Julian Aldridge, Former Vice President, Brand Evangelism and Activation, Charles Schwab, examined the value of experience for marketers who want to build successful brands in his keynote address to Argyle’s CMO membership at the 2016 Chief Marketing Officer Leadership Forum: Spotlight on Financial Services in San Francisco on Jan. 21. In his presentation, “Wake Me Up Before You GoGo,” Aldridge examined his team’s successes and failures over the past few years, along with the important lessons this team learned during that time.
Today’s consumers love marketing cliches, Aldridge noted. But the sad truth is the average person spends 140 hours per month watching TV, Aldridge said, and 20 hours a month playing on Facebook, among other things. Meanwhile, the average person only spends about 2.5 hours examining their finances, Aldridge said. Conversely, the average self-made millionaire spends about 25 hours a month studying their finances.
Finance is incredibly important, Aldridge said. At Charles Schwab, Aldridge said it began to focus on indifference, which it saw as the biggest challenge among consumers. Aldridge pointed out many consumers felt helpless and unempowered, and his company wanted consumers to understand their finances, and ultimately, be able to make more informed financial decisions.
To make a difference in the financial services space, Aldridge said Charles Schwab looked at the overall market. Aldridge noted there were two types of financial services businesses: incumbents and challengers. And in order to succeed in the financial services market, Charles Schwab embraced the role of challenger, Aldridge said: “So if you’re looking to enter one of these markets with a lot of incumbents, how do you do that? You have to take a challenger stance, and you have to think about things very differently.”
Aldridge illustrated his point by examining Virgin America, which took a bold approach to extend its reach in the travel space. This airline had “personality” and was able to deliver a “very singular” flying experience, Aldridge said. As such, Virgin America had two types of customers: detractors and supporters, according to Aldridge. And the airline was satisfied with this, Aldridge said, because consumers either felt positively or negatively about its operations.
“So if you’re looking to enter one of these markets with a lot of incumbents, how do you do that? You have to take a challenger stance, and you have to think about things very differently.”
The challenger DNA reflected by Virgin America has always been a part of Charles Schwab, Aldridge said. However, he also pointed out his company “has done a really good job of hiding it.” Charles Schwab has always embraced its beliefs, Aldridge noted, which has helped the company thrive: “This is what challengers do. They lead with their beliefs. They have fundamentally a real belief about something which is right or wrong in society and how they can help or change that.”
For Charles Schwab to succeed, Aldridge noted his company needed to look for different ways to communicate with its customers. Charles Schwab was willing to sacrifice, Aldridge said, and examined how it could make a difference in its customers’ lives. As such, Aldridge said Charles Schwab challenged the financial services space and was able to change it: “[Challengers] look for monsters … and say we are going to change that … They strategically break conventions of the category.”
Charles Schwab was a game-changer because it provided access to the financial services market for everyday investors, something that was unavailable to consumers 40 years ago, Aldridge said. The company set out to find its “North Star,” Aldridge said, to ensure consumers understood its purpose. Charles Schwab developed a process to educate its customers about its operations, Aldridge noted, that included seven steps.
The process included creating symbols of reevaluation, which causes people to sit up, pay attention and enjoy the “a ha” moment, Aldridge said. But in order to get to the “a ha” moment, Aldridge said Charles Schwab needed to be willing to take risks: “You have to do things that are fairly bold, which cut through the clutter … through the indifference, through the despondency … and you have to get people to sit up and take notice.”
“[Challengers] look for monsters … and say we are going to change that … They strategically break conventions of the category.”
“Intelligent naivety” was the first step of the process, Aldridge said. This step was designed to show consumers that it doesn’t take a huge leap from the norm, Aldridge noted, to look at things slightly differently and find a point that someone may have missed. This is exactly what challengers do day after day, Aldridge added.
Furthermore, Aldridge said Charles Schwab examined why it existed and who it was serving. The company wanted to find new ways to relate to its clientele, Aldridge said, and discovered its true mission was to “transform wage earners into wage owners.” And with this focus, Aldridge said his company was able to develop a client strategy that has delivered proven results: “Our strategy is really simple. We try to look through our clients’ eyes. That’s why we exist, to make people better investors and bearing in mind what they want. Because if we do that well, they’ll reward us.”