Chief Marketing Officer

The Power of Innovation, Savvy Analytics & Customer-Centricity at RBC

Tracy Hackett, Vice President of Marketing and longtime RBC veteran sat down with Lori Bieda, Executive Lead, Customer Intelligence at SAS Institute, to discuss the art of keeping a brand relevant and loved in a volatile economic environment.

Lori Bieda: Tell us about your background and your current role with RBC.

Tracy Hackett: My background is diverse, both in role type and geography. I’ve had the opportunity to work coast to coast, in customer-facing as well as national office roles, and across several business lines. I first started with the bank as a part-time teller and right away I knew RBC was a great place to work. I worked my way up to branch manager and then was given my first national office role in our training department where I taught new hires the ins and outs of lending money, but even that experience was focused on the customer and how to serve them well while also achieving business objectives. A lot of my career has centered around sales management and sales leadership – both in design and practical execution – and the ongoing focus on how to connect sales people to the needs and expectations of our clients led me to marketing.

In my current role, I am privileged to work collaboratively with partners and peers in order to deliver customer-centric marketing solutions that drive business results. Serving Canadian Banking and Insurance, the team develops, executes and measures our impact on business with a mandate to have strong ROI across campaigns and channels. This job is about ensuring the right execution, in the right channel, at the right cost in order to resonate with the right client.

Since your start at RBC, how have you seen RBC grow as a brand? What are some challenges that RBC faces today that weren’t as prevalent when you first started? How has RBC adapted to address these challenges?

When I first started at RBC we didn’t think about brand like we do today. The perception of banks has changed over the years and that’s required us to be more purposeful in nurturing our brand, protecting its value and ensuring that consumers believe our brand is relevant to them. Recent market pressures have certainly shown that different brand attributes can become more important to customers as their situations change. For example, 10 years ago being big, strong, stable and somewhat conservative may not have been considered glamorous attributes, so our energy was on highlighting more client-centric aspects of the brand. But in times where consumers truly needed strength and reliability, RBC was able to adapt by gently shifting our focus to remind Canadians of the trustworthiness and sense of duty to our customers that has underpinned RBC since it first began.

You were a part of a team from RBC that created the Learning Money with Leo application that focuses on teaching children ages three to six the importance of saving money and being in charge in their finances. Can you talk to us about RBC’s motive to specifically target young children for this project?

This has been an exciting initiative for everyone at RBC. We deliver advice to a wide variety of clients who have different needs and priorities, but one area of support our customers told us they wanted help with was ensuring they were able to instill a solid understanding of financial basics in their young children. RBC clients are smart and weren’t looking for a bank to do their job as parents, but they were seeking help from a trusted partner, and it was that dialogue that led to the development of Learning Money with Leo.

The app is targeted to children ages three to six, so right away that made it something new. Even kids that young are highly connected, so we knew we had to deliver content that was tailored to them and in new channels and formats. In developing this exciting content, we set out to embed financial concepts into activities that were fun and engaging without losing sight of what their parents were asking us to do. The app contains a number of activities that we can update and refresh which allow us to continually expand the suite of financial lessons for kids. From a marketing perspective, we had to operate with the highest level of care in our branding and messaging given the young age of our audience and the confidence parents put in this solution.

We’ve used a variety of channels to tell people about Learning Money with Leo, including social media. It was important to RBC to offer this financial learning to any Canadian, not just our own clients, so we made the decision to put it on our very unique and industry-leading Advice Centre as a way to demonstrate that RBC is the place to go for advice that helps you achieve whatever is most important to you.

Are there any other exciting projects on the horizon that you can share with us?

There are so many interesting and dynamic projects on the go – it wouldn’t be RBC if that wasn’t so! If you were lucky enough to attend any of the recent Free the Children events, including We Day, you’ll know that RBC is partnering with this incredible organization and together we’ll be bringing new learning opportunities and new ways to interact with the RBC brand.

Talk to us about how RBC uses data and analytics to shape your marketing strategies and content. How have you utilized data and analytics to understand your customers more fully? How have you used these insights to build more tailored, customized content for these customers?

Client data and marketing analytics are at the heart of our planning and strategic execution. Clients entrust us with important data and we work to earn that trust by using data to ensure only relevant messages are delivered, that clients are contacted in the channel of their choice and at a frequency that makes sense for them. We use marketing and campaign performance analytics to assess traditional performance, but while everyone does that, RBC also leverages its analytic capabilities to ensure we had the appropriate level of investment in the right channel, and had sufficient media to deliver messages effectively and efficiently. You can overdo any campaign by taking a shotgun approach, but if you are committed to mid- and post-campaign analysis you’ll ensure strong ROI both at the channel and campaign level.

