Bank of America's Meredith Verdone on making brands more human
For all the talk about technology and data, there has been a lot of chatter at the ANA Masters of Marketing about having heart. “The whole notion of humanity is a big theme,” says Meredith Verdone, chief marketing officer of Bank of America. “Are you making your tech more human, or do you have humanity? We are building brands and brands are very emotional things. At the end of the day you have to connect rationally, but also in the heart.”
And the heart for BofA she said, is enabling consumers to live better financial lives "through the power of every connection." In her stage talk, Verdone said that, before CEO Brian Moynihan came on in 2010, the bank’s mission was to be the most-admired brand. “But there is no customer in that,” she said. So the bank pivoted to put the consumer first. “We are not the center of their life,” she said. “Consumers don’t go around talking about how much they love their bank.”
BofA then made its misson to pivot from product-led to customer-led. The result was a campaign telling consumers that BofA can help them realize their financial goals with the theme “What would you like the power to do?”
Things are quite different today than during the last recession, where trust in banks was very low and BofA’s stock price was as low as $3 a share. “Those days were dire,” she said from the stage. Today BofA is ranked No. 15 in market cap and was named last year by Euromoney as the world’s best bank, she said.
Still, the company remains keenly attuned to the possibility of another recession. In this video interview, Verdone says that brands need to be reading consumer sentiment when it comes to both the economy and politics. Verdone says that “what matters to [consumers] today might be different than what matters in the depths of recession,” so marketers must be ready to change their messaging should a downturn hit.
What they should not do, says Verdone, is cut spending. “It’s important to continue your investment." There is a tendency to cut budgets because of bottom line pressures. But it’s important “to be there for your customers and communicate with your customers,” says Verdone. “Going dark would be a very big mistake.”