Zelle sings a different tune in national marketing campaign

| by Will Hernandez
Zelle sings a different tune in national marketing campaign

Daveed Diggs, right, of Hamilton fame, is the star of Zelle's national TV campaign.

Easy. Fast. Safe.

When Early Warning thought about what it wanted to convey in Zelle's just-launched national TV campaign, Rose Corvo needed to make sure the commercials hit the right notes about the three core characteristics of the mobile person-to-person transfer service. 

Corvo, who is the chief marketing officer at Early Warning, which is responsible for Zelle, chose to express those tenants in a way that's not usually associated with banks. So, what she and her team came up with was a marketing campaign with hip-hop flair that stars a rising voice in Daveed Diggs, who recently gained widespread notoriety thanks to his role in the award-winning Broadway musical Hamilton

Zelle's three commercials, which aired two weekends ago during the NFL Divisional playoff games, are not something you would expect from the banks involved in the service.

But that was the whole point.

"We had to look different from our banks," Corvo told Mobile Payments Today in a recent interview. "We decided to do something unusual, a bold narrative to influence awareness by marrying what we call spoken word, with banking.

"Those are two things you actually wouldn't think of in the same sphere. I didn't want this to be another lifestyle-type ad. I couldn't afford this to look like everything else. So, when we met with Daveed, with him wanting to do this, [he wanted to] bring something different to advertising."

The result was three different commercials that aired over the course of two days during those NFL playoff games. 

The main commercial was a 60-second spot that relayed all the value propositions of the service that Early Warning and the banks wanted to get across to viewers.

The other ads, a couple of 30-second commercials, honed in on two particular aspects of Zelle: ease of use and safety/security.

"You can't be too funny," Corvo said about the commercials' tone. "So, you have to go straight on that edge of, how do I dare to be different, but how do I not make it so different that people actually don't believe it."

Still, Corvo readily admitted that the security theme represented a challenge for her.

"It was so difficult," she said. "You don't want to go out there and claim something and put a target on your back. The way we look at it is like this, banks are regulated, they are FDIC insured, they have claims processes in place."

That particular commercial, the one which discusses security, has a line in it that says how Zelle is secure because the banks back it.

"We know it's an important factor," Corvo said about security concerns. "You can't claim that you're going to stop things, but you do know, that when it comes to your bank, they will do the right thing to protect [your money]."

Zelle's new commercials are the second phase of a marketing campaign that began last summer with the banks involved in the service. 

As more banks began to integrate Zelle within their respective mobile banking apps, it gave those financial institutions the opportunity to educate customers in an approach that Corvo said was consistent with the brand's overall message.

In September, Early Warning launched Zelle's standalone mobile app as well as the first phase of the campaign, which was an online-only effort. Those ads implored curious consumers to visit zellepay.com to sign up for the service. 

It's safe to say at this point that the initial marketing worked.

For example, Bank of America announced last week it saw Zelle transactions hit 68 million, 23 million of which came during the fourth quarter. Those 23 million transactions totaled some $7 billion.

Those fourth quarter numbers not only coincided with Zelle's digital campaign, but also with Bank of America's own marketing efforts.

The bank's "Friends Again" campaign "encourages people to let go of the past, do what's right and pay back a friend," according to a bank spokeswoman.

Bank of America now has some 3 million active Zelle users. 

The service clearly hit a nerve with consumers.

"People have a certain trust factor with their bank," Corvo said about Zelle's initial success. "If you make it so simple that you don't have to download another app and your bank is a part of it, that's an advantage."

Corvo added that Zelle likely converted mobile payments skeptics to the service because of the bank support. 

However, Zelle hasn't been without some problems.

An American Banker story last week highlighted some of the issues users have faced sending and receiving money, as well as setting up an account.

Consumers have left mostly negative comments about the standalone app in both the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Early Warning acknowledged the problems to American Banker and said it is working to address them.

Meantime, Corvo said Early Warning and the banks at the moment will ride the wave of the current TV campaign and tweak where necessary.

"We're heads down making sure this takes off as planned," she said. "We're reading things as this takes off on all fronts. We're making sure we understand exactly what's working."

Topics: Mobile Banking, Money Transfer / P2P, Trends / Statistics

Companies: Bank of America

Will Hernandez
Will Hernandez has 14 years of experience ranging from newspapers to wire services and trade publications. Before becoming Editor of MobilePaymentsToday.com, he spent two years as the content manager for PaymentsJournal.com, a leading payments industry news aggregator and information hub published by Mercator Advisory Group. Will spent four years covering the payments industry as an associate editor for multiple publications in SourceMedia's Payments Group based in Chicago. View Will Hernandez's profile on LinkedIn

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