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How to Think On Your Feet and React In Real-Time as a Community Banker

By Eric Cook

Ann Chen and Ben PankoninRecently I had the pleasure of being joined by two “social media rock stars” from the banking industry on my monthly Banker Education Series webinar show to talk about the growing trend of Pokémon Go and how to position a bank to react quickly when opportunities like this come along. Ann Chen, Senior Marketing Director for Citizens Bank of Edmund and Ben Pankonin, Co-Founder of Social Assurance are both of the millennial generation and dialed in to social, tech and the what’s on consumers’ minds.

Whether you’re using Pokémon Go as a workout, daily “fun” activity, or just to keep you busy, companies (and yes, even some banks) are beginning to adapt to the marketing strategy this game provides. Pokémon Go is out-performing some of the traditional social media platforms (it’s got better engagement than even Facebook!) and is building a path to the creation of a new avenue for brand promotion, particularly if you can capitalize on foot-traffic and bring people “into” your business. Although Pokémon Go is seen as a short-term play by some who think it’s the latest “fad” that all the kids are playing with, it is soon to be a marketing play for businesses who will be able to sponsor Pokestops and Gyms to build online brand awareness and attract the “real person” to their physical office. This will create an opportunity via the app as Pokémon Go positions itself as the new and upcoming form of digital marketing. As stated earlier, it has surpassed (or will eventually) most social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Candy Crush and Instagram in engagement, views, interaction, etc.

During the webinar, Ann shared her bank's strategy and Citizens Bank of Edmund is a prime example of a company engaging in this game with the community. But, more importantly, they are able to take advantage of the game because they have built a culture of nimbleness and creativity to help them embrace new opportunities when they come along. That was one of the characteristics that Ben focused on during the start of the webinar when he helped set the stage for the conversation… While today we’re thinking about Pokémon Go, but only a few short years ago the “new thing” may have been Google AdWords, Facebook itself, Foursquare, Twitter, etc. Being able to understand, adapt and incorporate these new services quickly into a strategy is the sign of a forward-thinking organization, and few community banks are able to do this very well (unfortunately) due to the pressures of compliance, regulatory oversight and customer privacy.

Be Where The People Are

At Citizens, part of their strategy was to embrace the “Pokestop” that was outside of their bank and they created their very own “rest stop” for Pokémon players. With temps approaching 100 degrees in Edmund, OK, players were invited to come inside the bank and enjoy water and a snack at their bank as they play (and of course, the hope was the players also took a look around if that was their first time in the bank). They also offered different kinds of photo contests on social media with prizes for the winners who took photos of Pokémon creatures “in the wild” with the bank’s logo in the background.

To help build excitement and ensure that staff understood what was going on with the Pokémon Go craze, Citizens also stepped up to the plate and educated their staff on social platforms, such as Pokémon Go, and how they help build awareness for the bank and involve the community. They believe it is important to know the difference between sharing, liking, retweeting, etc., as well as a Pokestop, lure, and trainer in Pokémon.

Overall, Pokémon Go has created numerous opportunities for engagement, visual branding (logos, pictures of their bank, digital marketing on social media, connecting a trending element to “their brand”, etc.), new marketing strategies, and some amount of opportunity to execute on such social media platforms. They were even able to quickly include their Pokémon Go efforts with the hugely popular Heard on Hurd community event, which contributed to record numbers for their most recent event – over 30,000 people came out to be part of the event.

The moral of the story, if I were to pick just one, is to ask yourself if your bank (or business) has the culture and process in place that allows for a “real-time” response and quick strategy development when the next opportunity comes along. Granted, in the banking space there may have to be a bit more planning and risk management in place given the industry, but today’s consumer is all about living “in the moment” and if you’re not able to be there with them, there’s a high likelihood your competition will!

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