We use insights to tailor messages when it makes sense to do so. In today’s online and digital world, it’s possible to leverage an array of messages within a campaign to be more targeted, efficient and of course meaningful to the customer. Being an insight-driven marketing group can be something as simple as ensuring the right language is used across markets, right up to the complexity of individual messages delivered in online banking.

“We use marketing and campaign performance analytics to assess traditional performance, but while everyone does that, RBC also leverages its analytic capabilities to ensure we had the appropriate level of investment in the right channel, and had sufficient media to deliver messages effectively and efficiently.”

How has your team utilized social media to connect with customers? Have you had a hard time quantifying how your investments into social media are driving results?

Our approach to social media is that it’s another tool in our toolkit for listening to and interacting with clients – it’s really about expanding our marketing channel capability and not treating the social tools and mediums as if they were a stand-alone or separate campaign. We use social media to make it easier to listen to our customers and, in turn, respond to them faster than we can in other channels, with a specific focus on service, providing advice tips, saving them time and money, and of course encouraging them to join in our community support and development activities.

The examples are diverse, which of course is what makes social channels a great opportunity. We’ve been able to provide large groups of clients with advice and direction in times of crisis, engage clients in fun and interactive games that offer practical, useable financial tips, and ask them for real-time feedback on products and rewards programs, as well as of course bring interested clients together to share their own ideas and experience. A good example of that was the Twitter party we hosted when Learning Money with Leo was first launched.

The key to quantifying your investment is to be clear upfront on why you’re leveraging social channels and tools in your marketing mix, declaring what new or additional customer activity you expect to see as a result of including those channels, and then sticking to the discipline of measuring it. It’s not enough to simply conceive of cool, fun ideas – that’s the easy part. You also have to be declarative in your business case, set up the measurement protocols and then be prepared to accept the results. Anytime you introduce new elements into your campaign mix there are bound to be things that simply don’t play out like you thought they would, and that’s okay in the short term. If you have a good process to assess and measure the investment and use the learning to get better each time, then it’s much more likely that your ability to invest smartly will rival the rigor used when selecting the more traditional channels. Nobody has the budget for random acts of marketing, so smart, best-effort decision-making is necessary.

Let’s discuss the multitude of channels through which marketers can interact with their target customers today. How have you woven these digital channels into the overall marketing strategy in order to engage with customers most efficiently at multiple touch points? How has the need to provide consistent content through multiple channels at all times affected your “omnichannel” strategy?

Digital channels offer the flexibility and speed that not all channels do, so again it’s critical that the right channel be used to deliver the right message. RBC is quickly migrating to digital channels simply because that is the preference of our customers, and while speed and reduced costs can appear to be additional benefits, a lot of time, effort and production costs can be incurred if you’re not paying attention. Digital is playing a critical role in our multi-channel communication approach, so for us the key is to think about digital and social channels at the planning and design phase of a campaign or initiative. Planning your channels in isolation will weaken the total power of your message, and you’ll experience the unintended consequence of duplication and increased production costs.

Providing a greater and more consistent suite of quality content is the challenge of course, but if you fail to plan for that up front it’s almost impossible to manage the work effort and quality. It takes more focus and commitment in the early stages, but it’s worth it.

One of your many accomplishments includes the design and introduction of RBC’s “Advice You Can Bank On” brand re-launch. Why do you think this campaign was so successful, and can you tell us how you translate “advice” across the vast array of bank channels in a way that provides sustainable brand differentiation?

I think “Advice You Can Bank On” was successful for two reasons. First, it showed consumers that financial advice was accessible to everyone. It was RBC’s objective to let Canadians know that advice is what we do and not reserved just for those that were already well-established. The second reason this resonates with customers is that advice is communicated in common, practical ways and in many forms; everything from a money-saving tip to a full financial plan – whatever helps the customer.

Translating advice across channels is an exciting part of our marketing challenge. We had to consider both what would be useful and actionable, how much time the client would have depending on the channel and how we could redirect them to other channels if they were interested in more. RBC has used quick, targeted messages at our ATM machines – not adding to the customer’s transaction time – including facts, tips and helpful direction via our in-branch digital signage, diversity across our digital and social channels of course, and even full self-serve channels like the RBC Advice Centre which offers advice, ideas, insight and even tips from our clients. And all this happens in a place where the customer controls the time spent and the exploration too.

As a marketer in the banking business where there is so much information, client insight and research, how do you approach harnessing all the power of that insight to drive really on-point, relevant marketing? Can you describe to us how you’re set up to take advantage of all that insight?

