For the second episode in our CMOs series, Paul Roetzer sits down with Andrea Brimmer, Chief Marketing and PR Officer of Ally, for a discussion about the role AI in marketing plays at the all-digital financial services organization.
Founded in 2007, Ally is one of the only full-scale digital financial services companies in the United States, with its 10,000+ employees handling everything from auto loans to finance dealer inventory. As a Top 25 bank, they boast over 10 million customers, alongside $150 billion in retail deposits.
Perhaps even more fascinating is that Ally has 24 employees with “artificial intelligence” or “machine learning” in their titles.
Here are some of the steps Brimmer takes to ensure Ally’s marketing is continually fresh, powerful, and forward-thinking.
As a digitally native company, Ally makes it a priority to use technology in a variety of ways.
During the Marketing AI Show Podcast, Brimmer explained how her team uses AI to take an in-depth look across processes, automating once-manual methods and simplifying how information gets copied from one system into another.
Many of these automated tasks focus around document management, including extracting information from ID numbers to income amount. The goal is to take some of the human error factors out of the equation — and to make work easier.
However, Brimmer makes it clear that Ally does not use AI at all to make financial decisions on loan approvals or credit line decisioning. Instead, they rely on their AI tools to empower faster, smoother conversations with customers. This can be seen via their customer engagement tool, a conversational AI called Ally Assist, which the company launched in 2015.
During Andrea’s seven-year tenure as Ally’s CMO, the company has consistently harnessed the power of augmented and virtual reality.
“The point is we’ve used technology like VR, AR, and AI to engage people on a subject that is really important: financial literacy and managing your money,” Brimmer said. “But it’s a subject that people are apathetic about because it’s not sexy.”
It’s this apathy that forces marketing teams to get creative, and Ally is leveraging AI in innovative ways.
From developing a life-size, augmented reality version of Monopoly to creating an island in the Nintendo video game Animal Crossing to even building a world within Minecraft to promote financial literacy for children, Brimmer and the rest of the Ally team are always finding new and innovative ways to tie AI into their marketing strategy.
With all of the great ideas Ally is coming up with, Brimmer relies on a variety of tools to get the job done. For example, her team uses Persado to drive many of their ongoing creative investments.
Persado’s AI Language Generation tools give Ally the ability to send and optimize messages across many channels. “[Persado] allows us to literally test hundreds of variations of marketing collateral,” Brimmer explained.
Between May 2021 and March 2022, Ally and Persado launched nine language experiments geared at cross-selling mortgage and investment products to existing customers. With an overarching goal of increasing engagement for deposit account and automotive account holders, one experiment aimed to leverage an email campaign to raise awareness about Ally’s new Invest product.
Persado’s Motivation AI platform generated and then tested a set of alternative subject lines, and found that the winning subject line included an introductory phrase, followed by a secondary sentence focused on Excitement: “Please consider: We think you’ll like Ally Invest.”
That, coupled with a powerful call-to-action in the email body, drove a 57% increase in new Ally Invest accounts above what was achieved by Ally’s original message. Across the diverse array of campaigns run thus far, Persado’s Motivation AI has enabled Ally to double click-through rates above the engagement achieved by control messages, and increase conversions — based on the purpose of the campaign — by an average of 16%.
Brimmer is the first to admit that a career in marketing is fast-moving and that financial services is not known for being forward-thinking.
“I think it’s important to realize that marketing is in a constant state of evolution now,” said Brimmer. “There’s no set it and forget it in our business.”
At Ally, Brimmer and team try to create an environment that embraces change and innovation and hire people with diverse backgrounds to keep up with all the great digital experiences available for consumers. After all, the Ally app is not compared to Chase and Wells Fargo these days as much as it’s compared to Netflix, DoorDash, and other consumer apps.
“We have to be developing a technology roadmap that’s building us against the best consumer experiences out there regardless of category,” Brimmer concluded in the Marketing AI Show Podcast. “That’s really the lens we put on everything.” Listen to the complete podcast here.
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