In the 2008 financial crisis, banks were seen as the bad guys and the root cause of the problem. In this current crisis, financial services providers are once again in the spotlight, but this time have an opportunity to bring out the best of their core values and emerge positively.
We expect there will be winners and losers, but who these will be is not yet clear. As anxious consumers and businesses seek reassurance in this time of uncertainty, established players have an opportunity to build long-term trust by supporting individuals and society to re-emerge. Meanwhile, fintechs and digital natives have the agility to respond to new patterns of consumer behaviour through simplified experiences, and thus attract new customer segments.
Across the board decisive action is required, and we have developed four key areas of focus which all financial services brands should consider in their response to COVID-19:
1. Invest in your brand
Our BrandZ data shows that brands with the strongest brand equity recovered from the last recession nine times faster than the average, so now is not the time to shut down marketing investment. Financial services brands should seek to maintain their share of voice and promote their brand values, provide reassurance and build trust. This does not necessarily mean entirely new campaigns, in fact we have seen the re-running of earlier executions perform well through this crisis.
2. Humanise digital experiences
People expect access to digital services when they can’t access other channels, but this isn’t enough. Brands should seek to create seamless connections between digital and human interactions, and think ‘digital first’ not ‘digital only’. By showing that a digital first experience is simpler and easier it is possible to create new patterns of behaviour that endure; if people feel forced to use digital channels they will revert back when they can.
3. Innovate for a changed world
While many of us hope for a swift return to normality, at Kantar we know that some changes will persist, and these changes present opportunities for innovation. For example, economic worries, frugality and concerns around hygiene and social distancing could accelerate phasing out of physical cards, see greater demand for financial protection, and see greater investment in sanitising/ventilating public and commercial properties. Developing scenarios and innovating at pace against these will be key.
4. Make a difference
Finally, brands need to think about where they can uniquely and authentically make a difference. To execute a successful purpose-led response, brands must start with themselves and what they stand for, centre on people and involve them in the process and seek to make the world a better place. Importantly financial brands have a genuine opportunity to contribute positively in relation to supply chains, sustainability or community support. Now is the time to stand tall and make a difference.
Across each of these aspects human insight is critical, and a one size fits all response will not work. At Kantar we have developed six consumer segments to help brands to understand levels of concern and the extent to which people can manage their response. For some people, concern is low, finances are not impacted, and they want to escape the current lockdown, whereas many others have high levels of health concerns, are crippled financially and do not know where to turn.
Considering the above, now is the time to regroup and rebuild with a long-term plan that is consistently executed across the four areas of focus.