As part of the WARC x Braze “The invisible enabler” report, Andrea Brimmer, Chief Marketing and Public Relations Officer at Ally Financial, described how the digital financial services brand has adopted gamification as a way to grow financial literacy, customer engagement and build its brand.

Headshot of Andrea Brimmer

Andrea Brimmer, Chief Marketing and Public Relations Officer, Ally Financial

How is tech driving creativity in terms of where it’s come from, what’s changed and where it’s going?

At Ally, we are creating the future now. We want to excite consumers with Ally’s vision for the future of finance by showing up in unexpected ways, creating utility and putting customers at the centre.

Technology is driving rapid change in the marketing landscape and, as marketers, we must move at the speed of tech, culture and the consumer. Technology has driven the ongoing decline of linear TV consumption, explosive growth of streaming, demand for content and the growth of the metaverse and gamified experiences. Each of these brings unique considerations to the way we market and forces us to create paths to new experiences for customers.

Technology also allows us to deliver customised marketing and experiences across a wide array of mediums. As a digital pioneer, a significant part of our value proposition is the very notion of delivering personalised experiences and solutions. We focus on creating value for the customer, adding utility to their interactions with us. Creativity comes into play to ensure that the content we serve is engaging and something that makes customers want to interact with us again and again.

For example, we are very consistent and persistent in gamification which we’ve found to be a great way to engage consumers in increasing their financial literacy and building our brand with young consumers who don’t engage with the traditional platforms. I have hired a new gaming team who are advancing this strategy and building out an Ally-exclusive space to engage consumers and meet this massive audience in a space they already enjoy.

How has the role of data in creativity changed over the last few years and what part does it play in your current creative process?

Our marketing plans are often driven by deep insights from research. For example, we didn’t just go into gaming because it is fun, we did because 84% of all US adults 18-34 play games and 72% of all US adults 35-53 play games. It is still a very new channel for most marketers, and as early adopters, we are at an advantage in platforms that aren’t over saturated with marketing.

The notion of data to intelligence drives our marketplace strategy. We have a robust CRM and analytics team and have in-housed our digital and programmatic planning and buying. This allows us to control our own first and third party data, providing more seamless and valuable experiences for our customers and consumers.

Like all good marketers, we are consistently testing, learning and optimising. We are also getting smarter about delivering the right message to the right person at the right time in everything from CTV, to social, to CRM. We believe deeply that we must provide value in the content and information we deliver and are very respectful in the amount and frequency of interactions.

COVID-19 upended the customer experience and drove many brands towards creating an omnichannel experience. How is creative deployment of technology helping there?

As a digital bank without branches, social distancing opened an opportunity for Ally. People have been moving towards digital options over the past 10 years, but we’ve seen the pandemic accelerate that change. Once the economy normalises, it won’t mean behaviours will go back to the way they were before. Consumers of every age and segment have experienced online banking now, and realise there is little need for a branch experience.

We have not only leaned into this digital acceleration, we have found creative ways to drive increased engagement. Ally has leaned into gaming through innovative programs like Ally Island on Animal Crossing, being the first bank to take Reddit gold, and work with and on Twitch. These efforts are reaching Gen Z in the places they spend time with a message that is relevant across platforms and audiences. Ally is also using gaming to support the financial literacy of future generations through Fintropolis, a world in Minecraft.

Animal Crossing allowed us to create a new island in line with the brand mission of helping people to be better with money so they can achieve strong financial well-being.

On Ally Island players experienced all what many hope for in their offline lives – great homes, swish boats, smart cars and even a playable golf course. We had a virtual Ally headquarters in “Little Detroit,” and even a racetrack as a nod to our sponsorship of NASCAR. Building our own island also meant we had 100% share of voice on Ally Island.

The true centrepiece was Ally’s “turnip exchange” where players could trade their hard-earned turnips for 1,000 bells apiece – 10 times what they would normally get on the “stalk market”. This simple exchange brought Ally’s brand promise of “the smarter way to bank” to life in an authentic, culturally relevant and hugely well-received way.

In the field of tech-driven creativity, what lessons can be learned from the world of gaming and online communities?

Ally was built to be a digital disruptor. We blaze paths in innovation, customer centricity and culture. But we won’t necessarily be the first to things like the metaverse – we are focused on leading consumers into the future but in a way that they can comprehend right now.

We are very focused on creating the authentic authority to be in these spaces not only through innovative campaigns, but by supporting these communities with content that speaks specifically to them. We’ve also made sure that what we do reflects these very diverse communities. We’ve supported diverse Twitch streamers, have a sponsorship with Gaymer and amplified the work of Jeannail Carter, who is creating space for Black women in gaming, through our Daring to Disrupt platform.