Sunday, November 25, 2007

Schwab's CMO on Branding 2006

Becky Saeger, CMO, Charles Schwab

2. How does your marketing strategy embrace new forms of media that are constantly emerging? What are your perceptions about the use of traditional media in your marketing mix?

As we embarked on our new "Talk to Chuck" brand campaign, we believed that executional innovation -- especially in the context of financial services -- was crucial. All of our research and all of our insights and instincts told us that reaching our objectives of differentiation, relevance and emotional connections would require touching our target audience in the context of their lives. Our client, the "average" investor, doesn't bifurcate his or her life into chunks that they set aside for financial services -- "it's 6:00 on Thursday, it must be investing time. . . " She's thinking about it during her commute, when she's drinking coffee, when she's picking something up at the laundry, when she's thumbing through Gourmet Magazine or online checking the sports scores. So we've made a concerted effort to try to reach her there.

We're experimenting heavily with new approaches to online media that have proven to be very effective in building interest in Schwab. And we're also finding that traditional media--yes, TV and even outdoor--continue to be important in achieving the awareness and impact we want--but we have to look at the entire media mix and take advantage of the synergies.

3. One of the key platforms in the "reinvention equation" is marketing accountability. How does your increased focus on accountability influence your marketing decision making?

Creating accountability has been absolutely key. I think its one of the most important mandates for marketers in general, but when you add in the variable that we faced, which was a business that was struggling to regain its historical norm of very high financial performance, you had an environment where we were picking up pennies everywhere we saw them, and in that environment you have to be able to prove that marketing is an investment for growth, not an expense to be cut.

One of our objectives over the last two years has been to build a culture of accountability. It reaches every part of the marketing organization and also informs the basis on which we interact with our business partners. We've put considerable effort into strengthening our database management capabilities, investing in better tracking and analysis tools, putting in place rigorous metrics to help us establish baselines for all our decisions. We test and learn in a more careful way. For example, before launching "Talk To Chuck" nationally, we spent six months in test markets to assure that we had a winning formula. This last year, we worked with an outside consultant to help us develop a marketing investment optimization model, and we've lifted our planning and decision-making process to a fact-based level.

4. How have you created brand loyalty among your consumers and what are you doing to keep them coming back?

At its most basic, we think of brand loyalty as the attachment that our clients have to the brand--their willingness and desire to stick with us, bring their next piece of business to us, refer their friends and colleagues to us. Lots of that attachment is reinforced by what our clients see of us in the marketplace: Are our communications relevant and compelling? Do they give the impression of a place that you can trust, a place that you belong and would be proud to be associated with?

But more fundamentally, brand loyalty stems from the client experience, and so it is a shared challenge that all of us in the business focus on day in and day out. Over the last two years during our turnaround, we focused intensely on reconnecting with our clients by simplifying our business model to make it clear what we stood for, by cutting costs of doing business with us to assure a great value proposition, by making sure that we weren't overburdening clients with excessive mailings and cross selling, and by reinvesting heavily into improvements in the client experience. The business now lives and dies by measurements of client loyalty, and that drives every choice we make--whether you are answering the phone in a call center, developing a new product or writing a direct mail piece.

5. Earlier this year USA Today wrote an article about your new" Talk to Chuck" ad campaign and how it’s a departure from your usually humorous ads What made you decide to change your approach and why do you think it was successful?

Change itself is relatively easy, and there is always a temptation to try and work your way out of a bad situation by going with something new and different. I think the real paradox of what we've accomplished with "Talk to Chuck" and the reinvention of the brand is that we asked ourselves first, what is really true and abiding about this brand? What makes us different that our clients truly value and we never want to lose?

We've been around for over 30 years now and have built an incredible amount of brand equity over those years. What is the essence of that? Once we were confident we understood that, it wasn't a question of doing the next great thing, it was a question of bringing new life and a freshness and relevance to what was already there and great. I believe our execution is very creative and innovative and yes, it is designed to startle and attract attention and to have an element of sly humor... Most important, we want it to feel relevant to investors' mindsets, to connect at emotional levels. But at the same time it reestablishes the core of what we stand for: trust, customer centricity, being an advocate for the individual investor, and providing great value.

Sep 2006

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