As a dedicated “Zionist,” March Madness was a huge disappointment. This Duke team had what it takes to go all the way: loads of talent (including the best player in the country), perseverance, poise under pressure and legendary leadership. Yet despite all of this promise, Williamson’s team only made it to the Elite Eight, losing to Michigan State by a single point.
As it turns out, fundamentals matter. That single point—a missed free throw in the waning seconds of the game—reflected a pathetic 61% from the free-throw line that was even worse than their miserly 68% season average. Achilles’ heel exposed. Dreams dashed. This newsletter, therefore, is dedicated to a few fundamentals, with special thanks to Ben Stuart, CMO of Bank of the West, a true big man on the marketing campus.
Dare to Differentiate
In prep for my next book, we surveyed over 100 CMOs and discovered less than half believe their product/service or their marketing was significantly different from their competition’s. That’s a startling revelation. How can any marketer expect to cut through without a distinctive, if not truly differentiated, brand? Finding your source of differentiation is hardly a layup, but it is worth every minute of your time. Without it, you’re likely to foul out early in the game.
Propose a Purpose
Ben Stuart, CMO of Bank of the West, is a big fan of differentiation as a result of seeing the impact the “Talk to Chuck” campaign had during his time as SVP of Marketing at Charles Schwab. Hoping to repeat this success, Stuart helped Bank of the West develop a purpose-driven approach built around the idea that where they invest customers’ money matters. Initially, this approach actually cost the bank money as they divested from companies involved in fracking, tar sands exploration, tobacco and other eco-unfriendly areas. It has subsequently helped the bank grow in its key markets.
Layer on the Logo
As part of the brand relaunch, Stuart pushed for a logo change. Recognizing that all of the major banks in the industry were some combination of red, blue and white, Bank of the West’s new logo is green with images of birds at the top—a not-so-subtle signal to the bank’s updated investment policy. “If you play by the rules that they [the banking industry] lay out for you, it’s a predetermined fact that you’ll lose by those rules,” explains Stuart.
Research the Right Target
If you’re a challenger brand (versus a category leader), then your message need not appeal to the masses. Instead, it becomes imperative that your message resonates with a precisely defined target audience. Stuart was careful during the research phase to focus on younger influencers who others come to for advice. If Bank of the West’s sustainability story resonated with these folks, there was a good chance the idea would gain significant traction with a broader audience (as it has).
Execute with Efficiency
As the sixth largest bank in California, Stuart knows they can’t outspend his primary competitors, so he’s sought cost-effective ways to tell the bank’s sustainability story. Initially, a video about the bank’s approach was enough to get the executive team to appreciate how powerful the idea really was. Then an Instagram photo contest with top nature photographers helped spread the word. Stuart acknowledges “they’re just getting started,” but given the success they’ve seen among fellow purpose-driven entrepreneurs, new recruits and word of mouth at events, he’s confident they’ve got a winning game plan.