded me of two good U.S. examples, GMAC's Ally Bank and (how could I forget?) Redneck Bank.

      Incredible Bank homepage (9 Nov 2009)


      1. In his Retail Delivery presentation, always one of the highlights of the show for me, Second Curve principal Tom Brown said ING Direct would be an attractive acquisition for any number of deposit-seeking large financial institutions; however, he did not name any.
      2. Full disclosure: I have a strange weakness for the color orange, perhaps the result of many trips to Florida as a child. So, take anything I say in this post with a huge grain of salt. 
      3. Normally, I think paper checks should still be made available, even if they are discouraged with fees. However, in cases where the direct brand will cannibalize deposits at the parent, it can make strategic sense to cripple the direct brand's checking account in this way. That way, fewer River Valley customers will simply move their entire checking account over.
      4. The bank has created a mobile site with shorter URL:
      5. While Incredible Bank is quite different, the main River Valley Bank brand remains typically conservative, at least in its online presence. They don't even dare mention the Incredible brand anywhere on its website.
      6. See our Online Banking Report: Growing Deposits in the Digital Age for a dozen more strategies.

      Comments (1)

      Off-topic: Seth Godin is a Marketing Genius and Only Accepts PayPal

      By Jim Bruene on November 3, 2009 4:36 PM | Comments

      image Seth Godin is a true marketing guru. And unlike some authors, he also practices what he preaches.

      Case in point: At 10:49 AM Eastern today, he announced via post on his blog that he was selling a special boxed set of five of his books (here):

      • Limit one per customer
      • 800 total sets, with no more to be printed ever
      • Price = $64 + $10 shipping
      • Payment via PayPal only.

      By 1 PM, when I ordered, only 176 remained. By the time I returned from this afternoon's BAI Retail Delivery program, they were all gone (note 1).

      And of course, I received a clever thank-you note from Mr. Godin a few hours later (see below).

      Relevance to Netbankers: This doesn't really have anything to do with financial services other than being one more bit of evidence of PayPal's ubiquity online. This is just a great example of how to create retail excitement with a combination of clear value, simple check-out process, a nice webpage (see screenshot below), and a blog entry. It's more challenging to do it in financial services, but it is possible. 

      Seth Godin's webpage sold a limited-edition box set for a few hours (link, 3 Nov. 2009)


      Thank-you email
      (three hours after purchase)
      Apparently, part one in a series


      Note: If you must have it, there's one up for auction on eBay. Starting price $1.


      Bank of America Offering 1 Year Free McAfee Internet Security at Online Banking Logout

      By Jim Bruene on October 21, 2009 3:01 PM | Comments (1)

      image This is one of the most valuable freebies I've ever been offered simply for being a customer. Bank of America online banking customers, new or existing, are being given a one-year free subscription to McAfee, worth $70 at retail.

      The fine print is relatively clear (reprinted below, after the screenshot). The main "catches:"

      • Must not have a current McAfee subscription (see Results below)
      • The subscription auto-renews at $34.98/yr, a 50% discount
      • While in progress, the BofA offer never mentions number of users covered (the normal $69.99 subscription from McAfee covers three users, see note 1); however, during checkout, after accepting BofA's offer, the product description confirms three users are covered with the subscription

      Bank of America is also publicizing the offer on its main website (here). To accept, users must log in to online banking first.

      Results: I signed up for the account this morning and was surprised to find that you are not required to use Bank of America for payment. In fact, BofA is never mentioned again after leaving the original landing page (see second screenshot). The McAfee cart offered the usual choice of Visa, MasterCard, American Express, PayPal and others. 

      Opportunity for financial institutions: Assuming you can swing a deal with McAfee that requires no out-of-pocket expense, offering your customers a year's worth of anti-virus protection is a win-win. The primary downsides are a few extra calls to customer service and a few irritated existing McAfee customers who do not qualify for the freebie.

      Bank of America logout screen (21 Oct 2009; 7 AM Pacific)


      Fine print on bottom of page above:
      This exclusive offer is available only to Bank of America Online Banking customers. Online Banking customers receive McAfee Internet Security for PC free for 12 months, a $69.99 value. At the end of the 12-month period, Online Banking customers are eligible to renew for another 12-month period at 50% off MSRP or $34.98. Customers with a current McAfee subscription are not eligible for this offer. Bank of America reserves the right to modify this offer and eligibility requirements at its discretion.

      Landing page (link)


      Same offer on BofA website (link)


      1. The service is currently offered at a discount at Intel's software store for $32.95 for one year for three users. Intel's offer was positioned via paid ad at the number-one position on a Google search for "McAfee Internet security."
      2. For more information on online banking security, see Online Banking Report: New Security Techniques (Sep 2008)

      Comments (1)

      Cascade Bank Has a Business Banker Directory on its Website

      By Jim Bruene on October 20, 2009 6:48 PM | Comments

      image Isn't business banking supposed to be all about the people? Then why don't financial institutions use their websites to publicize their business banking talent? None of the several dozen business banking sites I recently reviewed allows prospective business clients to connect with an actual human being in advance of calling or emailing a general number for more info.

      The only bank I'm aware of that actually puts its business bankers on its website is Cascade Bank headquartered in Everett, WA, a few miles north of Seattle. The bank has posted the following info for years (see screenshot below):

      • Headshot
      • Name, title, location
      • Short mission statement/bio (note 1)
      • Phone number and email address

      That's a respectable start. But with today's virtually free Web-based tools such as Twitter, blogs, and Linked:In (note 2), every business banker should have their own online presence. Sure, the bank or credit union will need to provide guidance and oversight, but it's not like these sales folks don't know how to put their best foot forward.

      Cascade Bank Commercial Banker Directory (link, 20 Oct 2009)


      1. Unfortunately, the bio area is blank for 3 of the 12 business bankers listed. That looks pretty bad, especially with 2 of the first 3 blank. Come on Lar, Cynthia and Patrick, get those bios over to marketing ASAP.
      2. Those Cascade listings would look much more impressive with Linked:in links by each name.


      BB&T Pushes Online Statements on Homepage

      By Jim Bruene on October 7, 2009 2:06 PM | Comments (4)

      image Most major financial institutions have been pushing estatements for several years (see previous coverage). The appeal of shaving $10 to $20 off the annual servicing cost for every account is an attractive payoff.

      Yet, you rarely see estatement appeals elevated to the homepage. BB&T bucks convention with this attractive graphic with the big-three benefits: security, convenience, accessibility (see first screenshot). The green button leads to a landing page reiterating these three benefits plus adding the environmental message.

      Bottom line: It's a good, educational effort. But with most consumers already aware of online statements, there's little motivation to change something that's worked fine for the past 10, 20, 30 or more years. 

      If you are serious about reducing paper and postage expense, give your customers a reason to change their behavior:

      • Low-cost gifts, such as a pair of movie tickets, 2-for-1 meal, $10 Starbucks card, etc.
      • Sweepstakes (one-time or ongoing; see Wells Fargo example below)
      • Extra online services such as increased archives or an electronic vault
      • Enhanced security guarantee
      • Discounts on other services

      But whatever you do, don't introduce a fee for paper statements unless you want to get T-Mobiled.

      BB&T homepage promotes online statements (7 Oct 2009)
      Access via Seattle IP address; we do not have any accounts at the bank


      Landing page (link)


      Wells Fargo $60,000 estatement sweepstakes landing page (link)


      For more information, see our Online Banking Report: Lifetime Statement Archives (June 2005)

      Comments (4)

      Bank of America Promotes Small Business Online Community at Logout

      By Jim Bruene on September 23, 2009 5:00 PM | Comments (2)

      image Logging out from my Bank of America credit card account (both personal and business accounts), I was greeted with this pitch for the bank's small business community (see first screenshot). The pitch is straightforward and emphasizes three benefits:

      • Get answers to your business questions
      • Exchange ideas with other entrepreneurs
      • Free

      Clicking the red Join Today button drops users onto the Forums page at the small business site (see second screenshot).

      Bottom line: The logout effort is a good brand-building exercise for Bank of America, and it should drive much-needed traffic to the site. According to Compete (see chart below), in August the small business community site had an estimated 70,000 unique visitors, two-thirds more than the 40,000 a year ago. But traffic was down almost a third from the springtime peak.

      Bank of America logout screen (23 Sep 2009, 4 PM Pacific)


      Landing page (link)


      Compete traffic estimates, Aug 2008 through Aug 2009 (link)


      Comments (2)

      American Express "Take Charge" Campaign Launches with Powerful Full-Page Ads but Weak Online Support

      By Jim Bruene on September 3, 2009 12:01 PM | Comments (2)

      imageEvidently, there is still a disconnect between the print and online advertising groups at major advertisers.

      Case in point: American Express kicked off a new campaign (press release) with an impressive full-page ad (p. A9) in Tuesday's WSJ (see inset) and other print media (note 1). It was a timely ad, playing on money fears and overall security concerns. It concluded with the company's new tagline:

      Don't Take Chances. Take Charge.

      The call-to-action uses a new URL <> that leads to a new microsite (see second screenshot below). Wanting to look at it, I did what I always do, typed "take charge" into Google. Nothing (see first screenshot). I even Binged it. Again, nothing. Searches at Twitter and Facebook also came up empty. Even at American Express's own website, site-search results do not include the microsite (note 2).

      It's hard to understand why AmEx would spend millions on a new campaign and microsite without Google AdWords support to help people find it, at least until the microsite starts appearing on the first page of search results (note 3).

      But after looking at the Take Charge microsite, I can see why the company might not be ready to direct search traffic there. The site is a good example of what NOT to do. The Flash-based site is slow-loading (note 4) and sparsely filled with ten testimonial videos (notes 5, 6), a list of seven benefits for using a charge card, and a couple links out to the main AmEx site.

      So far, the microsite looks like a pure branding play. There's little there that would motivate someone to apply for a card on the spot. But with millions being spent on other media using that URL, it seems like a wasted opportunity, so far. It will be interesting to watch it evolve.

      Google search results for "take charge" (9:30 AM Pacific, 1 Sep 2009 from Seattle IP address)


      AmEx Take Charge microsite (1 Sep 2009)


      1. Here's the initial media buy according to the company's press release:

      The marketing campaign launches (Sep. 1) with print advertisements in national newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and USA Today. On September 2, print advertisements will run in major regional newspapers, including Boston Globe, New York Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune. Television advertising will begin to air on major broadcast and cable stations such as CBS, FOX, NBC, TNT, A&E and the Discovery Channel breaking during the U.S. Open on September 5.

      2. The search results do provide relevant links, just not to the microsite.
      3. I haven't tested it on other computers, but AmEx's site just about brings my 3-year-old Thinkpad to a grinding halt. It's not a good first impression. The company either needs more server bandwidth or a less demanding page, or preferably both. There should also be a link to a lower-bandwidth version.
      4. Currently, the AmEx site does not come up within the first 10 pages. There's also a remote possibility that Google won't let AmEx use "take charge" in search ads due to the similar-sounding TakeCharge Financial. But I have to think AmEx lawyers have worked through that issue already. 
      5. There are small "apply now" links displayed at the end of each video.
      6. Once it loads, the site is visually interesting (see screenshot above).

      Comments (2)

      Activity Tickers Bring Life to Financial Websites

      By Jim Bruene on July 16, 2009 5:40 PM | Comments (1)

      image One problem with most websites, as compared to the offline world, is that they are relatively static experiences. Unless you are already familiar with the brand, you don't know if you are the first visitor this year or if 10,000 others are banging away on the servers right now. There's no online equivalent to the "line out the door" that signals you arrived at a popular restaurant or night club.  

      That's why I like online tickers that show user activity. In financial services, the best example, active for many years, is Progressive Insurance's scrolling window of rate quotes (see inset). Geezeo, Zillow and ING Direct (see note 1) have also used the technique (see previous post).

      And just this month, two financial providers added similar tickers to their homepages:

      Both newcomers have neglected to "time stamp" the activity to demonstrate how recent it was. That's an important aspect for credibility.

      BillShrink homepage with Live Feed (16 July 2009)


       MoneyAisle's Live Ticker was recently added to its homepage
      (16 July 2009)


      Progressive's Rate Ticker (16 July 2009)


      1. Behind the login screen, ING Direct used to have a counter showing the total amount of interest paid to depositors. But it was discontinued last year at about the $9 billion mark. 
      2. Industry participants can purchase MoneyAisle's real-time deposit pricing data stream for $1,500/year (here).

      Comments (1)

      Alpine Bank Emphasizes Service with Animated "Escape" Banner on Homepage

      By Jim Bruene on June 30, 2009 1:18 AM | Comments

      image Business runs in cycles and right now many of the large financial brand names are a bit tarnished. Over the next few years, we'll likely see community banks and credit unions turn up the volume on marketing campaigns emphasizing their low-key, low-risk community-based services.

      We ran across this good example two weeks ago at $930-million (assets) Alpine Bank of Illinois. The bank uses a clever escape theme that should resonate with hard-core computer users and novices alike (see screenshot 1 below). The eye-catching banner sequence (see screenshot 1a) asks a serious of three questions, then culminates in an escape key (ESC) inviting users to click to a landing page with more info.  

      Then on the landing page, the "Esc key" in the lower right (screenshot 2), takes users to an online Contact Me form (screenshot 3) that includes simple contact info to be used for a followup call or email (customer's choice). This is a nice high-touch alternative to regular online app, that can take 7 to 10 minutes to complete and are abandoned at alarmingly high rates (see note 1).  

      Analysis: Overall, the campaign is clever and well presented (note 2). But the bank could make several landing-page changes (screenshot 2) to improve conversion rates: 

      • Increase the visibility of the $25 account-opening bonus. It's currently buried in the first paragraph. I didn't even notice it until the third time we looked at the page (note 3).
      • The account opening link on the landing page should be enhanced with one or more brightly colored Open Now button.
      • While the "escape key" is clever, users may not realize that's how they are supposed to request more info. The bank should add a More Info button and/or add "more info" to the Esc key graphic.
      • On the Contact Me form, their should be an Open Now button for users who decide they are ready to open immediately.

      For more info on improving your online account opening results, see our latest Online Banking Report: Opening Accounts Online, published last week.

