Financial sector targets diverse audiences

Financial services companies are using a variety of tactics to reach diverse audiences.

Financial services companies are using a variety of tactics to reach diverse audiences.

In today's competitive financial services industry, creating effective communications platforms targeting different multicultural markets is viewed as an important investment for the future.

For that reason, several companies in the sector are becoming increasingly fluent in creating PR programs that are sensitive to different cultural values.

In building communications' strategies, “[we] look at the different communities,” says Alfredo Padilla, VP of corporate communications for Comerica Bank. “Some [groups] are... sophisticated in terms of financial products, and some... are not.”

At Comerica, a company with branches across North America, the team targets multicultural groups through regional outreach teams, says Janice Tessier, VP and manager of diversity initiatives at Comerica.

“We need dedicated groups in each market,” she adds. “We may have an overarching communications strategy [for specific targets]. A lot of outreach is grassroots level. It's about building relationships within those specific communities.”

Working solely with its in-house PR team, Comerica promotes its programs to key multicultural markets, including Arab Americans, by connecting via local grassroots efforts, such as sponsorships and programs at centers of influence within key communities.

For example, in Michigan, the company has targeted this community by establishing relationships with organizations such as the American Arab Chamber of Commerce (AACC).

Through the AACC, the company reaches out to Arab-American entrepreneurs and provides them with advice and information in finance seminars, Tessier says.

Also, Comerica publicizes financial education information through targeted outreach to local publications geared to specific communities.

“From a media and corporate communications standpoint... we look carefully at what the need is,” Padilla says. “And, we... tailor those communications [and] press releases that make sense for the community.”

Community influence
Another way that the bank seeks to create a connection is by having branch locations that “mirror” the community, he adds.

For example, the newly opened Cerritos Banking Center in Los Angeles' Koreatown was built according to the principles of Feng Shui, Padilla says.

“We're very careful about understanding the culture, as well as providing the services and the products that make sense [for] the community,” he adds. “We want to be the eyes and the ears of the community as we open new branches.”

Authentic involvement in the community has also been a focus of the regional bank National Penn.

With the support of Hispanic AOR Bauza & Associates, it has sought to strengthen its outreach to the Hispanic community by directly addressing cultural values that might make customers hesitant about using financial services.

For example, the bank addressed the distrust many Hispanics have with financial organizations and releasing personal information with a “Shred Day” in September. For the event, the company provided a shredding truck outside one of its community offices in Wyomissing, PA, a suburb of Reading, PA, according to Wilson Camelo, principal and VP of PR for Bauza.

Scott Fainor, National Penn's president and CEO, says, “I was out there picking up boxes... and other bankers were out there... getting the word out that we're committed.”

The bank also promotes its interest and understanding of the community through participation in local Hispanic community celebrations and holidays, like Three Kings Day.

Also, the company is working on increasing the number of employees able to speak Spanish, as Hispanic customers have a “high level of value preference [for] more face-to-face interactions,” Fainor says.

National Bank has found it effective to promote programs beyond traditional channels, such as placing features on financial programs in local newspapers, having Latino employees hand out flyers, or including information in church bulletins, says Cathy Bower, SVP of corporate communications.

“You can't just use a traditional channel, [to be successful] you have to work within the network of the community,” she adds.

Trust and incentive to use brand financial products can also come from promotions that tie into multicultural consumers' countries of origin, where family might still live.

Western Union promoted its “Cash, the perfect gift” campaign to highlight money as the ideal gift for the 2008 holiday season.

The effort was directed at general consumer and multicultural segments, says Dan Diaz, Western Union's VP of communications for the Americas.

The effort included targeted media outreach and spokespeople.

To reach the Asian community, the company partnered with YouTube celebrity HappySlip, aka Christine Gambito, to create a viral campaign highlighting the Western Union experience. In its outreach to the Hispanic market, the company partnered with Univision's Despierta América co-host Ana Maria Canseco for appearances.

Celebrity factor
It was important for celebrities to have contact with the consumers and convey their connection with the brand. For example, Canseco relayed how she used to pick up money at Western Union sent from her uncle in the US when she was a child living in Mexico, Diaz says.

“Our consumer base is primarily living in a country other than their own... it's all about the... family and the individual who is thinking [about] supporting their loved one back home,” Diaz says.

In consumer outreach, he says the company seeks to align with different cultural and religious holidays.

“[It's about] honoring their culture and celebrating with them [their] festivities,” he explains.

Tips for targeting multicultural audiences

One size does not fit all.
While banks and other financial services companies might not offer products specifically created for different multicultural communities, outreach is best when it's tailored and targeted to regional initiatives and local centers of influence, which can help direct programs and messaging

Speaking the language is not enough.
Though bilingual services and outreach are valuable commodities when tapping new multicultural demos, making sure that cultural values and meanings do not get lost in the translation can pose a challenge

Corporate sponsorship requires a personal touch.
Simply having a name on the banner for cultural events might not be effective in courting new multicultural groups, especially if representatives are not present and directly interacting with the community

*In the print version of this story, the title appears as "A wise investment"

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