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What’s Next For Citi? Next-Gen, Tech-Infused CX, Says CMO

It’s a time of change at Citi, as the global banking giant transforms and redefines the role it plays in the lives of its customers.

And the way forward, according to Citi’s global consumer CMO, Jennifer Breithaupt, is by providing them with experiences that run deeper than just a credit-card transaction.

“Everything that we do, all day long, is with a nod to experience first,” Breithaupt said. “If it’s not going to help or enable our customers or give them an advantage, it’s not something that we want to do or focus on.”

At the heart of this customer-centric approach is a new campaign with the message “Welcome What’s Next.” In this exclusive interview with CMO.com, Breithaupt talks about the strategy behind the campaign, including why music plays such a huge part. She also discusses Citi’s “obsession” with emerging tech, and offers a great piece of career advice for those just starting out in digital.

CMO.com: What are your three strategic priorities for the next 12 to 18 months?
Breithaupt:
We just launched a new advertising campaign, so really redefining and shaping what the global consumer brand looks like and means around the world for Citi is a top priority for me. Additionally, technology and the integration of emerging technologies into our card members’ experiences and also into our marketing is critically important to us.

The third big priority for us is the next-generation fan experience. We’ve built our overall access platform, and now, taking the new brand look and feel, and taking that new technology, merging those together to create what we call “access beyond attendance.”

Those are the things that we’re really focused on, and the advertising campaign is the halo over everything that we’re doing right now.

CMO.com: Since we’re on that topic, can we talk about the campaign a little bit? I know that it’s music-driven, which I think is really interesting. What’s the strategy?
Breithaupt: Earlier this year we set out with our agency, Publicis, to create a campaign that injects emotion into the financial services category. The goal there was to inspire our consumers to feel optimistic about what’s next, wherever they are in their financial journey, for big or small moments. That was how we started thinking about what Citi’s role should be to consumers, and we’ve determined that it’s really helping them welcome what’s next.

We realized that we could leverage some assets that we already had. We have this large entertainment access program, which has an enormous music component to it. We thought using that platform and the power of music as a universal language was one of the ways in. And, instead of using celebrities, we decided to use consumers and real people at the center of these stories. So, essentially, the campaign uses this powerful tool of music, stimulating visuals, and simple, simple language around what we offer our customers. That’s really how we landed on the campaign that we have now.

CMO.com: Why music?
Breithaupt:
We did some research before we landed on this, and we found that 42% of the folks surveyed said that a picture is most likely to cause them to have a physical reaction, such as a smile, tears, or laughter. Thirty-one percent said that music is mostly likely to evoke these types of emotions. Additionally, 80% of the folks who responded to the survey agreed that they’re more likely to remember and more likely to pay attention to a commercial that has great music in it.

What was also really interesting is that 45% of the people surveyed associated their favorite brands with specific songs and music, and 39% said they’re more likely to purchase a product being promoted in a commercial with their favorite song. (Click here to view's Citi's infographic based on the study.)

CMO.com: Can you tell me about the campaign execution?
Breithaupt:
At the center are these spots we are using songs like Gene Kelly’s “Singin’ in the Rain,” Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” and the Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man.” The campaign line that we’re using is “Welcome What’s Next” because that really is about the consumers. Whether it’s that small moment during the day or a bigger moment, a bigger financial moment, Citi’s there to help you and be your partner.

There are six spots in total, two that are currently on air as well as all the surrounding marketing, whether that be digital, out of home, or print. We’ll continue to phase in the other spots through the balance of the year, but we’re really proud of it. We’re getting great feedback from the marketplace and from consumers. So, early days, but very excited about the campaign.

CMO.com: How are you going to measure the success for this effort?
Breithaupt:
There are a lot of different ways that we’re measuring it. I think when you add them up, there are over 22 KPIs for how we’re thinking about what success looks like. Obviously, preference is a very large piece of that.

If you think about just an overall preference funnel for consumers, they start by being aware of you, which is critically important. Then they move onto loyalty, and then they move onto recurrent revenue. I think with the strength of this campaign, when it’s been out there, we’ll be able to move people through that preference funnel much faster than we have been without an overarching consumer campaign. When everything’s sticking and tying together, and there’s consistency in the marketplace and in our messaging, we think that preference funnel will be moving a lot faster than it is right now.

In addition to preference, there’s things like NPS that’s critically important to us. Then there’s obviously a lot of vanity metrics as well as clicks and people viewing us in different places. Then also [we have] our traditional business metrics, which are people taking our products and services and then being engaged with them. So, it’s a quite healthy platform of results that we’re looking at in order to see the success of this campaign.

CMO.com: Let’s talk about emerging technology. There’s a lot happening today. Which ones are you most focused on and why?
Breithaupt:
We’re obsessed with all this emerging technology. We think that, with consumers being more hyperconnected than ever, interacting with them in different ways is critically important.

I had mentioned that next-generation fan experience is a priority for us. That’s one place where we are making a big bet on virtual reality. We started working with VR last year when we did a live stream at The Today Show with the pop rock band DNCE. That was our first foray into virtual reality. We then formed a partnership with Live Nation and NextVR and have since produced a series of 10 live concerts in virtual reality, including, just to name a few, Slash, Imagine Dragons, Lady Antebellum, and Third Eye Blind. Also, we are a partner for the Global Citizen Festival that happens in Central Park, and, for the first time ever, we livestreamed that in virtual reality as well. This all goes back to giving people “access beyond attendance,” which I talked about earlier. 


DNCE performance. Photo Credit: Kevin Mazur

We’re also really focused on payment technology, in terms of not just how people transact, but then also how people store their event tickets and how they pay for things when they are at the event. We do a lot around music festivals, and we’re looking at RFID and having perks for people when they’re spending at an event.

We’re also testing technology that is built with AI. A really great example is called Vogon, which allows you to create custom ads that meet people where they are. So, say I’m looking for a great new recipe. It’s serving up the ad, and it’s customized so it’s relevant to what you’ve been looking at. It creates a nice place for us to be relevant within a consumer’s path online.

We’re just constantly thinking about new places, new technology, and new ways to interact with our consumers.

CMO.com: Adobe (CMO.com’s parent company) talks a lot about this idea of making experience your business. Would you say that Citi is an experience-led organization?
Breithaupt:
We are definitely an experience brand, and over the past few years, Citi has truly been obsessed over the transformation of our customer experience, with a nod to redefining the next generation of digital experiences. The Citi brand is the brand in hand, from a card standpoint. So customers are carrying our brand in their wallets wherever they go and having multiple experiences in a single day. We are so focused on figuring out how we can provide the best possible experience across all the different touch points.

Everything that we do, all day long, is with a nod to experience first. If it’s not going to help or enable our customers or give them an advantage, it’s something that we don’t want to do or focus on. Our goal is to be a brand that enables these magical moments and experiences. If you think about that overall fan experience, whether it’s a sporting event or a music event, Citi has a unique position there, because in the early days of that fan experience, we enable the ticket purchase. Now we’re focusing on how to impact the rest of the experience, when they are at the event.

CMO.com: If you could give your younger one piece of career advice, what would it be?
Breithaupt:
I think sometimes people wait and assume things will come to them. I think being proactive, owning your own career, and managing that career and your own brand is critically important.

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