Marketing isn’t what you think it is. It’s no longer company-directed ads, billboards and brochures. Instead, it’s about the customer experience—authentic, compelling connections between a brand and the consumer. Experiences that engage, intrigue and satisfy.
Of course, traditional tactics such as ads and brochures can still play a part in marketing; however, they shouldn’t be the main focus. In the past few years, technology has changed how we all interact with one another, digest information and purchase products. Tivo, iPods, and MySpace all are examples of the transformation that’s allowing us to create a lifestyle tailored specifically to our interests and schedule.
How can companies respond to a world driven by unique consumer interests? They identify the spirit behind their business and build a culture that supports it in hundreds of ways, small and large, every day.
This is exactly the approach we took at Umpqua Bank. Just 10 years ago, we were a small regional bank with six branches and $149 million in assets. Today, Umpqua is the West Coast’s largest, independent community bank with 127 store locations from Seattle to Sacramento and $7.3 billion in assets — and, most importantly, has a thriving culture of customer service that positively impacts every aspect of the company.
How did we do it?
It started with the realization that the banking industry was stagnant. For consumers, banking wasn’t an engaging or interesting experience; it was a chore. People didn’t want to go to their bank; they had to go to their bank. Umpqua set out to change that mindset and experience.
Ten years ago we saw that technology was beginning to change how consumers interacted with businesses and we discovered traditional bank branches were at risk of becoming unnecessary. At the risk of being left behind in a technological world, we decided to reinvent banking and turn branches into stores through thoughtful design, and a fierce focus on a service culture.
Anyone who’s ever been inside an Umpqua store can tell you that this is no ordinary bank. Our stores are more like neighborhood hubs — places where you can listen to local music, check your email, grab a cup of coffee, read the paper, or even attend a yoga class.
Umpqua’s second generation flagship location in Portland, Oregon’s Pearl District introduced the new design and customer-savvy amenities, which have quickly become the company’s standard. Stores feature surprising amenities such as chocolates on a tray with each transaction and water dishes and doggy treats for patrons with pets. We also incorporate Wi Fi internet, plasma TVs with financial news and listening stations for local music.
Our innovative efforts didn’t stop there — we took Umpqua to the streets, literally, and created word-of-mouth marketing, or what we call “handshake marketing.” We purchased an ice cream truck that tours neighborhoods handing out free ice cream to anyone nearby. We place pennies in the streets of new markets that encouraged people to bring them to Umpqua and, in turn, receive a dollar. We surprise coffee house customers by purchasing coffee and lattes for anyone waiting in line, receiving their drinks compliments of Umpqua. We invite the community into our stores to meet, mingle and hold book clubs, movie nights and business meetings. We discover local musicians in each market and bring their music to our stores through our Discover Local Music Project — a program where musicians get paid for their music each time their song is downloaded and the public can create CDs at our in-store listening kiosks and online at http://www.umpquamusic.com/
. We created word-of-mouth buzz that people are still talking about today.
Our quest for becoming “the world’s greatest bank” didn’t stop there. We are continually looking for new ways to turn the banking industry upside down and intrigue customers. Later this year, Umpqua will begin building its newest store concept, called “neighborhood stores,” where the latest in innovative technology will meet Umpqua’s unsurpassed customer experience and community focus.
We also recognized that in order to truly transform the banking experience, we had to create a new approach that would enable our associates to provide a unique customer experience. We learned that when you invest in the people who represent your company and give them all the tools they need to succeed, a remarkable thing happens: they respond by giving their best in everything they do. They rise to the occasion and feel empowered to solve problems. Preparing our associates for success has helped Umpqua create a vibrant, bank-wide culture of enthusiastic, service-oriented associates.
How does this relate to marketing?
Without these key building blocks, our best marketing efforts would fall flat. Our goal is to integrate seamlessly and personally into the lives of our customers, to engage each and every one with wonderful experiences that lead to a relationship, not just an account.
With these building blocks in place, we’re able to continually create truly innovative, engaging marketing campaigns that are authentic to our spirit as an innovative community bank. In short, successful marketing isn’t about the best placed ad, the biggest billboard or a flashy brochure; it’s about truly knowing your customers, speaking to them as a partner and providing experiences they won’t forget.
- It’s also more. What do I mean? Let me tell you about Umpqua Bank.
- Background on Umpqua: Umpqua decided to move towards the retail model and adopted new thinking.
- Amenities of Umpqua: Umpqua Blend of coffee, large-screen TV with Bloomberg, and a kiosk that displays and sells CDs, t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.
- Here’s how Umpqua does things differently
- Cannot operate like a bank if you want true change to happen
- Examples: DLM, culture, handshake marketing, word of mouth, lifestyle incentives, Ritz training
- Create a unique delivery system
- Build a culture around service
- Creating a strategy
- Culture: push empowerment
- Bank branches: younger generation, obvious disconnect, give them a reason to go in
- Experience: integrate into people’s lives, experience is a pleasure, open a relationship not an account
- DLM: we know what our brand looks like. What does it sound like?
- You're not a bank; you’re a marketing company.
- Creating buzz
- Ice cream truck
- Branding strategy
- The balance of power has shifted to the consumer
- Abandon convention and write your own rules
- Create connections
- Banks (companies in general) need to look beyond the industry they believe they are in
- Marketing has changed
- It’s who you hire and how you train
- It’s creating experiences
- It’s about building relationships