      1. Homepage (16 June 2009)


      1a. Homepage banner ads (they cycle through in this order)








      2. Landing page (from homepage banner; link)

      3. Contact Me form (link)


      1. For more info, see Online Banking Report: Opening Accounts Online, published last week.
      2. One small nitpick on the design: The banner ads should only cycle one or two times per visit. There's no need to keep cycling the banner ads over and over, it's annoying for someone trying to find something on the homepage.
      3. The $25 bonus does have a small banner on the homepage, lower right. But visitors attracted to the large escape banner could easily miss it.


      Chase Bank Pitches Credit Card Balance Transfers at Login

      By Jim Bruene on June 23, 2009 12:16 AM | Comments

      image Chase has great graphic design panache (see previous post here and here). As I was logging in to my account last week to see what the bank had done with a pesky $2 balance remaining from my payoff a month ago (see note 1), I was presented with an eye-catching offer to transfer a balance (see first screenshot below). 

      The balance-transfer options weren't quite as enticing as they've been in the past:

      • 0.99% for six months plus 3% balance-transfer fee
      • 5.99% for a year plus 3% balance-transfer fee

      This time last year, the 5.99% offer would have likely been for the life of the balance. However, under new regulations approved by Congress, where monthly payments must be allocated to the highest rates first, it no longer makes financial sense to offer a low rate for the life of the balance.

      Note: Chase provided real-time chat support as I considered their balance-transfer offer (see second screenshot below).

      Chase Bank's login interstitial (16 June 2009)


      Chase offered online chat via a popup window


      1. Kudos to the bank for automatically eliminating the $2 in extra interest accrued between the day I paid my balance in full online (at the Chase site) and when the payment posted. When I logged in I was afraid I might see a $39 late fee on the $2 remnant balance. 

      2. For more info on post-login marketing, see our recent Online Banking Report on Selling Behind the Login.


      Bank of America promotes retirement planning at logoff

      By Jim Bruene on June 16, 2009 5:52 PM | Comments

      image After viewing my credit card statement (personal and business) I was greeted with the following retirement planning pitch from Bank of America. I've recently seen similar banners on the bank's homepage (though not today).

      It's not easy getting consumers interested in looking at their retirement situation when they are in the middle of an Internet session. There's always something more pressing or entertaining to be done than worry about some distant event. 

      So it takes extra effort to entice clicks. BofA has a good approach. The "Stop Guessing About the Future" hook is a good way to grab attention. And the colorful slider-based tool is easy to use and, most importantly, takes only a few seconds to deliver some meaningful results.

      1. Bank of America logoff screen (2:25 PM, June 16)


      2. Landing page of promo (link)

      The BofA tool uses a short bit of audio to get your attention and explain how to complete the short, five-step wizard. Users may turn off the audio using the button in the upper right. 


      3. Step 1 of 5


      4. Results page

      • Calculates your "retirement number," the amount you need to have to bring your cash income during retirement to 85% of today's value (similar themes have been used by Wells Fargo (here) and ING (here))
      • Shows range of possibilities based on a range of potential investment returns
      • Has two handy boxes showing when you'll run out of cash and how much you need to add to your monthly savings to avoid that (also expressed in ranges)
      • Action plan in the lower right leads to some suggested courses of action, that the bank can help with, such as rolling over a 401(k)


      Note: For more information see our Online Banking Report on Selling Behind the Password, published in April.


      Out of the inbox: Great call-to-action from E*Trade, "Re-Plan your Retirement"

      By Jim Bruene on June 12, 2009 9:16 AM | Comments (3)

      imageOver the years, E*Trade has been consistently innovative in both product development and marketing, two areas that provide natural synergies. The company didn't disappoint with its latest missive to existing customers. 

      An email arrived yesterday afternoon (Thurs., 11 June 2009) and immediately grabbed my attention with its clever and timely subject line:

      Re-plan Your Retirement with E*TRADE and Get Up to $500

      One thing I've heard consistently from my friends, no matter how secure their jobs, is that they will "be working forever" now that the Great Recession has slammed their net worth with the double whammy of a bear market and home-price declines.

      So this is a great time to get in front of customers with new efforts to help them re-plan retirement with new investment ideas, asset rebalancing and just a general reboot of their portfolio. And it's also an excellent time to discuss 401(k) rollovers, as E*Trade did in this message, with an "up to $500" (see note 1) incentive to roll over a retirement account to the company (see landing page, third screenshot below). As Americans change jobs by necessity, there will be millions of retirement accounts in play. 

      Security features in email
      E*Trade also demonstrates another best practice to improve trust in customer emails: personalization. The company includes customer name and last four digits of their account number to help distinguish the message from fraudulent phishing attempts. E*Trade draws attention to the feature with a Security Enhanced icon on the top-right (see first screenshot below).

      Clicking on the Learn More link drops readers to the bottom of the email message where product URLs provide direct-navigation alternatives to paranoid readers (see second screenshot below). I hadn't seen that before, a nice touch.

      E*Trade email promoting 401(k) rollovers (received 11 June, 3 PM Pacific)


      Security "fine print" at bottom of above message


      Landing page for email offer (link)

      1. Detail on the rebate:

      • $500 for rollovers of $250,000 or more
      • $250 for $100,000 to $250,000
      • $100 for $50,000 to $100,000
      • $50 for $25,000 to $50,000
      Comments (3)

      Fake credit union advertisement on Google

      By Jim Bruene on June 1, 2009 4:24 PM | Comments (2)

      image It's not often I see an unfamiliar name amongst the top bidders for "online banking" at Google. But today, the sixth advertiser on the right-hand column (number nine overall), was an ad supposedly from (see ad right and  search results page below).

      The ad had a seemingly clear call to action, Visit Our Credit Union Today For Online Banking! However, when I clicked on the link, it lead to a .info page full of ads unrelated to the legitimate Century Credit Union (see second screenshot below).

      While this doesn't appear to be a phishing attempt since it's not displayed on searches for "Century Credit Union" or "," it is a bit disconcerting. It's clearly a violation of Google's terms of service and shouldn't have made it past Google's filters, but they are not perfect.

      But my bigger question is: How does a spammy .info site make it to the top-10 advertisers on this popular banking term? Are there really so few serious bank or credit union bidders in the area? Or is it that the Google AdWords ROI just isn't there right now? 

      Other than a regional Chase ad on the top <>, it wasn't until the fifth page of results that another Northwest financial institution made an appearance, Coastal Community Bank advertising its BancVue/FirstROI-powered high-yield checking account (landing page here).  

      Search results page for online banking (1 June 2009, 3:20 PM from Seattle/Comcast IP address)


      Landing page for the fake Google ad (1 June 2009)


      Comments (2)

      PayPal markets its credit card to users at logout

      By Jim Bruene on May 21, 2009 5:27 PM | Comments

      image For many years PayPal has deposited users on its shopping portal when they log out of their PayPal account. This afternoon I saw something different at logout for the first time in recent memory, a pitch for the PayPal Plus MasterCard (screenshot below).

      Although the company has marketed this card to me dozens of times immediately after logging in, it's the first time I remember seeing it after logging out. The hook is the card's new personalized photo option.

      But a funny thing happened when I clicked on the Get Started button: I was dropped on to PayPal's homepage where an error message explained:

      You must log in before you can access this page.

      A very odd requirement for an offer made after logging out. I followed the instructions and logged in, but there was no mention of the credit card. I just ended up at the regular account management page.

      I guess it was PayPal's turn for a programming glitch (see yesterday's post on Rudder). Luckily, this problem doesn't impact anything but PayPal's online marketing results (see note 1). When I logged out this time, I was shown the usual PayPal shopping portal (see third screenshot). 

      PayPal pitched its PayPal Plus MasterCard at logout
      (21 May 2009, 3:30 PM Pacific)


       Error message after clicking "Get Started" on offer page
      (21 May 2009)image

       PayPal logout offer a few minutes later (21 May 2009)


      1. For more info, see our most recent Online Banking Report: Selling Behind the Password


      Chase Uses Branch-Based WaMu Checking Account Offer at Credit Card Login

      By Jim Bruene on May 2, 2009 7:25 AM | Comments

      image I spent the past few weeks looking at cross-selling efforts from within the secure online banking zone. But unfortunately, I came across the following example too late to be included in our report (see note 1). 

      When I logged in to pay my Chase consumer credit card online (note 2), I was greeted with the following interstitial page (aka "splash screen") inserted before the main account-management area (see first screenshot).

      Chase is offering a $125 incentive to open a WaMu-branded free checking account (note 3). This offer may have something to do with the fact that I'm located in Seattle, the former headquarters of WaMu. The same creative was used in a statement insert and a banner ad across the main account-management page (see third screenshot).


      1. Serving "more info": In this example, Chase handles the info-serving process a bit differently than others I'd looked at recently. When selecting More Info on the splash screen, the bank opened a new tab (in Firefox 3) for the landing page (see second screenshot below). And while the user read the offer details on that page, the original tab automatically loaded the original destination (account management page), and the interstitial ad disappeared.

      On the one hand, it's convenient for the user to be able to look at the offer details and then quickly navigate back to the area they were originally logging in to. However, for more experienced users expecting a pop-up screen that can be quickly closed after reading, it can be momentarily confusing. There's a risk the user will inadvertently close the entire browser session by clicking the upper-right "x," necessitating an annoying restart and re-login.  

      I'm not sure there's a single right answer, but another variable worth testing - something I'd prefer - is a popup running in a smaller window in front of the original Chase page.

      2. Branch-only fulfillment: I was surprised to see the offer can be redeemed only in branch. There is no way to sign up online. The landing page is actually actually a coupon users are encouraged to print with the page-dominating blue "print" button (see second screenshot below).

      I can understand the rationale for pushing people into branches where they can be upsold other services. But in this quick-start age, I'm surprised there isn't at least an option to apply online. Perhaps this is a test to see how a branch-only offer compares to online-only ones.

      Chase Bank splash screen (interstitial) immediately after login
      (30 April 2009, 1:40 PM Pacific)


      Landing page/coupon (opens in second tab in Firefox 3)


      My Accounts page


      1. The results are compiled in our latest Online Banking Report: Selling Behind the Password
      2. Tiny rant: I owed $2.45 left over from some extra finance charge even though I paid my bill in full online last month. It's not so much that Chase didn't earn the $2, that's fine. What's irritating is that they made me pay it right away by setting my min payment to $2.45. Come on Chase, I've had this account since the 1990s, you can float me the $2 until the next time I have a charge.
      3. Interestingly, I already have a small business checking account at WaMu. Either the bank's householding algorithm missed it, or Chase is making the offer to everyone in my Zip, or it still wants me to open a personal account to go with my biz one.


      New Online Banking Report Published: Selling Behind the Password

      By Jim Bruene on April 24, 2009 6:14 PM | Comments


      We just posted our latest Online Banking Report.
      It will be mailed to subscribers tomorrow. It's also available online here. There's no charge for current subscribers; others may access it immediately
      for US$395.


      Selling Behind the Password
      Unlocking the marketing potential within
      online banking

      48 pages (published 21 April, 2009)

      In this report (abstract), we go behind the login screen and report on the marketing and cross-selling practices of 15 financial institutions and card issuers.

      Even among large banks, there's a huge disparity in the amount of cross-selling efforts within online banking. Wells Fargo is the most prolific, with nine marketing messages and product placements alone on its main account-management page. The bank also uses login and logoff activities to display promotions (see screenshot below). On the other hand, US Bank has just a single link to an "offers page" buried below the fold. Most FIs fall somewhere in between.

      We looked at the opportunities within six different areas:

      • Interstitial pages (splash screen) inserted after performing any online activity, especially after the initial login.
      • Banner and keyword promotions within the secure online banking area
      • Product placement within online banking and bill pay
      • Transactional upgrades
      • Page displayed after an online banking session has concluded (either through logout or inactivity)
      • Product/shopping/discount portals and third-party ads

      The following financial companies were analyzed by logging in to actual accounts and documenting their sales and marketing efforts:

      • American Express business gold
      • Bank of America online banking
      • Chase credit card
      • Citibank business card
      • Citibank online banking
      • Discover Card
      • Everbank
      • First Tech Credit Union
      • ING Direct
      • Jwaala (demo only)
      • Mint
      • Netflix (non-financial)
      • PayPal
      • Revolution Money
      • US Bank
      • WaMu
      • Wells Fargo

      Wells Fargo promotion displayed after logging out from online banking
      (27 March 2009)



      Little Earth Day Excitement at U.S. Banking Websites

      By Jim Bruene on April 22, 2009 4:22 PM | Comments (3)

      image Given the financial benefits of driving paper out of the banking system, I was surprised to see little evidence of banks or credit unions using Earth Day to promote paper-saving options (eStatements, electronic bill pay, ebills) or fuel-saving approaches (online banking, remote deposit capture, bank by mail).

      I looked at the 30 largest retail banks and the 10 largest credit unions and found just three green banking promos running on the homepage: Sovereign Bank (Santander), Zions Bank, and Citizens Bank (Royal Bank of Scotland).

      And none of those were Earth Day specific. A Google search turned up a few credit unions sponsoring shredding days, which are nice, but not really doing much for the environment.

      Sovereign Bank (Santander)
      Santander's Sovereign Bank encourages users to go green by signing up for bill pay and ebills. A savings calculator on the landing page allows users to determine the environmental impact of converting bill pay activity from paper to electronic. In addition to the environmental benefits of eliminating paper, the bank promises to plant a tree for every ebill initiated.

      The incentive program is conducted in partnership with the bank's bill payment provider Fiserv/CheckFree (press release).  Similar programs are also in place at BankAtlantic, Fifth Third Bank, PSCU Financial Services, SunTrust and USAAimage

      Sovereign landing page (22 April 2009)



      Zions Bank
      Zions promotes eStatements in a small mid-page graphic. No monetary incentives are provided.


      Citizens Bank

      RBS's Citizens Bank is pushing its Green$ense checking rewards program that pays users $0.20 per electronic transaction for the next 12 months. Ultra-heavy users (3x per day), could bag up to $20/month in savings.  


      Comments (3)

      Intuit Uses Real-Time Twitter Feed in Banner Ad on VentureBeat Blog

      By Jim Bruene on April 9, 2009 10:15 AM | Comments (2)

      image Intuit's TurboTax unit has long pushed the envelope in promoting its brand through social networks. Its Vanilla Ice YouTube promotion two years ago (previous post) is still one of my favorite financial user-generated-content (UGC) promotions.

