Marketing Personal Finance by Making Personal Connections

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“As a global bank connecting millions of people across hundreds of countries and cities, we sit in a really unique position to advance important issues and enable progress and make change.”Jennifer Breithaupt, Global Consumer CMO, Citi

Jennifer Breithaupt is the global consumer chief marketing officer for Citi. That means she’s responsible for the look, feel, experience and campaigns for Citi’s consumer card brands. She’s been in the role for about two years, and she’s focused on forging an emotional connection between consumers and her brand. She recently spoke to SheReports™ about changing perspectives and applying #SeeHer principles to more of Citi’s marketing.

Citi is known for a lot of experiential work. Is that part of building an emotional connection?

The idea is to inspire our consumers and prospects around the world to feel optimistic about what’s next, wherever they are in their financial journey. My mission is to help Citi become one of the best-loved brands, and for more than a decade, we’ve placed a big bet on experiential. We launched one of the largest consumer-access platforms of any brand more than a decade ago, and it’s grown into a rather large platform that offers over 12,000 events a year around the world. Music, sports, culinary, theater, lifestyle, what have you. It’s been a really incredibly powerful way for us to connect with our consumers on an emotional level, to really be on the front lines with them when they’re having these once-in-a-lifetime moments that Citi has enabled for them. And it’s been a really important part of our overall marketing mix.

You joined with the #SeeHer initiative over the winter. Does that connect with the emotional focus too?

It does. Our overall mission is to enable growth and progress in the world. We’re constantly challenging ourselves to evolve, and improve, and connect with consumers on that emotional level that I talked about. It’s about making people feel good and optimistic about what’s next. That’s our tagline, “Welcome What’s Next.” As a global bank connecting millions of people across hundreds of countries and cities, we sit in a really unique position to advance important issues and enable progress and make change. So, for us, to eliminate unconscious bias against women and girls in advertising and media, that was a no-brainer.

Woman standing next to a car in an field

For gender equality to be true priority, it starts with our own people. Once we announced our partnership with the ANA around #SeeHer, we hosted a bootcamp for marketing leaders from across our organization and our partners to learn about these issues. We brought together people from brand strategy, advertising, media, social, PR, acquisition, legal, operations, even HR, to talk about gender equality and the depiction of women and girls in all of our advertising media and marketing. And we left there as changed leaders really empowered to cause this change.

It’s been a really incredibly powerful way for us to connect with our consumers on an emotional level, to really be on the front lines with them when they’re having these once-in-a-lifetime moments that Citi has enabled for them.

Now we’re looking at how we can see more solutions across our process, in creative development, in production process, in hiring more women to work on our work, in being more conscious of how we’re depicting women in our storylines. We’ve been implementing GEM scoring, the Gender Equality Metric, across all of our work to make sure that we’re actually walking the walk, doing the things we say we’re doing.

But the biggest thing that has come out of this partnership is that together with the ANA, we developed a new GEM metric that allows us to evaluate social influencers. For Citi as a brand, influencer marketing plays a significant role in our overall strategy. We’ve been doing it for a while; it allows us to organically connect with our consumers. But we’ve recognized that these followers may not represent the general population, so by creating this metric, it allows us to really recognize who these folks are and what their views are.

Woman holding a camera video taping a meeting

Is this influencer GEM scoring available to other marketers too?

Absolutely. But here’s an example I can give you at Citi: This past year we’ve partnered with Raising Wild for our Citi AAdvantage card, one of our co-brand products with American Airlines. This specific card product creates benefits for small-business owners. Raising Wild was founded by two sisters, Kara Haught and Rachelle Hyde, and they design fashionable yet functional swimwear for active moms. They had this loyal tribe of followers who align with that eccentric and entrepreneurial spirit. So, we created some influencer work with them and put that through the GEM testing, and I’m proud to say that the work that we created is ranking very, very high from a GEM perspective, which was exciting. We shared that with all the brands and marketers at CES, and now others are implementing it. It’s really fun to be at the forefront of that.

For gender equality to be true priority, it starts with our own people.

We’re also leading the effort around #SeeHerHearHer. We have our very large entertainment access platform. We’ll do over 6,000 music events a year. And if you look at the stats around women in music, whether it’s songwriters or artists or producers, women are barely in existence. But now, as a brand that’s so invested in music, we’re going to help drive growth and progress for women and girls in entertainment. And we’re asking all of our brand partners — like Mark Pritchard at P&G, who made the commitment from the stage at CES — to think about how we utilize music in the work that we produce.

We’re not saying that we have to use female artists for every song that we might use, but can we make sure that there’s fair representation of female directors and producers of music? That we really do our part, that we hire and mentor girls and women, that we create opportunities for them? The goal is to help all of the brands that utilize music and have a stake in the music industry to join this initiative with us and help impact change.

People listening to music at a concert

You’ve been with Citi for a number of years before your current role. Have you seen shifts in the way that both Citi and financial services more broadly speak to women in marketing?

Absolutely. This change is exciting to me because it’s become harder and harder for marketers like me to make work that really resonates. This work that Citi — and brands like P&G and AT&T and others — are working on is really a creative way into the marketplace. It’s helping us capture consumers’ attention. It’s difficult for us all to break through, so to be more focused on who that target audience is and how we’re making work that resonates and cuts through and captures attention, is incredibly important. Women play such an enormous role in that. That’s a change that we’ve been watching for, I’d say, the last 12 to 18 months. I think it’s becoming a watershed moment right now.

But now, as a brand that’s so invested in music, we’re going to help drive growth and progress for women and girls in entertainment.

Are there specific campaigns or pieces of work that reflect this?

It’s a small example, but we were shooting some commercials about two weeks after the bootcamp, and in one of the storylines we had a mother picking up a child at a soccer practice, driving a minivan. And from just taking a look at it, stopping and looking at the storyboards, the group said, “This doesn’t feel right. Why can’t this be dad picking up the child? Or, mom but not in minivan. Why is mom always in a minivan?” So, even small changes like that really signal that there’s been an overnight change in how we depict women and girls in our advertising.

What do you think are current best practices for marketers in financial services trying to speak to a female audience?

I think it starts at home. If we really want gender equality to be a priority, in financial services or elsewhere, it starts with the people who work on our advertising and marketing. To say to them, “You’re the people who are showing the world how we want to portray women and girls.” It’s remarkable how a small mind-set change can make such a big impact in the world.

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