At Ally Financial, innovation is its lifeblood. Generating excitement, customer engagement, and interest are all ingredients of its ongoing quest for brand loyalty.

Loyalty360 talked to Ally Financial CMO Andrea Riley about the concept of National Online Bank Day and how that fits into the company’s “Do It Right” message.

Ally Bank is known for its innovative and creative ways to spark customer engagement/customer experience. Can you talk about the genesis of the drone delivery of phone chargers to celebrate National Online Bank Day?
Riley: National Online Bank Day was established by Ally Bank in 2015 to raise awareness of the convenience of online banking when many traditional banks are closed for Columbus Day. The impetus for this year’s event of drone-delivered phone chargers was for consumers to always stay connected–with a fully charged battery to access Ally Bank, open 24/7.

Ally has had a deliberate strategy of being disruptive to gain attention in the marketplace, so this year we commissioned Swiss company Aerotain to build a giant, plum-colored, helium-filled drone to surprise and delight consumers at a local mall in Charlotte, N.C., where our bank’s corporate center is based.

These types of events resonate with your customers. Can you talk about some of the feedback you’ve received about this event and others from the past that helps inform your customer experience/engagement strategies moving forward?
Riley: These events resonate with consumers because of the unexpected, highly-engaging format. In this case, we had the Ally drone whiz around the mall atrium, hovering in front of unsuspecting shoppers to safely deliver free phone chargers. Consumers had lots of interaction with the drone: touching, taking photographs, sharing the surprise with their family. As you can imagine, not many people have an opportunity to experience a 7-foot drone in real life.

Our past campaigns have focused on the same disruptive, highly engaging template. For example, in October 2016, Ally placed Ally Lucky Pennies worth $1,000 each in 10 U.S. cities to demonstrate the importance of valuing every cent, while encouraging Americans to look for opportunities to save money. The campaign generated more than 215 million media impressions and won several awards, including a Reggie Award for National Consumer Campaign, Shorty Silver Award for Best Contest/Promotion and Digiday’s Best Agency/Client Collaboration.

We followed our Lucky Penny campaign in June 2017, with Hardest Working Dollar, to help consumers think differently about how their dollars might “work harder” with an online savings and investment strategy. Ally put 7,500 $1 bills into circulation in 15 cities nationwide and asked consumers to enter the serial numbers of their bills for a chance to win $100, $5,000, or $10,000. The campaign also brought actors dressed as George Washington into each city to do good deeds for hard workers and spread awareness for the campaign. Hardest Working Dollar drove 200M media impressions and generated 1.2M contest participants.

Why do you think Ally Bank resonates so well with consumers today?
Riley: To resonate with consumers and stand out in the space, we stay focused on the idea of client-centricity and our mission of Doing It Right. As a brand, everything we do–from product development to customer service–is driven through that lens, and then we ensure we bring it to life using technology, creativity, and wit. As a result, over the past 18 months, Ally’s disruptor campaigns have been effective in helping consumers think about saving, spending and investing in new and different ways, have driven increased engagement, brand recognition, and new product growth.

By identifying with consumers through familiar personal finance habits and witty campaigns, Ally Bank establishes a personality that customers feel an affinity toward.

Consumers recognize Ally as “different” per the Millard Brown Index. Consumers truly love Ally, with a “Love Quotient” score of 77, second in financial services behind USAA (82). Forresteresearch points to Ally as a premier customer service brand of all categories, not just financial services.

Supported by its powerful brand and a steady stream of creative campaigns, Ally’s customer-driven products continue to perform incredibly well. Ally’s deposit business reported record growth of $12.5 billion in 2016, up 19 percent. Millennial customers continue to be a growing segment of Ally Bank’s customer base.

Customers expect a convenient and simple banking experience that allows them the flexibility to bank on their own terms while making their money work hard for them. Ally is structured to be customer-centric by solving for simple and frequent issues customers experience at other financial service companies.

How does Ally Bank view customer loyalty and how does technology fit into that puzzle?
Riley: Ally Bank was built around customer experience and technology as one of the first online-only banks. Ally’s relationship with technology is the framework for Ally’s past, present, and future. We highly value customer loyalty, and with the use of technology, we can adjust our electronic apps and online investing tools, to learn what best suits our consumers to build upon our relationship.

Ally’s innovation stems from customer demands and needs. Products released in 2016 and 2017 such as Ally Invest, an online brokerage and wealth management platform and the Ally Cashback Credit Card have embodied the intersection between consumer and provider. Ally’s customer loyalty is strengthened by the developments of new services and products using technology and disruption.

Our loyalty to our customers is strengthened by technology woven into the fabric of our brand. We emphasize the use of disruption, rather than brick and mortar, to be available to our consumers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Ally Bank set out to disrupt the status quo and challenge the banking industry. How do you think Ally Bank has fared in the past eight years and what are your plans for the near future?
Riley: The financial services space is crowded with “Goliaths,” large companies with deep pockets. In contrast, Ally is small–the “David” of the space.

Our size has made us nimble, innovative and allowed us to do more with less red tape. In this past year, we’ve set out to disrupt the banking space with new solutions through Amazon’s Alexa and within the investment and mortgage industry.

At Ally, we strive to leverage technology to make customer interactions easier and on their terms. For instance, Ally launched Ally Assist, a virtual, ‘Siri-like’ assistant to help customers get information or manage their banking through speech or text. Customers can give a simple voice command to initiate transfers, pay bills, check balances, or even obtain information on their saving and spending patterns. When we launched Assist three years ago, it was a breakthrough in the industry.

We also heard from our customers that they wanted our relationship to deepen beyond saving and move toward investing. We strategically acquired TradeKing and adapted it to become what is now Ally Invest. Ally Invest offers a wide range of self-directed and managed investment products at some of the industry’s lowest commissions–all in an easy to use, digital format.

In addition, we brought back one of our more popular products in a way that was faster and easier to access: Ally’s trademark Home Offerings are now online. With low rates, price match guarantees and our trusted and dedicated loan experts, we’ve made it easier than ever to say, “welcome home.”

In the near future, we’ll also announce new connected, smart device offerings, further bolstering our disruptive, digital-focused offerings. 

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