      But UGC promotions take a lot of planning and support, and unless they go viral, they may generate just a few thousand views and little new business (see note 1).

      Intuit's use of a real-time (note 2) Twitter feed in a banner ad (see at VentureBeat, screenshot below) is so much better than a YouTube promo in a number of ways:

      • Much more cost effective: It costs Intuit virtually nothing to post its Twitter stream to VentureBeat (other than the advertising expense). Intuit is already broadcasting on its Twitter channel for other reasons. This is just a repositioning of that content.
      • When Intuit answers a question within its stream (@ replies), it creates moderated "user-generated micro-content." The newness of the content creates more interest and attention than a static banner ad.
      • The company jumps on the Twitter-bandwagon, a good way to generate press mentions.

      Bottom line: This approach works only if you are creating an interesting stream of Tweets. TurboTax, during the early-April tax return mania, is a great example. Other financial companies can mimic the approach, and you'll probably want to run a contest or do something innovative to keep your Tweets lively. 

      VentureBeat home page (9 April 2009)


      Landing page at Intuit's TurboTax Twitter page @turbotax
      (link, 9 April 2009)


      1. But if you have a huge budget, the payoff can be great. According to Jeffry Pilcher's Financial Brand post today, Barclaycard's Waterslide promo, referenced on the UK homepage, generated more than a million views on YouTube. Barclay's TV ad is here, the YouTube page is here and the Web-based game, here.

      2. It's a "speeded-up" real-time feed. The banner ad cycles through the five most-recent Tweets (all of which were posted yesterday). Each one is on-screen for several seconds, making it look like there is much activity. 

      Comments (2)

      Virgin Money Joins UnCrunch America

      By Jim Bruene on February 25, 2009 12:11 PM | Comments

      image UnCrunch America, the peer-to-peer lending educational/marketing campaign spearheaded by Lending Club (note 1) got a big boost with the addition of Virgin Money USA.

      Not only does Virgin brings its considerable brand recognition, it legitimizes the effort as a true cooperative project, and adds a huge new category to the site, home loans. Plus, they get a much bigger number to put on the top of the homepage (below): $74 million instead of $1 million.

      Other financial services participants include: Credit Karma (note 1), On Deck Capital and Geezeo. The campaign has its official launch today, although the website has been active since December (previous post).

      The timing of the UnCrunch launch is perfect, following President Obama's assertion last night that lending was the "lifeblood" of the economy. All active lenders, especially credit unions, should consider joining this effort or using similar themes in their marketing.

      UnCrunch home page (25 Feb 2009)


      Virgin Money UnCrunch landing page
      (link, 25 Feb 2009)


      1. Lending Club and Credit Karma will be participating in our upcoming Finovate Startup conference April 28 (see full lineup here).
      2. For more info on the market, see our Online Banking Report on P2P Lending.


      E*Trade Casts a Wide Social Net to Support the "Baby" Campaign

      By Jim Bruene on February 3, 2009 6:16 PM | Comments (1)

      image In my pre-Super Bowl post about E*Trade's "baby" franchise, I wasn't aware of several other ways the company is using social media to increase awareness:

      • Baby's Twitter page (screenshot #1 below and note 1;): This is a new effort launched Jan. 22, the same day the 2009 outtakes clip was released into the wild via YouTube and press release. The baby Tweeted a few times on the days leading up to the game, and a few since, but the funniest part was the 26 game-day Tweets that actually incorporated real-time events into the script. There are only 650 followers today, but that's up 150 since Monday morning -- not a bad start for a low-cost marketing tool. 
      • Baby's Facebook page (screenshot #2 below): Also launched around Jan. 22, the E*Trade baby Facebook page already has 3,825 fans. The commercials are posted along with a photo album. 

      The E*Trade homepage has also been used before and after the game to take advantage of interest in the baby ads. The baby dominated E*Trade's homepage the day after the big game (see screenshot #3 below of the Monday morning homepage). 

      Lessons for financial institutions
      You don't have to be a Super Bowl advertiser to use social media to support your advertising campaigns. Banks and credit unions of any size can use these relatively low-cost tactics.

      Here are the eight key support elements to consider for your next campaign:

         1. Press release
         2. Blog entries
         3. Facebook page
         4. Twitter stream
         5. YouTube page
         6. Homepage placement
         7. Landing page
         8. Google keyword buys (see screenshot #4 below)

      1. E*Trade baby Twitter page (link, 3 Feb. 2009)


      2. E*Trade Facebook page
      (link, 3 Feb. 2009)


      3. E*Trade homepage the morning after Super Bowl XVIII
      (2 Feb. 2009)


      4. E*Trade is running Google ads on searches for "etrade baby"
      (3 Feb. 2009, 6PM Pacific)


      1. Thanks Jeffry Pilcher for the Twitter tip.

      2. See our Online Banking Report: Bank 2.0 for more ideas.

      Comments (1)

      E*Trade Rides the Popularity of its "Baby" Super Bowl Ad

      By Jim Bruene on February 1, 2009 11:40 AM | Comments (1)

      image16 Even before the next installment of its popular talking baby runs later today during the Super Bowl, E*Trade has already scored.

      Through advance publicity and select print ads highlighting the "baby URL" <> (note 1), the online broker/banker has already landed more than 2 million views of the outtakes for today's Super Bowl ad. And the clip was posted to YouTube just nine days ago (22 Jan. 2009). 

      The E*Trade outtake clip (below) currently ranks 13th on the most-viewed videos of the month at YouTube, an extremely high level of popularity for a corporate-sponsored clip unrelated to music or film.

      Demonstrating the power of making YouTube's most-viewed list, the E*Trade outtake clip is only 100,000 views shy of surpassing the Trading Baby clip from the 2008 Super Bowl, a video that's been online for a full year.

      Here's the view count as of 9:30 AM Pacific today (Feb. 1):

      2.2 million   Trading baby from the 2008 Super Bowl (posted 1 Feb. 2008)

      2.1 million   2009 outtakes (posted 22 Jan. 2009)

      1.6 million   Banking baby from the 2008 Super Bowl (posted 1 Feb. 2008)

      270,000      Mobile  baby (posted 30 June 2008)

      All clips are posted on the company's official YouTube page (see below).

      E*Trade's YouTube channel (link, 1 Feb. 2009)


      E*Trade "baby" landing page six hours before the 2009 Super Bowl
      (link, 1 Feb. 2009)


      1. The E*Trade baby teaser ad ran in the 31 Jan. 2009 Weekend Wall Street Journal. The quarter-page ad, one of only six ads in the entire paper, ran on page W6 (West Coast edition).

      Comments (1)

      There's Another Mint in NYC

      By Jim Bruene on January 27, 2009 1:16 PM | Comments (1)

      imageIf you live in NYC, you may have seen one of the "other Mint's" Smart Cars zipping through the streets. If you are familiar with online personal finance, you're forgiven if you thought the car was an advertising vehicle for 

      But no, this Mint is a car-sharing startup similar to Zipcar. It uses a Smart Car for its signature vehicle (inset), and also offers other options including a Mercedes and SUV. So far, the company operates only in Manhattan. Since is obviously taken, the car-sharing company is using <>., the online personal finance manager, should consider teaming up with car-sharing Mint. It would be great advertising for both if they can find a way to deal with the brand confusion. 

      Better yet, a bank or credit union should team up with Mint or other car-sharing companies to use branches for car distribution/parking. Chicago's Bridgeview Bank (press release) offers a parking spot for the popular I-GO car-sharing service.

      Bank customers could receive discounts and/or free memberships to the sharing services with costs billed automatically to the bank's credit or debit card. Another option: free car rental time could be used as a reward in lieu of frequent flyer miles.

      Promoting fuel-efficient cars with shared ownership is an interesting marketing vehicle and a good way to position your brand as socially aware and green.

      Car-sharing Mint homepage (27 Jan. 2009)


      Comments (1)

      Bank of America Sponsoring Popular iPhone Tip Calculator CheckPlease

      By Jim Bruene on December 8, 2008 2:06 PM | Comments

      image Like much of the Internet, many free iPhone apps have embedded advertising as their revenue model. The most popular tip calculator, and third-most-popular app in the finance category, CheckPlease, added advertising across the top of its calculator in its version 3.3 release (Nov. 12).

      The current sponsor? Bank of America mobile banking, which has the second-most-popular finance app in the iPhone App Store. The advertising is handled by Mobclix, an advertising network focused on the iPhone and Android markets that debuted at TechCrunch50 in September. In a half-dozen visits, I've seen only the BofA ad. But the developer, Hardy Macia, says he's seen several movies advertised on the app. 

      Clicking on the BofA ad (first screenshot) takes users to the BofA landing page (second screenshot on right) hosted within the App Store environment, i.e., the pages are not displayed within the normal Safari environment. The only navigation options are:

      • Learn more (see 3rd screenshot)
      • Download (see 4th screenshot)
      • Visit
      • Close (the X in the lower-right) which takes you back to the CheckPlease app

      CheckPlease is a product of Catamount Software which has developed mobile personal finance software since 1994, when it launched PocketMoney for the Apple Newton. PocketMoney is now available for the Palm and iPhone. The company just added an ad-free version of CheckPlease for $0.99.

      The free CheckPlease iPhone app has been downloaded more than 200,000 times according to its developer and owner of Catamount Software, Hardy Macia.

            CheckPlease iPhone App                       BofA landing page

        photo (2)          photo 

                Learn More page                                 Download page (note 1)

        photo (3)         photo (4)

      1. Surprisingly, the buttons on this page are not clickable. To download the BofA app, iPhone users must close this screen and open the App Store button on the home screen(s) of their iPhone.


      Schwab Takes Over Tully's WiFi Landing Page

      By Jim Bruene on December 5, 2008 3:48 PM | Comments

      image I go online at a Tully's coffee shop every few weeks, but I don't recall ever being pitched something outside the usual Costa Rican blend when logging in to its free Internet connection.

      But today, Charles Schwab owned the Tully's landing page, with three banners running across the page touting its High Yield Investor Checking among other things (see below). The two on the right have financial questions that, when clicked, take the user to an article on the site (see last screenshot).

      The banner lower-left is more interesting. Little squares scroll across the banner in a very Web 2.0 way and, when clicked, additional info is delivered directly within the banner. Users stay on the Tully's page unless they click the Open an Account Today button.

      The three scrolling graphics include:

      • ATM fee graphic leads to an ATM calculator (see below)
      • The High Yield Investor Checking graphic (not shown) leads to a description of that product
      • The map leads to a short animated audio visual piece promoting ATM access and the High Yield account

      Comment: This type of grassroots marketing can be done by financial institutions of all sizes. Just find a local coffee shop or cafe and see if they'd like a little cash to subsidize that bandwidth each month.

      Schwab banner ads on Tully's landing page displayed after logging in to free WiFi at a coffee shop (Seattle, 3 PM, Friday, 5 Dec 2008)


      imageClicking on How much do ATM fees cost you? in the banner above opens the following tool in the window. >>>

      Users can move to the slider to calculate the cost of a foreign ATM.







      Schwab landing page after clicking on question in right-hand banners
      (link, 5 Dec 2008)



      Zions Bank Posts Thanksgiving Greeting on Homepage

      By Jim Bruene on November 28, 2008 1:24 PM | Comments

      image Zions Bank joined the very short list of major financial institutions that bother to alter their homepage during major holidays. ING Direct usually posts timely messages on its otherwise spartan homepage, most recently on Halloween (see also last 4th of July, last Christmas).



      Chase Bank Offers to Lower Auto Payments by $44

      By Jim Bruene on November 13, 2008 6:24 PM | Comments (1)

      image It's a sign of the times. Instead of creating interest in auto loans by showing a sexy new convertible on a windy seaside road, Chase offers to help customers stay in their same vehicle with a lower monthly payment (see today's homepage below).

      Interestingly, the $44 number in the headline is the actual average savings to Chase auto loan refinance customers in August (see note 1 for how Chase calculated the savings). That makes the whole ad much more believable than the usual what-if scenario.

      Instead of burying that key fact in the fine print on the bottom of the landing page (second screenshot), Chase should make it the main headline of the landing page. The bank could go "social" with it by adding testimonials, a blog or forum, calculators (how about one for the iPhone?), a Facebook page, sweepstakes and even a scrolling activity ticker showing actual refinance savings as they happen, much like the Progressive auto insurance quotes (see note 2).

      It's not going to help Detroit much, but it's smart marketing for the pre-holiday period. A $44 lower monthly payment translates into $500 in annual savings, enough to put a little something extra under the tree this year.

      Chase Bank homepage (13 Nov 2008)


      Landing page pop-up
      (13 Nov 2008)



      1. Derivation of the $44 savings:

      Monthly savings figure is for illustration purposes only. $44.43 is the average monthly amount saved by customers who lowered their rate by refinancing their auto loans with Chase during the period from 7/25/08 to 8/21/08 on which we have the information to determine savings. These customers started with an average balance of $17,500, with an average remaining term of 49 months at an average Annual Percentage Rate (APR) of 10.50% and refinanced on average for 53 months at an average new APR of 7.31%.

      2. An activity ticker is one of our top-rated projects for next year as published last week in our Online Banking Report 2009 Planning Guide.

      Comments (1)

      Wells Fargo Uses Splash Screen After Login to Reinforce Safety & Soundness

      By Jim Bruene on November 10, 2008 4:21 PM | Comments

      image The best time to get your customer's attention is right after they log in to look at their account. That's why login-screen marketing should be in your mix (see previous coverage). But, your message is not necessarily welcome at that point, so it's a marketing option best used judiciously.

      Wells Fargo makes good use of the technique this month with an open letter from CEO John Stumpf. It's been a while since I logged in to my Wells Fargo account, so I'm not sure it was posted. But it carries an October date, so it was probably later in the month after Wells Fargo prevailed in its bid to buy Wachovia.  

      Many financial institutions have posted we-are-still-going-strong messages during the past few months. The Wells Fargo message isn't particularly noteworthy, other than they don't beat around the bush asking, then answering, the question:

      What does (the Wachovia acquisition) mean to me as a Wells Fargo customer?

