No Small Change: Book review
The author Anthony Thomson knows a thing or two about new and disruptive financial services, having co-founded and chaired first the ground-breaking Metro Bank and then the purely digital, app-based Atom Bank. He is the Chairman of the newest challenger bank in Australia :86400
It is a passionate, opinionated, direct and practical view on the status of marketing in financial services and set out how to rethink "marketing." The authors don't pull any punches. The book is fiercely critical of some of the industry's long-established marketing habits, providing compelling reasons why it's time to abandon the practices that have given it a bad name.
The book explores the basics of marketing and the links to the financial services industry and why it is a bit messy. The structure of the book is exploring themes that are designed to make the reader rethink the importance of marketing and more generally the alignment between all business functions. The list addressed in the book is….
- How Does Your Firm Define Its Purpose?
- Does Your Firm Have a Strong and Distinctive Culture?
- How Much Is Big Data Changing Your Business?
- Do You Get the Power of Behavioural Economics?
- Are You Really Any Good at Innovation?
- Are You Absolutely Sure About 'Restoring Trust'
- Whatever It Is, Can You Make It Simpler?
- Are You Just a Little Bit Boring?
- Call That a Brand?
- Yes, But Can You Prove It's Working?
- Must Planning Your Comms Be So Horribly Complicated?
Core take away
Marketing in Financial services is poor, disorganised, has no authority and there is a best lip service to the ideals of customer first, customer best practice and customer centric. The authors call marketing "colouring-in departments" and when reflecting on how customers are treated it is a lot more real than we like to accept. Senior exec see marketing as a zero sum gain as the market is saturated and not as important as strategy, pricing, economics, commercial and operations. Digital thinking will bring this thinking up very short and demands a grown-up response.
A theme the authors keep coming back to is "trust" and why the model is broken. The industry has not had the best interests of the user at the core and it is way too late to try and repair the damage, even though a massive amount of budget, time, resources and energy are spend doing just this.
The book looks at the core reason/ rationale for business (purpose and culture) to determine misalignment at the most fundamental level. They draw on many value, mission and purpose statements and draw the user to examine behaviour, marketing, branding, customer experience and other significant issues which means that there is at best lip service to marketing.
They don't suggest anything better than doing alignment and doing what you promise, not rocket science.
Explored at various stages is data (big, small, any) and how this leads to 1-2-1 personalisation. There are a number of conflicts in this area as there is an assumption that more data leads to a better outcome, but they even challenge that in the end. The corresponding issues of privacy, identity and security along with digital trust are not explored in depth, however there are better books on this and this is about the use of data in marketing. However, the outcome is that the industry doesn't get data, doesn't use data and it is not core to the reality of what is being delivered.
Behavioural Economics (BH) is addressed at very high philosophical level but it lacks the depth. Fantastic that it addresses this topic that many don't see as a science, but it will not solve all problems. There could have been so much more on this topic here, but the authors themselves disagree on the relevance of BH.
Innovation comes next. Great to start from disruptive and incremental but then loses the thread and starts to mix both. All the classic issues are presented but it does not take the next step to see innovation is about culture not about a function. The links here to purpose, structure should have been made but it is left as an independent issue that gets solved with innovation people. IMHO - it is not.
Trust comes up again in restoring trust. Very good thinking on the distinction between functional (payment works) and emotional trust and that it is the emotional trust that has been lost and cannot be restored (do you have my best interests at heart). Key here is that they assume the same model and approach to solve the same problem and don't make a leap to present something new.
There is a honest thinking presented on Brand (brand) and there is a lot more on this topic but they do link it back to the wider issues which are the focus of the entire book: Marketing is not taken seriously in financial services and until it becomes a fully functional part of the entire fabric of the organisation, the same issues will remain. Marketing needs to own pricing, products, channels, packaging and analysis. Whilst organisations in financial services remain focussed on end of pipe marketing solutions (fix the problem the rest of the organization has created) the opportunity for better, faster more relevant start-up will flourish.
"We've unconvinced by the current belief that data-driven personalisation will, in itself solve the problem of engagement " - this is spot on and realises that there is far more to do than hope by throwing data at the problems that all the problems will vanish
My Thinking ….. Beyond the Book
The new victim of digital is not an industry but the hierarchy. The book assumes the hierarchy will remain with solos and divisions. I believe that to compete we need to create a new structure.
Trust : the enablement derivative. The focus of the book is on broken promise of trust in Financial Services (emotional, i cannot trust that you have my best interests at heart). To complete in the new data world, those with a Brand/ brand could re-position to win trust in a new way by giving data back to users and providing users with choice, convenience and through this create a new trust and new businesses model.
The next model is here - it is just not evenly distributed. The focus is on the same model powering the new marketing lead digital products. My view is that there is a new model based on trust to use, access and add value to your data first; which is linked to Trust : the enablement derivative
Data is not oil, gold or labour - it is Data! The focus is that we don't have the language to describe these new models and we need to start with the discovery that data is a new core element, rather like space and time. We need to use new words rather that the controversial ones that we all argue about.
Trust and Loyalty are just economic manipulations. We need to call things for what they are, behavioural economics will not move forward if we hide in plain sight what we are doing with data …. it will break the very trust we want to create. It will be PPI all over again.
Ask the question : have not got a clue of the answer is real (the mind is flat): We ask questions to users in a belief they can tell us a real answer based on time and facts. Evident now that we create and justify answers to meet the context and relationship at that moment in time - this blows a hole in most research. Data is King.