You’re quite right in identifying the almost overwhelming data and research in the financial services field, and when you add that to what we know about our own RBC clients it’s tempting to use it all, but the simple truth of marketing still applies. Focus on what’s most important, timely and relevant to the consumer and keep that at the heart of your message.

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Arbie, an RBC-developed animated man in a navy blue suit and a top hat, was first introduced after the company had conducted research in 2007 that showed the bank needed to appear warmer. RBC has seemingly continued to focus on innovation and ways to better market itself during periods of change. Do you feel that this innovative culture has truly driven success for the organization and the marketing team in particular?

I do. Innovation is deeply embedded in the RBC culture, but is always balanced with a commitment to innovate in ways that add value to both the consumer and the shareholder – in other words, it’s not just innovation for its own sake. An innovative spirit does drive our culture and underpins tremendous collaboration and teamwork, and particularly in marketing it spurs us to stay committed to the discipline needed to leverage a multi-channel approach. 

Tracy Hackett
Tracy Hackett is Vice President of Marketing, RBC Royal Bank. She has responsibility for overall design, direction, and execution of marketing initiatives across all lines of business who serve the Canadian-based client. In addition to directly supporting business objectives, she led the 2010 Vancouver Olympic activation, the introduction of RBC’s new iconic brand figure, and most recently the introduction of new digital products and channels including the RBC Advice Centre.

Ms. Hackett began her career with RBC in the retail branch and administrative area and expanded her retail experience to include roles in lending and branch management within the banking network. Later, she joined the training department where she was responsible for the sales training programs for Ontario.

Following that, she was a member of RBC Banking’s national retail sales department in which she focused on the design and implementation of sales practices. Ms. Hackett then became the Sales & Market Manager for Southern Saskatchewan where she held leadership responsibilities that included personal and business markets, before becoming head of Sales Effectiveness for RBC Banking’s Atlantic region.

From there, she was appointed Vice-President, Sales Effectiveness for RBI Financial Planning, a brand new business shared by both RBC Banking and RBC Investments. She was subsequently named Vice-President & Director for the newly created RBC Investments Sales Effectiveness group. In this role, she had responsibilities for sales and sales management practices for RBC Financial Group’s wealth management businesses, both domestically and internationally, while also continuing to play a key role in co-ordinating leadership activity between RBCI and RBC Banking via the Integrated Client Service initiative. Before joining the marketing team, she was responsible for clients, sales forces, and the bottom line revenue in Calgary, Alberta.

Ms. Hackett holds an MBA through St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is a fellow of the Institute of Canadian Bankers, and holds both a Personal Financial Planning designation and a Canadian Financial Planning diploma.

An active member of the communities where she works and lives, Ms Hackett supports an urban women’s shelter and Toronto’s hospital for the treatment of cancer.

Lori Bieda
Lori Bieda is a marketing and analytics executive with 19 years of experience devoted to driving profitable business growth through the strategic use of customer intelligence. Having worked across North and South America, she’s helped Fortune 500 organizations in the financial services, insurance, telecommunications, technology, publishing, retail and manufacturing sectors evolve their marketing and analytics expertise.

She started her career in the marketing service provider sector at top tier direct agencies like Ogilvy1, Rapp Collins and KnowledgeBase Marketing, where she developed and executed marketing and analytics initiatives for business-to-consumer and business-to-business markets, for clients such as IBM, Dell, Bell and Nesbitt Burns.

Following that, she spent over a decade in the Canadian financial services sector working for top banks like Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Bank of Montreal where she held increasingly senior positions overseeing functions related to: credit card marketing, acquisition, retention, up/cross-sell, price optimization, revenue/risk/price trade-off management, customer segmentation, and alliance partnerships. Most recently, she was Vice President of Client Insights and Database Marketing at CIBC where she was responsible for management of all direct marketing, enterprise analytics, measurement, and market research across the bank. In that capacity, she also helped develop the retail bank strategy, leveraging the vast array of customer and market insights to isolate business trends and opportunities.

A frequent industry speaker, writer, contributor and thought leader, Lori is currently SAS’ Executive Lead for Customer Intelligence where she consults with companies across Canada, the U.S. and Latin America on the strategic use of customer intelligence, and integrated approaches to marketing management.

Visit Argyle Executive Forum's CIO/CMO DINNER: Closing the Gap Between IT and Marketing to Get Superior Actionable Customer Insights- New York in New York, NY on Jan 29, 2020

right arrow icon

Next Article:
Storytelling: Most Powerful Aspect of Advertising