      Wells Fargo splash screen displayed immediately after logging in (10 Nov 2008)



      Key Bank Runs Timely "Pick Your President" Promotion

      By Jim Bruene on November 4, 2008 10:39 AM | Comments

      imageOverall, most major financial institutions do a good job with website design. But one thing usually lacking is timely tie-ins with events and holidays. Google is famous for doctoring its logo dozens of times each year to coincide with the national holidays and other big events. For example, for today's big presidential election, the logo has been changed into a voting booth.

      Those efforts, while not always directly driving new business, keep the website fresh and show that the bank is paying attention to the events that impact users day to day. And the best ones can increase sales. By leveraging well-hyped events such as the Olympics or Super Bowl, financial institutions can gain valuable PR and attention from customers.

      image I looked at 3 or 4 dozen large U.S. bank and credit union sites today and found just one riding the election hysteria to make a point. Key Bank's Pick Your President promotion (here) has nothing to do with McCain vs. Obama but is actually a clever way to convince customers to switch to electronic statements. Customers get $1 (George Washington) for every account switched to estatements and $5 (Abe Lincoln) if they take bill pay with that. The bank is also throwing in a pair of $1,000 sweeps prizes to add a few Benjamins to the mix.

      Nice job, Key; our vote is with you.

      Key Bank homepage with small banner for the Pick Your President promo
      (4 Nov 2008)


      Key Bank Pick Your President landing page (4 Nov 2008)



      ING Direct Delivers a Small Online Banking Treat with Halloween Homepage Animation

      By Jim Bruene on October 30, 2008 4:34 PM | Comments (2)

      image I've written about ING Direct's holiday animations before. While they won't win any new business by themselves, they are part of a brand image that ING Direct cultivates. And it works because many consumers respond positively to a sense of humor even from institutions that are supposed to be serious.

      With consumer confidence at an all-time low, and banks not exactly on anyone's holiday-card list, it's probably not a good time to create a whimsical branding campaign. But if you are ING Direct, which has built its image on bright-orange graphics and hip advertising, you can still have a little fun with the bank's favorite orange holiday, Halloween.

      Visitors to the direct bank's homepage this week initially see white space where the bouncing orange ball normally does its thing. Within a few seconds an orange-eyed ghost comes out of the background (see first screenshot below). It comes towards you, then reveals the orange ball underneath the white "costume" (see second screenshot). Then it ends with the usual homepage (see third screenshot; note 1).

      Very clever (I'd even say LOL, but I've vowed to never to use that term professionally).

      ING Direct homepage (28 Oct. 2008)




      1. The animation runs just once. That's an important element of restraint to preserve the viewing experience. Don't endlessly cycle animations or you'll annoy your visitors. They can refresh themselves if they want to see it again. 

      Comments (2)

      ING Direct Launches "We, the Savers" Manifesto & Microsite

      By Jim Bruene on October 28, 2008 6:53 PM | Comments

      imageI noticed a new graphic on the ING Direct homepage today, "We, the Savers" in the upper-right corner. It leads to a banking version of the Clue Train Manifesto called The Declaration of Financial Independence operated by the bank at <>.

      imageAt the microsite visitors can read the 10-point declaration and sign the manifesto online. The U.S. map includes orange balls in each state that when moused over reveal the number of signers. So far, more than 5,300 consumers have signed since it went live Oct. 10th. All signers can be viewed at the site, but you have the option of leaving only your last initial for privacy.

      When you sign the declaration, a little orange ball bounces over to the map and updates the state count in real time. As a final touch, signers qualify for a free "I save" bumper sticker from the bank's online store.

      The effort is well conceived and well executed, as we've come to expect from ING Direct. microsite from ING Direct (28 Oct 2008)


      "We, the Savers" link on ING Direct homepage (28 Oct 2008)



      ANZ Bank Brings Account Aggregation to Australia; Introduces Robot Mascot Qi

      By Jim Bruene on October 20, 2008 6:47 PM | Comments (1)

      imageWhile making the rounds in the Finovate networking room last week, I saw an intriguing graphic on Yodlee's big-screen monitor (see inset). It turns out to be Qi (pronounced "key"), the robot mascot for Yodlee's latest aggregation client, Australia's ANZ Bank, which launched that day (press release). The new service is called MoneyManager (see screenshot below; note 1).

      The cute little beast also appears in the bank's new iPhone promo on the ANZ website (here). The webpage features the app running in a full-size iPhone emulator. But that's not what you notice first. The bank uses a little programming trick to turn your curser into a GIANT robot hand (see screenshot below). It's a little disconcerting at first, but it does get your attention and proves you are dealing with a creative enterprise. I like it.

      According to Rob Findley, blogging at The Bank Channel, MoneyManager can be used by any Australian and does NOT require an ANZ account relationship.

      ANZ's iPhone webpage with giant robot hand curser (19 Oct 2008)

      ANZ iPhone app with giant robot hand curser (19 Oct 2008)

      ANZ's MoneyManager webpage features a less intrusive view of Qi, the robot mascot (19 Oct. 2008)


      1. For more info, see our Online Banking Report on Account Aggregation.

      Comments (1)

      Mobile is the New Online: IBC Bank Puts Mobile Banking on Homepage

      By Jim Bruene on October 2, 2008 5:57 PM | Comments

      image Eventually the distinction between mobile and online banking will disappear as the devices and services converge (see note 1). But until then, mobile banking, because it's perceived as cutting edge, is more interesting to many customers. That's why Bank of America, Chase, Citi and many others have featured mobile banking in on- and off-line media (see previous coverage here).

      But it's not just a mega-bank game; any financial institution can play up its mobile capabilities. Texas-based IBC Bank, in the top-100 with $11 billion in assets and more than 200 branches, flaunts its mobile capabilities with a large banner on its homepage (see screenshot below). The mobile banner currently rotates with an identity-theft-protection pitch.

      IBC Bank homepage featuring mobile banking (2 Oct 2008)

      IBC Bank features mobile banking on homepage (2 Oct 2008)

      IBC Bank releases iPhone app
      Last week, IBC became just the second U.S. Bank to release a native iPhone app in the Apple iTunes App Store. The mFoundry-powered application was the 36th most popular finance app yesterday, out of about 120. Following is a screenshot of the application's entry in the App Store. Bank of America, which launched its app on the first day of the App Store, is the other App Store participant (see previous coverage here).

      mFoundry will demo its latest innovations at our Finovate Conference Oct. 14. Video of its previous demo is here.

      Apple App Store entry for IBC Bank's mFoundry-powered mobile banking (1 Oct 2008)

      1. For more info, see our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking.


      Intersections Inc.'s Identity Guard Brings Back 6-Month Free Trial and Adds Free Credit Report and Score

      By Jim Bruene on August 12, 2008 6:36 PM | Comments

      imageIdentity Guard, the direct-to-consumer credit-monitoring brand from Intersections, has a new logo, homepage design, and a compelling new offer: six months of free credit monitoring (Good Start option) PLUS 30 days of access to your credit report and score (see previous look here).

      And unlike most offers in this industry, this freebie is made with no obligation. Intersections does take billing info as part of the sign-up process, but unlike most others, they will not automatically begin charging a monthly fee at the end of the six-month free trial (see note 1). Last year, Intersections offered the six-month free trial (post here), but did not include the free credit report/score (see note 2). 

      Identity Guard hompage (11 August 2008)

      Identity Guard homepage (11 Aug 2008)

      Separately, I ran across the company's banner ad today at Amazon's IMDB site (below). Here, the company is taking a more traditional approach, offering a 30-day free trial plus $3/mo discount on its flagship Total Protection service (regularly $17.99/mo). 

      Identity Guard banner at IMDB (12 August 2008)

      Identity Guard banner on IMDB (12 Aug 2008)

      Landing page from the IMDB banner (12 Aug 2008)

      Identity Guard landing page from IMDB banner (12 Aug 2008)

      1. I tested the free offer last year and can confirm that they did NOT bill me for the service after it expired, nor did they pester me to become a paying customer at the end of the trial.

      2. See our Online Banking Report on Credit Monitoring Services for more information.


      Login, Logoff Marketing Messages from Bank of America, PayPal, US Bank, WaMu and Wells Fargo

      By Jim Bruene on August 1, 2008 1:44 PM | Comments (2)

      image After returning from some R&R in Iowa and Kansas, I logged into my banking and credit card accounts to see what I'd forgotten to attend to before leaving town. Luckily, everything seemed in order this time.

      Always on the lookout for online marketing examples, I thought it would be  interesting to compare and contrast the marketing messages presented to users as they logged in and logged out of five major banking sites. 

      • Bank of America (business and personal credit cards): BofA typically has a marketing message at login and logoff.
        Login  The bank's brokerage division is pitching free Morningstar mutual fund research. I haven't seen this one before, and it seems a bit wordy, so it may be the first time for this offer (see screenshot #1 below)
        Logout  A pitch for a cash-back business credit card. It's a good offer, but perplexing, given that I already have a business and personal card with BofA. Not sure why they want me to have three (screenshot #2).
      • PayPal (verified account): PayPal has used log-in splash-screens almost since it began in 1999 with a mix of marketing and service messages. But they don't overuse the technique, so it's noticeable when they have a new splash-screen running.
        Login  No marketing, just direct entry to main screen
        Logout  No marketing, just a landing at the usual PayPal merchant emporium (screenshot #3)
      • US Bank (multiple accounts): I don't think I've ever seen a marketing message from US Bank at login or logoff. I believe I've seen a service message at login a few times over the years, but it's extremely rare.
        Login  No marketing, just dropped on main account page as usual
        Logout  No marketing, just a brief "you've been logged out" message
      • WaMu (business checking): I've had the account only a few months, but WaMu has frequently posted marketing messages at login, and they've been relatively creative, as you'd expect.
        Login  Pitching its WaMu Live concert promotion which provides exclusive access to summer events to WaMu credit and debit card holders (screenshot #4). 
        Logout  No marketing, just a solid recap of security precautions, a good message to leave with online banking users (screenshot #5).
      • Wells Fargo (credit card): Wells uses marketing messages frequently at both login and logout.
        Login  Electronic statement (paper turnoff), something I've not done yet (screenshot #6).
        Logoff  Home equity loans (screenshot #7)

      What's Innovative?
      There wasn't anything particularly enlightening in these examples. The WaMu Live pitch was the only truly unique message. For the most part, they were typical, well-crafted marketing messages you'd expect from these major players. That's fine now, since most customers don't yet have "banner fatigue" at their online banking site. But going forward, the messages will need to be more targeted and more interesting to get attention and action from jaded online users.

      The other issue is frequency. You'll figure this out through testing, but there's a line you don't want to cross where a splash-screen message presented at every login ceases to be effective and is just plain annoying.

      Finally, for financial institutions, such as US Bank, still not using this login real estate for sales messages, your customers thank you; however, quick-loading, targeted messaging, used with discretion, should benefit your bottom line.   

      1. Bank of America login screen for business-credit-card only account (1 Aug 2008)image

      2. Bank of America logoff screen (1 Aug 2008)


      3. PayPal logout (1 Aug 2008)


      4. WaMu login screen (31 July 2008)image 

      5. WaMu logout screen (1 August 2008)image

      6. Wells Fargo login splash screen (1 Aug 2008)


      7. Wells Fargo logoff screen (1 Aug 2008)


      Comments (2)

      Kiwibank Uses iPhone Launch to Spark Interest in Mobile Banking

      By Jim Bruene on July 12, 2008 9:46 AM | Comments (2)

      image Kiwibank has one of the most eye-catching homepage designs in the world.  Who can resist a lime green Smart Car with four monstrous speakers strapped to the roof?

      As I was obsessing about iPhone apps this week (see note 1), I ran across Kiwibank's landing page for iPhone banking (see second screenshot below). Now that the iPhone has gone global, we'll see if more banks leverage the iPhone hype, something that didn't really happen in the United States so much. According to CNet Australia, ANZ is building an iPhone-specific interface, but a search of the ANZ website found nothing.

      Kiwibank's homepage iPhone promo, one of three rotating in the lower right, leads to the not-so-exciting landing page. Still, when you are riding the hype, you don't necessarily have to put that much effort into your own work (see note 2), just grab ahold of Apple's coattails and hang on tight.

      Kiwibank homepage featuring iPhone promo (11 July 2008)

      Kiwi Bank hompage with iPhone banking ad (11 July 2008)

      Kiwi Bank iPhone banking landing page (11 July 2008)


      1. Yesterday, I promised it was my last iPhone post for a while, but I couldn't resist one more. Consider it a Saturday bonus post.

      2. Case-in-point, the BofA non-app app being dissed by the vast majority of early-early-adopter reviewers at the Apple App Store (see yesterday's post).

      Comments (2)

      Who Has the Holiday Spirit?

      By Jim Bruene on July 2, 2008 11:42 PM | Comments (4)

      image With consumer confidence diving, the banking industry reeling, and even Starbucks closing 600 stores, what we need is a national holiday! Well, happy Fourth of July to U.S. readers, and happy Friday to everyone else.

      What are the big banks doing to celebrate the holiday online? Not much it seems. We are 25 hours away from the birthday, and of the 30 largest banks, only ING Direct and WaMu (in the Seattle area at least) are showing the red, white and blue.

      Anyone else know of a financial institution with an Independence Day theme on its homepage? Drop it in the comments. Enjoy!

      ING Direct's homepage features a fireworks animation (2 July 2008)

      ING Direct homepage with july 4th theme (2 July 2008)

      WaMu trumpets its July 4 Seattle fireworks sponsorship (2 July 2008)

      WaMu homepage (Seattle cookie) 2 July 2008

      Comments (4)

      Visa Launches Business Network on Facebook

      By Jim Bruene on June 24, 2008 7:04 PM | Comments (1)

      image After seeing the little blurb buried deep in today's Wall Street Journal
      (p. B-9), I checked out the press release, and then headed to Facebook to see Visa's new app aimed at small businesses. To gain that all-important viral effect, Visa is giving away $2 million in Facebook advertising credits, $100 to the first 20,000 businesses that join its new The Visa Business Network on Facebook (see note 1).

      Visa's Facebook page advertising the network looks good (see screenshot below). It's very "corporate," but I prefer that over lame attempts to look hip. It's dominated by a large video at the top explaining the program, plus three more along the bottom explaining other aspects. 

