The Logo Network recently named the 25 most LGBT-friendly companies – and financial brands had strong representation on the list. Logo scored companies based on their visibility and dedication through advertising, social media, executive leadership, donations, and marriage equality or other policy support. The financial brands on Logo’s list are among the nation’s biggest banks – with the advertising budgets to match – but the takeaways from their approach to LGBT marketing can prove valuable for regional financial institutions looking to take inclusive action of their own.We explore examples of these efforts and lessons smaller banks can learn from these top financial brands’ dedication to the LGBT community.
Wells Fargo Commercial: Learning Sign Language This tear-jerker from Wells Fargo made the social media rounds this year, and although some might say that this commercial had very little to do with banking, it put the brand well ahead of its competitors in the eyes of the LGBT community – especially after Wells Fargo refused to pull the television spot when several groups threatened to boycott the bank.
TD Bank has been long known for its inclusive advertising and support of the LGBT community through a wide range of endeavors, including inclusive print advertising, sponsorships of pride celebrations, and the advocacy of its former CEO, Ed Clark. Especially noteworthy is TD Bank’s commitment to LGBT youth – in addition to partnering with relevant organizations, the bank released the “Make it Better” video featuring LGBT employees and their allies encouraging viewers to impact positive change for LGBT youth.
Bank of America
Bank of America provides specialized training to its financial advisors so they are better able to serve the unique financial planning needs of its LGBT customers. After same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, Bank of America showed their support by changing their Facebook profile picture to a rainbow-colored version of their logo, which garnered nearly 13x more likes, 24x more shares, and 24x more comments – almost universally messages of support from proud employees and customers – than than their average profile picture.
The case for LGBT-inclusive marketing is a strong one – equality is not only important for social progress, it’s good for business. According to Logo, the estimated buying power of the LGBT community is $884 billion, and their research has found that, of that community, “71 percent are more likely to support a brand after seeing an equality-themed ad, and 71 percent were more likely to purchase from a company that donates to LGBT causes.”
Not to mention LGBT allies – a group that continues to expand as national attention on equality influences consumer decisions, especially among Millennials. According to a 2014 Google Consumer Survey, over 45% of consumers under 34 years old say they’re more likely to do repeat business with an LGBT-friendly company. And of that group, more than 54% would choose an equality-focused brand over a competitor.
So how can regional banks learn from what the big banks are doing to express their commitment to the LGBT community? We recently spoke with one of our financial clients, Rockland Trust, a Massachusetts-based bank, to compile a list of five guiding principles that regional banks can put into practice:
1. Equality Begins at Home: Fostering a “diverse and inclusive workplace” had always been a priority for the bank, says Annmarie Hewitt, SVP-Director of Loan Operations and the co-chair of the bank’s LGBT Pride Team, but they took their efforts one step further by completing the rigorous Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality survey on workplace equality – a good place for a regional bank to begin gauging their efforts to provide the right benefits and support to LGBT employees. Rockland Trust earned a perfect score, as did all three of the banks on Logo’s list. By focusing on creating an LGBT-friendly workplace, regional banks can send a message that they prioritize equality beginning with their internal community.
2. Understand the Issues: By learning more about the issues and concerns unique to the LGBT community, an institution can align their outreach efforts with what matters to their audience. This is particularly important for banks, as financial matters are so integral to people’s everyday lives. Each of the banks on Logo’s list have implemented specialized training to educate their financial advisors about nuances specific to LGBT financial concerns. Rockland Trust took that one step further and has initiated a series of financial seminars exclusively for the LGBT community, which “helps create an environment where people feel free to ask questions without judgment,” says Hewitt.
3. Prioritize Authenticity: Consumers are quick to sniff out pandering or patronization, so it’s important that banks are committed to inclusion at every level. This may mean both supporting LGBT-specific initiatives and representing the community in general marketing. Both Rockland Trust and TD Bank are strong supporters of Pride celebrations, and the Wells Fargo commercial cited above does an excellent job making the sexual orientation of the couple incidental to the story. For local banks without national television budgets, authenticity of support can manifest itself in myriad ways – from sponsoring a parade float to including a different type of family in their next in-branch poster.
4. Avoid Stereotypes and Clichés: It should go without saying, but marketers should steer clear of using the well-trodden stereotypical portrayals of LGBT individuals that unfortunately dominated media representation for so long. According to AdRespect, a leading LGBT advertising watchdog, “[integrating] individuals and couples into ‘slice-of-life’ and ‘everyday’ depictions” allows companies to represent this diversity in a positive and realistic way. For example, TD Bank’s depiction of a gay couple in a financial planning print ad feels like a genuine portrayal of the product’s target audience.
5. Be Consistent and Confident: Perhaps most importantly, companies need to embrace their position on equality with pride. In the past, brands employed coding or vague messaging in an attempt to appeal to one group without offending another, but as the overwhelming positive engagement with Bank of America’s profile picture demonstrates, today’s consumers respect an institution that stands up for its beliefs. Lisa Lynch, SVP of Brand Management at Rockland Trust, cites the bank’s engagement with advocacy organizations as a way one regional bank has publicly shown its support for the LGBT community.
According to Rich Ferrero, Vice President of Communications for GLAAD, in an interview with NPR on the subject, “There’s more to be gained by marketing to gay people than by not marketing to them.” By keeping these principles in mind, regional banks can take steps to positively represent and show their support for the LGBT community, even with limited resources. And the impact of inclusive marketing is clear – as one customer explained to Lynch, “I’ve always banked with Rockland Trust because you’re good people, but these initiatives that show interest in our community make me want to bank with you even more.” In an industry where there’s little more valuable than gaining a customer for life, that type of appreciation speaks for itself.
Forge’s Financial Marketing Group is exclusively focused on driving brand awareness and preference, new account openings, deposit growth, and cross-sell opportunities. To learn more about Forge or our Financial Marketing Group, email Jesse Strawbridge.