      Visa Business Network (promotional) page on Facebook (24 June 2008)

      Visa Business Network on Facebook page 24 June 2008

      Selecting the Join this Network button takes you to a page where you are encouraged to add the Visa Business Network app to your Facebook profile. After adding the app, you must complete a short form to identify your business to the network and upload a picture if desired.

      Visa Business Network app signup 24 June 2008

      It only takes a few minutes, and your company is visible to anyone searching the Visa Business Network. It doesn't appear that Visa's network is searchable through the regular Facebook search. If and when that happens, the network would gain considerably more value.

      Here's how my Visa Business Network page looked after uploading a graphic:

      Online Banking Report page on Visa Business Network 24 June 2008

      The application also features a Business Resource section with the usual collection of business tools (from Google), articles and videos plus an Ask the Expert section. 

      While the idea of a general business network within a larger network seems a bit superfluous, Facebook isn't exactly known to be particularly accommodating to business needs. Maybe this will work. Certainly, if Visa attracts the 20,000 businesses it's earmarked advertising credits for, it will have a head start on others wanting to do the same thing.

      However, we wonder how much effort the card giant will devote to the service. It doesn't seem to align that closely to its core card-processing business. But if its goal is to merely improve brand recognition with small business owners, it could be a valuable effort. Clearly Visa has the deep pockets to fund it for the long term. Who knows, maybe some lucky Business Network member will appear in a Visa Super Bowl ad some day. 

      1. The $100 advertising credit was handled flawlessly. A few minutes after joining the network, I received an email to my main email account explaining how to redeem the credit.

      Comments (1)

      Wachovia Way2Save Lands 650,000 Accounts

      By Jim Bruene on June 2, 2008 11:07 AM | Comments (1)

      image In an interview in the Charlotte Business Journal (here), Wachovia's Savings Director Kathryn Black reveals that the bank has added 650,000 Way2Save accounts since its launch four months ago, and are "well ahead of our goal to have 1 million Way2Save customers by the end of (2008)." She also said they are looking at expanding the service: 

      We consider (Way2Save) generation one. We're continuing to think through what's next -- how do we make this product better? How do we add on to this idea for other segments who have different needs?

         -- Kathryn Black, Wachovia's Savings Director, 30 May 2008

      The Way2Save account offers up to 15% APY in the first year on a maximum average annual balance of $600, built up through automated savings of up to $100/mo. That works out to a maximum of $90 in interest the first year (not including the golf bonus detailed below), about $70 more before-tax than you can earn on other high-yield accounts. For more details, see our previous coverage here. For small savers, it provides above-average returns and helps them sock away cash without thinking about it.

      Way2Save Golf Bonus
      In addition to the maximum 15% first-year rate, Wachovia ran a promotion in May tied to this year's PGA tournament Wachovia Championship (see screenshot below). All Way2Save customers, new and existing, will earn a rate of interest in June, July and August pegged to the number of strokes under par scored by the tournament winner. With Anthony Kim beating the course record by 3 strokes, for a 16-under score, Wachovia is now paying 16% interest for the next 3 months. For the savers that started their $100/mo contributions in February, it will be another $15 in extra interest. For those just getting started in May, it's only $5 more before tax. It also means that the first year's blended rate -- (16% x 3 months) + (5% x 9 months) -- is just under 8% (see note 1).

      Wachovia's 16% interest rate bonus tied to PGA championship results

      So it's no wonder Wachovia has attracted a slew of accounts. It's been live for about four months, so it's adding about 150,000 accounts per month. The most anyone could have amassed in the account so far is $400 plus a buck per electronic transaction. Assuming average balances of $200 per account, the product has attracted approximately $130 million so far.

      Whether the new account pans out for the bank is yet to be seen. Assuming it pays out an average of $60 extra to each new Way2Save customer, Wachovia will have invested more than $60 million to attract a million low-balance savings accounts. And that doesn't include the marketing or customer-service expenses or the cost to open 15 new checking accounts for one person so they can open 15 Way2Save accounts (see previous post). It will be years before Wachovia knows if this product has a positive ROI. 

      Granted, a bigger strategic issue is at play here: creating awareness of the Wachovia brand. It could be a huge success if the bank opens up hundreds of thousands of new customer relationships due to the promotion.

      1. The 16% rate applies to accounts opened before May 30th.

      Comments (1)

      Synovus Testing Free iPod Nano at Bank of North Georgia

      By Jim Bruene on May 22, 2008 5:52 PM | Comments (3)

      image It's an unusual time of year to see a free iPod offer (see previous coverage here, here and here). Usually, they appear closer to the fall "checking account season" when consumers start thinking about holiday gift giving. That way, even if they don't need an iPod themselves, they might still be motivated to get one to give to someone else. 

      However, Bank of North Georgia, one of 36 bank brands owned by Synovus, has an offer running through June 20. Customers opening a new personal checking account, including free checking and sending three bill payments by the end of July, earn a free iPod Nano. The bank may be testing the pull of the freebie during the graduation gift season. We checked the other Synovus banks and none are offering free iPods, at least not prominently (note 1).

      Bank of North Georgia is using a homepage graphic of the latest generation iPod Nano, complete with Flash video running on the Nano screen. The fine print (as shown on the offer landing page): 


      The iPod ships before Oct. 1, just in time for the next holiday. Thanks to Bank Deals for the find.

      Bank of North Georgia homepage (20 May 2008)



      1. Tested from a Seattle IP address on 20 May 2008. We refreshed the homepage multiple times to see all offers presented in the main window. We did not search the entire websites of the 36 banks.

      Comments (3)

      WaMu Posts Best Banking Facebook Page So Far

      By Jim Bruene on April 23, 2008 5:46 PM | Comments (1)

      image As a marketer you have to love WaMu. They are bold, quirky, and not afraid to poke fun at conventional wisdom. I haven't liked all their advertising campaigns, but that doesn't matter as long as the bank is reaching its target markets and delivering results.

      While the bank has its challenges cleaning up the mortgage mess, its marketing department and ad agency are still producing good work. Case in point: WaMu's new Facebook page (below).

      I realize that all banking pages in Facebook will appear lame to just about every 20-something that happens to stumble across them (see previous coverage here). But 20-somethings do still need checking accounts, debit/credit cards, vehicle loans, and so forth. So they will buy banking services. And what brand will they choose? The one that is at least making an effort to meet them on their turf with Facebook pages, text messaging, and humorous advertising, such as the talking banner campaign shown below.  

      WaMu's Facebook page, which looks like it was posted April 17, contains videos, a crossword game, a branch finder, a checking account application form, a fan area and a communications app (note 1) that can be added to your Facebook profile. Take a look yourself here.

      Excellent work: A

      WaMu Facebook Page (23 April 2008) (note 2)

      WaMu Facebook page

      1. Even though I added it to my profile, I'm not sure what the WaMu Facebook application does. It appears to be a way to communicate with friends on Facebook and has 49 daily users.

      2. The bar across the middle of the page is unrelated to the WaMu page; it's the new Facebook chat feature, that appears along the bottom of all screens, and messes up my screenshot. It does show you where the "fold" exists on a 13.3 high resolution laptop screen.

      Comments (1)

      ING Launches Retirement Calculator:

      By Jim Bruene on March 17, 2008 6:04 PM | Comments (1)

      image Last week, ING Group's U.S. unit (note 1) made a splash with two major promotional efforts:

      • Sponsored free access to the Wall St Journal online for an entire day (see screenshot below).
      • Launched a TV advertising campaign,, aimed at the retirement market (press release here, view the spots here). Update 18 March: The company ran a full-page ad for the program in today's Wall Street Journal (p. A7)

      INGyournumber <> is remarkably similar to Wells Fargo's Retire Secure Index that we looked at last week (here). The financial services giant created a special site with a Flash-based tool designed to help you find your "number." That is, the total amount you need to save to provide your desired level of retirement income.

      Financial institutions should draft behind these well-funded efforts, and make sure your retirement tools are prominently positioned within your website.

      ING Took Over The Wall Street Journal Online last Thursday (13 March)




















      1. These promotional efforts from the main ING group, not ING Direct; although the direct banking arm did receive a small link on the bottom of the screen.

      Comments (1)

      Wells Fargo Supports "Retire Secure" Radio Buy with Search Engine Marketing

      By Jim Bruene on March 11, 2008 7:19 PM | Comments (5)

      image I don't know if Wells Fargo has saturated the entire Seattle market, or just the radio station I listen to, but I've heard its ad for a web-based retirement tool a dozen times in the past week or so.

      I like the radio spot. It takes a complicated subject and creates interest by asking, "What is your RSI score?" Then, sending listeners to the Web to take the bank's Retire Secure Index test. It's interactive, it's timely and it makes good use of a multi-media approach. 

      And Wells Fargo uses search engine marketing masterfully to ensure that interested prospects find their way to the bank's retirement landing page. The bank has purchased Google AdWords for various retirement terms (see first screenshot below) and created a unique landing page (second screenshot) and URL <> that has quickly moved to the top of the organic search results (see note 1).

      Retirement tool
      The tool itself is good. It's not easy to make a retirement savings worksheet compelling, but the bank does about as good a job as you can expect. After a 60-second intro by the friendly virtual spokeswomen (see second screenshot), the user completes a short form that takes about two minutes. The on-screen spokesperson talks you through it, but I tuned her out since it's relatively straightforward stuff (note 2). 

      After a few seconds of calculation, and a clever drum roll, Wells delivers an RSI number (see third screenshot), which is the number of years you can maintain your desired income level after retiring. It's a good way to present the results, focusing on the positive. Users can go back and change the inputs or go into advanced mode to add home equity, business equity and/or part-time employment.

      At the end, users are encouraged to contact the bank through a branch or toll-free telephone number to talk to an investment rep. There is also a link to open an IRA online. All in all, it's a good effort to engage users with a difficult topic.

      Overall scores:

      • Radio advertising: A+
      • Search engine marketing: A
      • Retirement tool: B+
        Provide an option to continue without the virtual spokesperson (see note 3)

      1. Google results for "wells fargo retire secure" (10 March 2008, noon)

      Google results for "Wells Fargo retire secure"

       2. Wells Fargo Retire Secure Index Landing page

      Wells Fargo Retire Secure index landing page

      3. Call to action

      Wells Fargo RSI score and call to action

      1. For more information on search engine marketing for financial institutions, see our latest Online Banking Report (here). 

      2. The audio can be turned off, but the spokesperson cannot be made to sit down or go away (see note 3).

      3. The first option on the original landing page is to choose "dial-up" or "high speed" versions of the tool. The dial-up version does away with the audio/video track and just presents the static form.

      Comments (5)

      More Innovative Reward Checking Accounts from FirstROI/BancVue

      By Jim Bruene on February 14, 2008 10:46 AM | Comments (1)

      image If you are a subscriber to our Online Banking Report (see #150), you know how impressed we are with the work of BancVue and FirstROI. They are the team behind the 400+ rewards checking accounts we first discusssed here in early January (see note 1).

      The reward-checking phenomena, largely created by these companies, landed as the sixth most important trend of 2007, according to our year-end report. The Wall Street Journal looked at several BancVue clients in an article last weekend (here).

      If you are looking for ideas to spice up your Web-based marketing, take a close look at the FirstROI portfolio (note 2). They are doing some of the most creative work I've seen in 12 years of following the space, rivaling the UK banks, which have long set the bar for online bank marketing.

      Case in point: Green Reward Checking from Bank of Hiawassee/Blairsville/Blue Ridge, all part of Georgia's $440 million Chatuge Bank Shares is well-explained in a clever Flash animation (see first screenshot below). Wisconsin's $770 million First Banking Center uses similar Flash techniques with a much more "serious" branding (see second screenshot below).

      Green Reward Checking from Chatuge Bank Shares Inc. <>  
      $440 million-asset bank headquartered in Hiawassee, Georgia

      Frog reward checking Chatuge Bank Shares

      First Banking Center Rewards Checking
      $760 million asset bank in southern Wisconsin

      First Banking Center Reward Checking


      1. (2) The credit union that first sparked our interest in the subject, Verity Credit Union, was advertising its reward product, Velocity Checking <>, on the radio this morning during Seattle's rush hour. The focus was on the 6% APY.
      2. (1) First ROI will demo its latest innovations at our FINOVATE Startup conference April 29 in San Francisco.
      Comments (1)

      Wachovia's Way2Save: Deal or No Deal?

      By Jim Bruene on February 7, 2008 12:00 PM | Comments (6)

      Earlier this week, Ron Shevlin wrote about the "disingenuous" (see note 1) advertising from person-to-person lenders (here). He took issue with their claims of facilitating loans primarily for the social good, rather than for a profit motive. That criticism might be a little harsh, but he has a point.

      Wachovia way2save ad Well if Ron doesn't like P2P ads, I wonder what he thinks of this one from Wachovia? The advertisement in question is for the bank's well-named, and well-intentioned new savings account, Way2Save.

      I saw it advertised yesterday, above and adjacent to US Today's popular Super Bowl Ad Meter (here, screenshot below, note 2). According to BusinessWeek, the product is being supported with an eight-figure ad buy. 

      Wachovia's ad promises an impressive return, a 5% APY plus a 5% bonus. On the face of it, that's a 10% yield. They'd have $100 billion in it tomorrow if it was that simple.

      Here's the fine print:

      • Must have a Wachovia checking account (but those are free)
      • Limit of one Way2Save per checking account (but you can have more than one free checking account, see note 4)
      • The only way to fund the savings account is through automated monthly debits from your Wachovia checking account (and those have to be set up in branch or over the phone)
      • Maximum monthly transfer amount is $100, so the most you can add to the account in a year is $1200 (see note 4)
      • The savings account has a variable rate and it not guaranteed to stay at 5% over the course of the year; and it is already scheduled to decline to 2% in years 2 and 3 (see detailed disclosures here)
      • The bonus in year 2 and 3 falls to 2%
      • A hard inquiry is posted to your credit bureau when opening a new checking account
      • After the first year, the savings account has a $5/mo fee if there are no automated deposits

      For a small saver who can sock away $1200 over the course of a year, earning a 5% bonus, or $60, is an excellent deal, amounting to 15% return on the average annual balance of $600 ($30 interest @5% plus $60 bonus = 15%). While that's a fantastic APY, the $600 balance limit means the total extra earnings are only $5 per month, before tax, hardly a strong motivation for most savers.

      The other part of the account that has created more confusion is the $1 transfer to savings with every debit card purchase, automated debit, and online bill pay. Some consumers, and even a few bloggers, have assumed Wachovia is paying a $1 bonus on each transaction. Now that would be a deal, if it were true. The $1 is simply a transfer from the user's checking account to his/her savings account. Wachovia will apply the 5% bonus to those $1 transfers, but that's only $0.05 per debit, or $1/month pre-tax for an active electronic banking user making 20 transactions per month. Again, not a strong motivator for most savers.

      The semi-disingenuous advertising
      Overall, we like the account. But we are not so thrilled with some of the advertising. Our main complaint: the landing page overplays the $300 maximum reward amount, which is virtually impossible to reach. Many visitors will initially believe that a $300 maximum payout means they can drop $6,000 in the account. However, that's not the case since it's limited to $100 month contributions, yielding a $60 bonus.  

      Where does the other potential $240 come from? (This is the disingenuous part.) Answer: From the $1 funds transfers every time a Wachovia debit card is used. So the average visitor might think, "wow I'd have to make 240 debits to come up with the $240." Wrong again. The $1 is just a funds transfer from checking to savings (note 3). At the 5% bonus level, Wachovia only pays a nickel per transfer.

      So how do you get a $240 annual bonus from that? You'd need 400 debit card transactions EVERY MONTH. That's not a typo, 400 transactions per month, or 4800 per year in order to earn the $300 shown in the headline of the Wachovia landing page. And that's in the first year. In the second year, with a 2% bonus, you'd need 1250 transactions per month to reach the $300 mark.

      Final verdict
      Ignoring the advertising, I say it's a deal for the customer. The product makes sense for beginning savers, a cross between Bank of America's Keep the Change (coverage here) and WaMu's Saving for Success (coverage here). I like the focus on automated savings, and the $1 per debit gimmick seems harmless, so long as it's better disclosed.

      However, I'm not sure it's such a deal for the bank, at least not worth a $10-million ad campaign (note 5). Many Wachovia customers drawn in by the advertising will go away disappointed due to the fine print. In addition, thousands and thousands of zero-balance checking accounts will be opened to game the system, then closed at the end of the year, wasting bank resources and putting pressure on 2009 sales. 

      Wachovia advertising on USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter (6 Feb 2008)


      Wachovia landing page from USA Today ads

      Wachovia way2save landing page


      1. I knew it wasn't a compliment, but I had to double check that one in the dictionary for the precise meaning: "lacking in candor or sincerity" or "pretending to be unaware."
      2. I was disappointed to find that E*Trade's ads finished outside the top-10 (#13 and #14). 
      3. Although it's not addressed in the Wachovia's FAQs, apparently the $1 automatic funds transfer will be canceled if there are insufficient funds, so it can't trigger a $30 NSF fee. 
      4. The folks posting at FatWallet are sharing account details to game the system. According to several posters, the bank allows up to 5 accounts per person in the household, but only one Way2Save can be linked to a single checking account. One poster says he opened 15 checking accounts and 15 Way2Save accounts and will transfer $100 per month into all 15 accounts, resulting in an $18,000 year-end balance and a $900 bonus. Then he'll close all 15 accounts and move on to next year's hot rate. One poster said, the branch people seemed happy to set up five new checking accounts since they appeared to get a bonus for each one. To avoid the "FatWallet effect," make sure you always have account limits and sales incentive limits.
      5. Granted, the $10+ million is more to promote the bank' image than for the product itself. And being associated with savings is good branding these days.
      Comments (6)

      E*Trade Leverages Super Bowl Commercials with YouTube and Google Search Ads

      By Jim Bruene on February 4, 2008 2:53 PM | Comments

      Link to video on YouTube Even before the big game Sunday, E*Trade was showcasing its SuperBowl ads on YouTube. Six hours before kickoff this ad (inset) was displayed next to search results for "etrade," "banking" and other terms (note 1). The "trading baby" video had been watched just a few hundred times when I saw it yesterday; this morning, it has had more than 90,000 viewings.

      The YouTube ad contains three links:

      1. Clicking on the arrow launches the funny "baby trading" video embedded on that page
      2. Clicking on the "Press to Watch" takes you to the E*Trade page on YouTube <> where you can watch a series of commercials (screenshot below)
      3. Clicking on "See all the E*Trade videos" takes you to this landing page at E*Trade's website (see screenshot below)

      Later in the day on Sunday, E*Trade also added a link to the videos from its homepage (screenshot below).

      The Commercials
      E*Trade ran two ads within a few minutes of each other early in the second half. "Trading baby," shown above, uses an adult voiceover to discuss how easy it is to trade online. The second ad, "banking baby" (embedded below), showcases the company's high-yield savings account. This has to be the first, and probably last, time a savings account product received SuperBowl advertising exposure. It has 107,000 views in less than 24 hours.

      Both ads ended on an upbeat note, saying that E*Trade was opening a thousand accounts per day, a great message against the backdrop of negative publicity the company received a few months ago with its subprime problems.


      E*Trade Ad Next to YouTube Search Results (3 Feb 2007)

      E*Trade ad on YouTube search results

      E*Trade YouTube Landing Page <>

      E*Trade's YouTube Page

      E*Trade Advertising Landing Page <>

      E*Trade landing page

      E*Trade Homepage (4 Feb 2007)

      E*Trade homepage

      E*Trade Google Ad (4 Feb 2007)



      1. Searches conducted from Seattle IP address: YouTube Sunday, Feb. 3, 9AM Pacific, Google Monday Feb. 4 at 10 AM 

      BancVue Alters the Checking Value Proposition, Powering High-Yield "Reward" Checking Accounts at 350 FIs

      By Jim Bruene on January 9, 2008 2:11 PM | Comments (1)

      For someone whose job it is to stay on top of innovations in financial services, I hate to admit I'm late to the party on the so-called "reward checking" phenomena. Last year, I'd noticed a number of smaller financial institutions launching high-yield checking accounts, but I hadn't realized it was a national trend primarily powered by a single bank tech supplier, Austin, Texas-based BancVue (see note 1).

      According to a November BankRate article, more than 350 U.S. banks and credit unions now offer so-called "reward checking accounts" powered by BancVue with 30 new ones coming on board each month. These checking accounts usually pay high rates of interest, typically 6%, if users meet high levels of electronic banking activity each month.

      Typical requirements to earn the high yield:

      • 10 to 12 debit card transactions each month
      • Electronic statements (no paper)
      • Online banking usage

      Typically, the following benefits are paid ONLY when the above requirements are met:

      • 5% to 6% interest on the first $25,000 to $40,000 in balances
      • ATM refunds up to $10 to $15/mo

      And most seem to include:

      • No monthly fees regardless of activity or balance levels, so the account can be marketed as "free"

      Another distinguishing characteristic of these accounts is the innovative marketing and website design. With the help of BancVue, smaller banks and credit unions are able to offer a level of design and pizzazz that meets or exceeds the typical megabank high-budget program.

      Here are some of the more interesting BancVue-powered programs we've looked at (screenshots follow):

      • Velocity Checking <> from Seattle's Verity Credit Union
        Earn 6.01% on balances up to $40,000 and receive ATM refunds up to $25 when meeting the following monthly requirements:
        - 12 debit transactions
        - 1 online banking login
        - electronic statement in lieu of paper
      • Turbo Checking <> from New Mexico's Charter Bank
        Earn 6.01% on balances up to $25,000 and ATM refunds when meeting the following monthly requirements:
        - 10 debit transactions
        - receipt of 1 direct payroll deposit or other automated ACH deposit
        - 1 login to online banking
        - electronic statement in lieu of paper

      And our favorite, which substitutes iTunes downloads for the high-yield benefit:

      • FreeTunes Checking <> from Oregon Community Credit Union (see note 2)
        Earns 4 free iTunes downloads each month provided the following are met:
        - 12 debit transactions
        - 1 login to online banking
        - electronic statement in lieu of paper


      Velocity Checking from Verity Credit Union

      Turbo Checking from Charter Bank

      FreeTunes Checking from Oregon Community Credit Union


      1. I began researching this area after reading Verity Credit Union CMO Shari Storm's recent blog post (here) about how she'd changed her payments behavior to make the 12 monthly debits required for its Velocity Checking.

      2. Oregon Community Credit Union also offers a high-yield version, Remarkable Checking, that substitutes a 5.05% APY on all checking account balances instead of the free music. Monthly account requirements are the same. 

      Comments (1)

      WaMu's CD/Savings Account is Perfect for that New Years Resolution to Save More

      By Jim Bruene on January 7, 2008 1:00 PM | Comments

      A full-page ad in the front section (page A8) in yesterday's Seattle Sunday Times/PI alerted me to WaMu's latest offering called Savings for Success (see note 1).  

      It's not a new invention, essentially a 1-year CD funded with automatic monthly deposits instead of a one-time deposit (see note 3), but WaMu uses its marketing prowess to dress it up like a super-high-yield savings account with an attractive 5.5% yield. It also delivers the ultimate marketing coup: turning what is normally a negative, not being able to get your money out for a year, into an account FEATURE, saying that the savings is "out of sight and out of mind" for the one-year CD term.

      According to the Bank Deals blog, the savings account has been made available in select markets as far back as July. At that time the rate was higher, 7% in Illinois and Texas and 6% in Washington and Georgia (note 1).

      It's great marketing that plays right into the new year's resolution mindset this time of year. Surprisingly, the account is not mentioned on the bank's website, even though the call to action (below) includes the bank's Web address. Also, WaMu has not used search marketing to support the print ad. Google searches do not lead to the the bank and a site search at leads nowhere. 

      This is a great product and a good fit for online banking users. Assuming it pencils out in the four test markets, look for the account to debut nationwide in 2008.  


      1. Apparently, the same ad has also run in the Houston Chronicle, but with a 6.5% APY. In the disclosures on that ad (reprinted here), the offer was said to be available in Illinois, Georgia, and Texas. The Seattle Times/PI ad says the offer is only available in Washington.

      2. Here's the text in the main paragraph of the ad above:

      Your checking and savings needs are officially over. To complement our WaMu Free Checking account, we've created Savings for Success. It's simple. You choose the amount you'd like to save each month - by automatically transferring as little as $25 and up to $500 from your WaMu Free Checking account to your Savings for Success account. There it is kept out of sight and out of mind, earning big interest, and helping you save without even having to think about it. After one year, it's yours to access when we sweep the savings into any savings account you choose. So save like never before and still get free checks for life, free ATM cash withdrawals, and all of the other features of our WaMu Free Checking account. It's banking bliss. To learn more stop by a WaMu near you, call 1-866-808-1396 or visit

      3. Update Jan 8: The product, with the 6.5% rate, has also been advertised in The Dallas Morning News (link to the ad here). Also, I neglected to mention that the account can ONLY be funded with automatic debits with a miniumum of $25 per month to a maximum of $500 per month, so it's not an account aimed at large depositers. 


      Why is Wachovia Advertising Mobile Banking on Seattle Radio?

      By Jim Bruene on December 20, 2007 2:13 PM | Comments (2)

      Wachovia Bank is not exactly a household word in Seattle. According to the bank's website, the nearest retail branch is 627 miles away in Sacramento, California (see note 1). So I was surprised to hear an advertisement for Wachovia's mobile banking services in the middle of the afternoon on a relatively obscure alt-rock station in the heart of Seattle yesterday. 

      Wondering whether I'd missed an acquisition or maybe the launch of a direct banking effort in the Seattle metro area, I Googled "wachovia seattle" and confirmed there were no retail branches (note 1, 2). I double checked through's office locator which informed me there were no offices within 30 miles.

      As for direct banking, there were no bank ads displayed for "wachovia," "wachovia bank" or "wachovia direct" on either Google or Yahoo, so I'm pretty sure Wachovia is not targeting Seattle on the direct banking front.

      But searching "wachovia mobile" did result in a targeted ad on Google which led to a mobile banking landing page at Wachovia (see below).

      And surprisingly, AT&T Wireless was advertising under "wachovia seattle." Unfortunately, they dropped interested parties on its wireless homepage (see below), not the mobile banking page. Finding mobile banking on AT&T's site requires using the search box. It's buried under the not-so-obvious "Ringtones & More" category (note 3).

      I still don't know why Wachovia is advertising in Seattle. I suspect it was an inadvertent placement within a larger radio buy. And/or the advertising was orchestrated by AT&T Wireless, which has a large Seattle metro presence, but no mobile banking partner in the area. Perhaps Wachovia was dropped into the regionalized ad by default. In any event, it's wasted air time. 

      1. There are three Wachovia Securities brokerage offices, but those aren't even listed on the main Wachovia website. 

      2. Search conducted at 2 PM Dec 20 from a Seattle IP address.

      3. Note to AT&T: Time to update your FAQs and webpage, which still say that mobile banking is "coming soon" at Wachovia.

      Comments (2)

      A Virtual Tour of Wells Fargo's Stagecoach Island

      By William Azaroff on December 3, 2007 1:04 PM | Comments (15)

      Stagecoach Island LogoEd Terpening, VP Social Media Marketing at Wells Fargo, invited me on a virtual tour of Stagecoach Island. SI is a  Second Life spinoff where users immerse themselves in a virtual world created by Wells Fargo (see previous coverage here).

      Wells Fargo launched Stagecoach Island in 2006, originally within Second Life, and then spun it off on its own. It's a chance for Wells to give users a truly interactive experience with their brand and increase their relevance to Millenials, who may feel that banks don't understand them. 

      They are doing some key things very well:

      • Pioneering new ways to extend their brand using social media
      • Reaching a youthful demographic most banks can't reach
      • Harnessing new technologies to redefine marketing

      Here are some screenshots from the tour:

      We're all gathered at the Wells Fargo ATM near the entrace of Stagecoach Island, including fellow NetBanker blogger Ron Shevlin.


      Virtual Banking
      The ATM interface, where you can open an account, get a credit card or a mortgage.


      SI Career Centre
      The Stagecoach Island Career Center where interested job seekers can learn about virtual careers in SI.


      A Stagecoach Island shopping excursion
      A place to buy things for your SI avatar, using your virtual Wells Fargo credit card.


      Azaroff on the slopes
      Yours truly on the slopes, ready to snowboard.


      My Take

      I believe that creating a virtual world that combines elements of fun and whimsy with financial education is a great way for a bank to start a conversation with tomorrow's bankers about the role of money and credit in their lives. Although Wells is currently doing many things well, I also noticed some opportunities for them to consider as SI evolves:

      • The "fun" and "financial" elements didn't come together as much as I had hoped. It could be improved with an SI-wide games and challenges requiring users to acquire and spend money and use credit to solve puzzles and attain things they need to complete the game. 
      • Currently, the ATM is very text heavy and somewhat non-intuitive. Wells is missing an opportunity to make the ATM into an amazing interactive experience. And, there could be ATMs throughout SI, which could be part of a larger game.
      • It would be great to have real Wells Fargo job openings in the SI Career Center, like TD does in their Facebook group.

      Also, where was the stagecoach? It had to be there somewhere, I probably just missed it.

      In the end, Ed and his team deserve much credit for paving the way. There is great potential left in this idea, and it will be fascinating to see how it continues to evolve. Thanks for inviting me on the tour.

      William Azaroff is the Interactive Marketing & Channel Manager at Vancity where he develops interactive marketing initiatives, and pioneered, the groundbreaking change-themed online community. William builds on a decade of experience at digital agencies in Vancouver, Seattle and Los Angeles driving strategy, extending brands to the Web and building relationships for companies in several verticals, including Honda, Disney, Intuit Canada and the Government of BC. He discusses trends and noteworthy achievements in social media at his blog:

      Comments (15)

      Blog Sighting: Carolina Postal Credit Union's Irreverent "I Love My Hoopty"

      By Jim Bruene on November 20, 2007 9:32 AM | Comments (1)

      Finally, we have someone using a blog to have a little fun (note 1). Carolina Postal Credit Union's blog, I Love My Hoopty, is using humor and user-generated content to drum up car loan business. Through its website and blog, the CU asks users to write about and post pictures of their first cars, and the more rickety the better. I wasn't familiar with the term, but apparently in this context "hoopty" means an old rickety car. 

      The hoopty theme is also used on the CU's homepage to promote vehicle loans (see second screenshot below). 

      Since I'm twice the age of the target market here, it doesn't matter that the blog's content doesn't resonate with me. I LOVE the creativity and I'll bet the younger, Colbert-Report-watching crowd thinks it's pretty cool that a bank/credit union would do something this irreverent. 

      Unfortunately, the follow-through doesn't look nearly as good as the creative. I first noticed this blog a few months ago, and until last week, it hadn't been updated since July. It doesn't really make sense to have a blog that's only updated a few times per year. If the CU doesn't have the resources to add something at least once per month, it should pull the blog down and incorporate the content into its main website.

      Also, I question the prominence of the campaign on the CPCU homepage. Is that really the main message you want displayed to your members for several months? Even if does fit the overall brand strategy, the CU should change the banner ad's hyperlink. Currently, it goes to the hoopty blog (after a short detour to acknowledge that they are leaving the CU's website), which is not an effective landing page. The CU should first take users to a dedicated lending page that explains loan options and prices and invites members to apply.

      Carolina Postal Credit Union blog (20 Nov 2007

      I love my hoopty blog

      CPCU homepage
      (20 Nov 2007


      1. UMB used a similar approach in its My Ugly Room contest a year ago. 

      Comments (1)

      Create Your Bank's Facebook Page (before someone else does)

      By Jim Bruene on November 9, 2007 2:42 PM | Comments (3)

      Is it just me or is it hard to keep up with all the developments at Facebook? I guess if you are worth $15 billion, you have to keep hustling.

      Much of the news out of Facebook has little to do with retail banking. So, you may have overlooked this week's announcement of its new ad platform and promotional tools for businesses and organizations (for a concise, 340-word summary and analysis, see Wednesday's TechCrunch post here).

      In the official Facebook press release (here), Chase is listed as one of 12 "landmark partners" in the advertising program. Other than the existing Chase +1 group, with an impressive 40,000 members, it doesn't appear the bank has launched a page yet.

      But that shouldn't stop you. To create a Facebook presence, you don't need to be a landmark partner, a mega bank, or even have ten bucks left in your budget. The new company pages are free and you can set one up here in a just a few minutes .

      As a test, I built an Online Banking Report page in about 90 seconds (here, screenshot below). It took an hour to show up in Facebook search, so don't panic if it's not there right away (see note 1).

      Even if you post only your logo and website address, I recommend doing so right away. That will help ensure that you, and not some crook or prankster, creates the page that's associated with your brand at Facebook. For extra credit, add Facebook to your periodic Web searches to see if anyone is wrongly using your brand name.

      As an added payback for my 90 seconds of work, an hour after creating my page, Online Banking Report is the one and only page shown for "banking" searches (see note 2).  

      You also have the option of creating pay-per-view or pay-per-click ads to drive traffic to your page. Currently, the advertising is very affordable with prices starting at $0.15 per thousand impressions or $0.01 per click. Ads can be targeted to Facebook demographics.


      1. When I thought I'd lost my Online Banking Report page, I created a second page for NetBanker here

      2. There are many other search results for "banking," but Online Banking Report is currently the only one under the new "Pages" designation. Overall, Facebook search is currently pretty weak, but with the $240 mil from Microsoft, it should be state-of-the art by this time next year.  

      Comments (3)

      American Express Plum Card Uses "Scarcity Marketing"

      By Jim Bruene on November 1, 2007 10:50 AM | Comments (3)

      As a financial services junkie, I've long been a fan of American Express (see note 1). During the past 20 years, as credit cards increasingly became a commodity with no annual fees, loss-leader teaser rates, and look-alike marketing, AmEx has done a superb job maintaining a premium image and pricing. I keep my Gold Card in my travel bag and use it once every year or so when I don't want to expose the numbers of my business MasterCard. But I would never cancel it, despite the $75 annual fee, or I'd lose my "member since 1989" status. That, my friends, is what brand loyalty is all about.

      The latest product designed for small businesses, those with "6- or 7-figure revenues," is the Plum Card. I learned about it in a 2/3-page full-color burgundy ad in yesterday's Wall Street Journal (Oct. 31, p. A11). An identical ad appears today (Nov. 1, p. A10). Its standard teaser fare tells readers that the "application releases in 5 days" (today, 4). The bottom of the ad contains a special URL, <> where prospective customers can get more info. The card was originally announced at an INC 5000 event Sep. 7 (see coverage here).

      After seeing the print ads, I and another 100,000 people headed to Google to see what was going on. Wisely, the company purchased not only the top spot on Google for "plum card," but also supported the print buy with an additional twist, "Who's getting a Plum Card? Initial release of 10,000 cards." The novelty of a new financial services product with limited availability, a technique AmEx has used for years with Platinum/Black, should attract click-throughs.   

      The landing page (here) continues the theme of anticipation and exclusivity, with get this, a WAIT LIST, to be one of the first 10,000 to receive the card. A countdown timer in the upper right lets me know exactly how much time I have to wait, in this case 3 days, 11 hours and 6 minutes. If I'm not mistaken, that's Sunday night at midnight Eastern time.  

      I'm on the wait list, so I'll let you know what I learn on Monday when I receive my application.

      Plum Card pricing
      There's no argument the marketing is first class, but what about the card itself? Is there anything that AmEx or anyone can do to distinguish themselves in the crowded field of business charge cards?

      Time will tell, but it has a unique cash flow and discount plan that could be very appealing to business customers. Users that pay their bill within 10 days receive the industry standard "net less 2%" discount (see note 1). Alternatively, users can pay just 10% of the total due and defer the balance for two months interest free. At that time, the balance is due in full. There is no information in the terms and conditions about an annual fee, but I'd expect one.    


      1. If my wife would have been willing to move to NYC, I'd have tried very hard to get a job there after completing my obligatory MBA. 
      2. The 2% discount applies on spending of $5,000 or more; otherwise, the net-10 discount is 1%.
      Comments (3)

      Advanta Creates Social Network Around Small Business Innovation: Ideablob

      By Jim Bruene on October 25, 2007 2:01 PM | Comments (1)

      I don't know how I missed this one, but Advanta, a major credit card issuer with 1.2 million small business customers, launched a new Web 2.0 microsite on Sept. 24 at the high-tech DEMOfall conference (press release here). Just being there amongst the digerati was a coup for the card issuer, but they did much better, managing to come home with a coveted DemoGod Peoples Choice trophy at the conference.

      The Web 2.0-laden site is called ideablob, and it's a place where entrepreneurs, inventors, and anyone else can post their business idea and compete for the monthly $10,000 prizes (contest rules here).

      One month after launch, the site is generating a fair amount of activity. The eight October finalists showcased on the homepage (see below) have received the following: 

      • 691 total votes (must be registered to vote, can vote on more than one idea)
      • 216 total comments (must be registered to comment)
      • 10,300 total views (anyone can view the idea)

      Traffic to the site should grow rapidly once word of the $10k prize circulates. That's a large incentive for the millions of Internet users who think they have a better idea. 

      Advanta, which uses fairly subdued branding on the site (see small "inspired by Advanta" under the main ideablob logo), is positioned to gain in three ways:

      • By associating its brand with innovation, social networks, and a Web 2.0 attitude
      • Assuming a good viral kick, and $10k/mo should do it, the site could generate leads more cost effectively than through other channels
      • Publicity in blogs and traditional media

      Bank of America launched a good business networking site recently, but without the fun of the $10,000 in prize money (see previous coverage here).

      Advanta's ideablob main page (25 Oct 2007)

      An idea page

      Comments (1)

      Wells Fargo Launches CenterStage, a User-Generated Video Promotion

      By Jim Bruene on September 27, 2007 9:09 PM | Comments (4)

      Tomorrow, Wells Fargo is expected to launch a user-generated video contest that will place the winning entry into a 30-sec commercial that plays during January's Rose Bowl, with an audience of 35 million or more. The winner will be chosen by public voting on the contest website. Entries are due by Nov. 26.

      Although, this type of contest has been done before including last year's Super Bowl (see previous coverage of Intuit's TaxRap here and Lending Club here), it's the first time a major U.S. bank has launched such a high-profile effort. It should provide Wells with excellent publicity while supporting its social media and branding efforts.

      The whole effort is first class, from the Center Stage website, to the pre-taped audio tracks in various genres, and the contest rules and prizes. And while the sample video's are cute, don't listen to them at bedtime. Trust me, you don't want "The Wells Fargo Wagon" running through your head as you try to get to sleep. 

      Comments (4)

      Free iPods (again)

      By Jim Bruene on September 20, 2007 5:02 PM | Comments (2)

      I'm not sure why I'm so drawn to the free iPod promotions. Maybe it's because Citibank never sent me my free one in 2004. Granted, I didn't jump through all the post-signup hoops, but I'm still sore about it. 

      Today, Bank Deals blogged about the latest bank to offer the coveted music player, Plano, Texas-based ViewPoint Bank. This summer (here), I critisized Key Bank and TD Bank for using boring graphics to publicize the sleek device. ViewPoint perhaps does a bit better depending on your tastes (see screenshot below). You certainly can't miss the promotion, but the bank is still missing an opportunity to showcase the sexy new video nano, rather than the oh-so-2006 version shown in its homepage ad.

      The fine print: Like most banks, ViewPoint requires direct deposit to score the music player. And, it must be at least $600/mo, so students take your business elsewhere. But the checking account is free, so the qualifying bar is not set too high. The offer runs through year-end.

      One more caveat: If you splash a $150 freebie across the homepage, you better have an answer when your current direct-deposit customers come in for their free iPods as thanks for their ____ years of loyal support. One helpful technique, use cookies so that you don't even show the offer to existing customers.   

      ViewPoint homepage (20 Sep 2007)

      Comments (2)

      Eisenhower Bank Uses Dramatic Mobile Banking Imagery on its Homepage

      By Jim Bruene on August 29, 2007 12:15 PM | Comments

      Link to Eisenhower BankOne of the best things about mobile banking is the cool graphics you can post on your website of people logging in while standing in front of dramatic objects. For example, Chase print ads have featured an appealing picture of someone reading an account alert from Chase in the stands of a baseball game (see post here).

      We've also started seeing visuals on the websites of early adopter mobile banks and credit unions. And no one has taken it further than Eisenhower Bank, a division of Austin, Tex.-based Broadway Bank that caters to members of the military.

      Currently, Eisenhower's home page is dominated by a rotating group of pictures with a leather-encased Treo with the Eisenhower Bank page superimposed over impressive backdrops, many with a military theme. See the series below.


      Eisenhower's mobile banking is powered by Mobilearth, a Vancouver, Canada-based mobile provider. Thanks to guest blogger Brandon McGee for the tip.


      LifeLock's Engaging 2-Minute Television Spot

      By Jim Bruene on August 28, 2007 2:50 PM | Comments (6)

      Today, I was home for lunch and my son was watching a recorded episode of Myth Busters, a great show as anyone with a pre-teen child knows. As he was fast-forwarding through the commercials, I happened to see a glimpse of a LifeLock spot (see inset).

      My son knows I like the commercials better than the shows, so he graciously replayed the entire thing for me. It seemed to go on forever, he said, "like a sponsored program of its own." Which from him is actually a compliment, I think. I checked out the replay online and saw that it was a 2-minute spot (note 1).

      It features street scenes of New York (I think). It plays like news coverage as the big "billboard trucks" drive through town plastered with CEO Todd Davis's social security number in red, 3-foot high numbers. Interspersed are man-on-the-street soundbites from astonished pedestrians and a great testimonial from a LifeLock customer who credit the company from saving him from having someone buy an $83,000 RV in his name. It also has Mr. Davis pitching the product through a bullhorn on a crowded Manhattan street.  

      It's a real in-your-face commercial, but I really liked it. It does a great job of grabbing attention, reinforcing the benefits, and providing a can't-miss call-to-action. It's a good compliment to the over-the-top print ads featuring the CEO's social-security-number (see previous coverage here and note 2).

      LifeLock uses two different URLs in the commercial, the normal <> and <>. Both point to the same page now, but the company must be considering a distinct landing page for the TV URL.

      The video is available in the lower-left corner of the company's homepage (below). For more information on the market for credit report and identity theft services, see our most recent Online Banking Report here.

      LifeLock 2-min television spot


      1. The commercial doesn't appear to be on YouTube yet, so I was unable to post the actual spot here.

      2. A half-page version of LifeLock's social-security-number ad was in a recent WSJ.

      Comments (6)

      The Importance of Community Management in Social Media Projects (part 3)

      By William Azaroff on August 23, 2007 11:55 AM | Comments (7)

      Note: Read part 1 and part 2.

      Many articles and blog posts will tell you that the cost to enter into the world of blogs, wikis, RSS, podcasts, social networking (Facebook or MySpace), social bookmarking ( or ma.gnolia), or  Application Programming Interfaces (or APIs) mean that you can start a blog or social media project for your bank or credit union at a total cost of zero. Right?

      Well, sort of.

      One of the critical, but often unsung factors of success of a social media project is the resourcing. If you're going to invite the public to play, make sure you have someone who can help create the kind of community you want.

      As we planned at Vancity we had many discussions about how to create a vibrant and postive community. We have all seen online bulletin boards, discussion forums and blogs degenerate into the kind of name-calling no one wants associated with their brand. This was one of our worst fears. Since then, we've learned a great deal about community building.

      In my first part of this post, I mentioned nine success factors for a social media project. An important one is hiring someone who knows how to nurture and grow an online community. Here's why.

      Whether or not hard dollars are spent launching a social media project, someone needs to manage the initiative and ensure that it achieves its goals. This is a very specific skill-set with the following requirements:

      • Someone who can inspire visitors to come back, readers to register, and registered users to add good content.
      • Someone who knows when to get involved in discussions and threads that are degenerating, going off topic, or just going nowhere.
      • Someone who can elevate good material to the homepage so it will hook like-minded people, as well as delete remarks you don't want on the site.
      • Someone with good taste.
      • Someone who understands the business goals of the site and can act appropriately and decisively.

      Recently I have seen a few interesting posts speaking to the issue of good online community moderation. One was on Jeremiah Owyang's excellent For the Community Managers. I also saw a very good piece on Seth Godin's blog: Jobs of the future, #1: Online Community Organizer. So it seems that more and more people are catching on that this free revolution has some resourcing costs built in if you want to achieve success.

      Here are three examples of financial institutions that blog and how they manage their resourcing.

      Wells Fargo


      Wells Fargo has a total of four blogs, the most for any financial institution. According to their VP of Social Media, the amazing Ed Terpening:

      Although we have an Experiential Marketing group dedicated to social media activities for Wells Fargo, all of our bloggers are team members who have other full time jobs. They add blogging - writing, posting, reading, replying - on top of those jobs, and our lead bloggers take a more active role than others. The culture of blogging is unique and we strive to connect with that culture through many different voices at Wells Fargo. Finding the person with the right passion + knowledge is our goal, whether they have a professional communications role or not (most do not).

      Verity Credit Union


      Verity was the first financial institutions to blog, beginning in late 2004. It recently received an excellent facelift and functional overhaul. It's a highly usable and readable blog. According to their CMO and VP Shari Storm, they staff their blog with volunteer employees from around the credit union. Employees who want to blog go through a quick 10-15 minute training on the dos and don'ts of blogging, and they are allowed to spend no more than an hour a month blogging so their managers won't get upset with the project. This is a nice way to save money on resources. Until their recent overhaul, their blog was even hosted for free at Blogger. Says Storm, "One of the unexpected successes of our blog is how much employees like writing for the forum. We’ve heard from employees that it provides extra job satisfaction and a sense of employee pride."



      One of the key success factors of was the investment in a full-time Online Community Moderator, Kate. Kate has been instrumental in nurturing the community, providing them with contests and activities, connecting the site to the press to get earned media exposure, moderating comments and understanding the needs and wants of the site's registered users. Not an easy job, and I always say that Kate is one of the key reasons why the site has grown and excelled in the way it has. She has an amazing balance of clearly knowing the purpose of the site, and also being open to where the community wants to go. She deserves amazing credit and her skillset will only make her more and more valuable. (NOTE: no poaching!)

      So, by all means try out social media. There are many low-cost, even free, options. But realize  that for a site to achieve longevity and success as a communications vehicle, branding tool, community platform, or whatever you have planned, you may need to invest in social media management. This means either tapping good people internally to devote time to the project or hiring a community moderator to ensure your project develops to its full potential.

      William Azaroff is the Interactive Marketing & Channel Manager at Vancity where he develops interactive marketing initiatives, and pioneered, the groundbreaking change-themed online community. William also plans strategy for the online channel, with a view to its potential to help Vancity, its members and the community. William brings nine years of experience in Vancouver, Seattle and Los Angeles producing web projects for such clients as Honda, Disney, Intuit Canada and Nike Jordan. He writes about the intersection of online branding, social media and the world of banking on his blog at

      Comments (7)

      US Bank Pitches Electronic Statements at Login

      By Jim Bruene on August 20, 2007 1:32 PM | Comments

      Using a splash screen after logging in to online banking (see screenshot below), U.S. Bank is asking customers to move to electronic statements, specifically for credit card and loan accounts, although the online-only option is also available for checking accounts. I saw the message, dated Aug. 20, for the first time today. I've been a customer of U.S. Bank through the entire online era (note 1) and this is the first time I recall being asked at login to go paperless. Unlike PayPal, BofA, and others, U.S. Bank rarely uses the login splash screen technique. 

      Let's look closer at the bank's pitch:

      Title: Internet Banking Updates
      NetBanker comments: OK...but would be more effective if it directly mentioned the purpose of the message

      Opening line: U.S. Bank Internet Banking just keeps getting better! 
      NB comment: That's a bad opening line. This is not a new feature. Some U.S. Bank customers have had electronic statements available for 13 years now. Everyone customer has had them for at least 9 or 10 years. The only new thing is that you stop receiving paper statement, hardly the "bank getting better." Most customers know this is a cost savings move for the bank.

      Benefit statement (bullets): Online Statements Only help you: Deter fraud, Reduce clutter, Manage your account online....
      NB comments: Beside the grammatically challenged opening, the bank did a good job getting the anti-fraud message into the first bullet. The second bullet, "reduce clutter," is OK, but the third is pretty weak. Why are you telling online banking customers they will benefit from "managing your account online?" And only 18 months of archives is hardly going to give customers a good feeling about doing away with their paper statement.

      US Bank's online statement signup Call to action: The bank provides specific instructions on how to turn off the paper statement.
      NB comments: The specific instructions are good, but a small graphic of where to click would be more powerful (see the example at right). Also, the choice to view the message later is a user-friendly option.

      Overall graphic design: The splash screen is laid out like a letter.
      NB comments: That's OK, but a graphic image or two would give it a more modern and professional image.

      Overall grade: C
      NB comments: The bank does a good job getting right to the point. But the overall look and feel along with some of the specific copy points lower the score. This would have been an A- in 1997, but a decade later, Internet users expect and deserve a more sophisticated message.  

      US Bank online banking splash screen


      1. Full disclosure: I was the lead product developer on U.S. Bank's online banking system launched in 1994.


      TD Canada Trust Launches "Split It" on Facebook

      By William Azaroff on August 16, 2007 5:20 PM | Comments (8)

      While so many FIs are scratching their heads wondering what to do about Facebook, it turns out that TD Canada Trust, one of Canada's biggest banks and the ninth largest bank in North America, is doing all kinds of interesting initiatives there.

      What makes their efforts so impressive is that they have clearly tried to figure out the value they add to the demographics of Facebook users. They have managed to strike a balance of being true to their brand, yet not seem like they're pandering to a youthful audience, and offering something of value to the Net Generation.

      What first crossed my desk this week was SPLIT IT, an application they created that allows roommates who are on Facebook to manage how they split basic bills.


      Welcome to the SPLIT IT by TD Canada Trust application – a no-hassle, budget-sharing tool that enables you to share bills with your roommates. SPLIT IT makes it easy to determine who owes what, view your balances, and keep on top of your payment dates.

      SPLIT IT

      The application launched within the past few days. When I first saw it on August 15 it had 44 users. It's grown to 66 a mere 24 hours later. It will be interesting to see where it goes during the  next few weeks. I'm also curious to see how it's promoted. Will TD send information to its youth customers, or will they rely solely on word of mouth?

       SPLIT IT 

      SPLIT IT 

      After seeing SPLIT IT I was mightily impressed. It's not easy to find a way to add value for Facebook users. From SPLIT IT, I linked through to their Money Lounge, and I was floored. They have job postings, videos, offers, all sorts of ways to engage the Facebook audience. Scrolling down, I noticed that they have 1,480 members of their group. Even if many of the group's members are employees, it's still an impressive engagement metric.

      Money Lounge

      Money Lounge 

      So, well done TD Canada Trust! The first bank to build its own Facebook app.

      William Azaroff is the interactive marketing & channel manager at Vancity where he develops interactive marketing initiatives, and pioneered, the groundbreaking change-themed online community. William also plans strategy for the online channel, with a view to its potential to help Vancity, its members and the community. William brings nine years of experience in Vancouver, Seattle and Los Angeles producing Web projects for such clients as Honda, Disney, Intuit Canada and Nike Jordan. He writes about the intersection of online branding, social media and the world of banking on his blog at

      Comments (8)

      Measuring Success for Social Media Projects (part 2)

      By William Azaroff on August 14, 2007 3:45 PM | Comments (8)

      Note: Part one of this series can be found here.

      On blogs I visit discussing social media, one ongoing debate concerns metrics. Some claim that metrics for social media projects are not meaningful; some claim that new metrics must be developed to gauge social behaviour. Some even claim that metrics aren't needed.

      I believe that it is essential to have meaningful key-performance indicators in place for a social media project, as you would for any other project. You must know what success will look like to know if the project is worth repeating or not. Some of these metrics are familiar Web metrics, some are more similar to offline advertising, some are similar to PR metrics, and some are indeed brand new and hard to measure.

      For we measure a few things that are familiar to anyone who runs a website:

      • Unique visitors
      • Time on site
      • Referring URLs
      • Natural search results
      • Number of registered users
      • Number of active users (need to define for yourself)

      We also measure "Web 2.0" stuff:

      • Our Technorati authority ranking
      • The number of RSS subscribers
      • Conversions of visitors to contributors (people who make it through the registration or content-creation funnels)

      Like offline media, we measure how many people in our geographic region are aware of the site, just like we track awareness of our television campaigns. We also measure how many can link it back to our brand.

      Like our PR, we try to measure the earned media the site has garnered for us, which has been significant, with lots of positive coverage on TV, radio and newspapers. We also keep track of what bloggers say about us. We consider a blogger writing positively about to be an unsolicited third-party endorsement. Happily, almost all blog posts so far have been positive, as have our earned media. It's difficult to criticize this project since most press coverage is about how the site has helped the community in some way. And that leads us to the most interesting metric by far.

      Where we need new metrics is on the issue of real-world impact. This was not a metric we had in place prior to launchhonestly, it never occurred to us. But it became necessary because of activities happening in the real world (remember that?) due to the influence of the site. The first time this became obvious was after a bad snowstorm Vancouver in November 2006. The site's amazing community moderator Kate created a post called Got Hats? and asked for people to donate warm clothing and blankets to the homeless. This initiative took off and over the next few days, we estimate that more than 4,000 pieces of clothing, blankets, pillows, and, yes, hats were donated to local shelters, all via communication and organization on the site. The change occurred while snow was still on the ground, while the need was still very real, and even a matter of life and death. It was the first clue that we were onto something truly important.


      There are many positive traits the site lends to the Vancity brand. is more than a bunch of people discussing local issues they want to change. The site has created real impact in the communities Vancity serves. Since the Got Hats? episode, we have seen the impact of the tremendous exposure a woman on the site has received for blogging in depth about her valiant attempt to give up plastics in 2007, the successful implementation of a bike share experiment in Vancouver and now a contest where people can win $1,000 to give to an organization making change for the good (appropriately called ChangeSomething).

      Traditional Web metrics can't measure the human terms of this impact, and that's the beauty of social media. It spills over into people's lives, because people are in the driver's seat. We need to expand our view of key performance indicators for social media so they reflect the project's success, which now includes the true impact of these projects on our communities.

      I think that explains why those of us who advocate for the appropriate use of social media are so passionate about our work.

      William Azaroff is the interactive marketing & channel manager at Vancity where he develops interactive marketing initiatives, and pioneered, the groundbreaking change-themed online community. William also plans strategy for the online channel, with a view to its potential to help Vancity, its members and the community. William brings nine years of experience in Vancouver, Seattle and Los Angeles producing Web projects for such clients as Honda, Disney, Intuit Canada and Nike Jordan. He writes about the intersection of online branding, social media and the world of banking on his blog at


      Comments (8)

      Green (Hybrid) Auto Loans from Star One Credit Union

      By Jim Bruene on August 10, 2007 4:19 PM | Comments (2)

      In many ways, hybrid vehicles are the perfect antidote for guilt about our 21st century high-consumption lifestyle. Buy a Prius, and instantly feel better coasting around the city on self-generated battery power. Yet you still get to motor about in a relatively large, well-appointed and air-conditioned steel box (note 1).  

      That's why politicians have jumped on this bandwagon in droves. And why it makes a great marketing statement to support energy-saving and/or low-emission alternatives with loan discounts. Not only does it position you as caring about the larger environment, there is a very real environmental education benefit to the efforts.

      The most recent exampleStar One Credit Union <>, a $3 billion (assets), 71,000 member CU based in Sunnyvale, Californiahas a link on its homepage to its hybrid offer. Customers financing a new or used hybrid vehicle save 0.25% on their loan rate. On a $20,000 5-year loan, $139 is saved, enough to fill the tank three, maybe four times. The offer is spelled out here (screenshot below).  

      Other financial institutions offering hybrid car loans:

      • UCB Bank (Miami, FL): no payments for 3 months offer here
      • Deedham Savings (Deedham, MA): offer here
      • Sound Credit Union (Tacoma, WA): 0.50% discount offer here
      • Tech CU (San Jose, CA): 0.25% discount offer here
      • Vancity (Vancouver, BC, Canada): Prime rate for low-emission vehicles here


      (1) I'm not trying to be cynical here. As a former engineer, I think hybrid technology is fantastic. Using waste energy to fuel the car is both elegant and efficient, and I look forward to driving one soon.

      Comments (2)