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A young woman delivers a monologue about the accessories she might need going on vacation with her boyfriend – a ‘new belt’, ‘some nylons’ and ‘what girl wouldn’t need new shoes’. Each statement is cut to an increasingly dizzying image of the woman, climber Katie Brown, and her boyfriend climbing a spectacularly high rock in Utah. Concepts such as ‘Adventure’, ‘Ambition’ and ‘Achievement’, may have been concepts the marketing people might have wanted to tick off for their credit card, but the general public simply gawped in amazement at this woman standing at the eye-wateringly high, but thin, summit.
But Citi have been addressing women for many years with their Women and Co. project, which is more than a marketing device as it addresses the act that in general terms, women and men have different approaches to money. Surveys confirm that women are the main financial decision-makers in households, while after the financial crisis journalists and academics raised the question as to whether the machismo of traders may have encouraged reckless risk-taking.
The Women and Co. project, which includes a website providing financial information and debate specifically tailored to women, has been a highly successful initiative. The Curve asked Linda Descano, President and CEO of Women and Co. at Citi, about the lessons they have learned from this project which has been running now for over a decade.
Curve: Was there a defining moment, set of events or a trend that lead to Citi setting up Women & Co.?
Linda Descano: The idea for Women & Co. began 12 years ago with a common theme of conversations overheard by Citi’s CFO at the Fortune Most Powerful Women in Business Summit about women being underserved and undervalued by the financial services industry. So Citi created an educational resource on all aspects of personal finance to help better serve the needs of Citi’s customers, which has evolved over the years into the Women & Co. that you see today.
Curve: What are the key features of communicating to women around money?
LD: The way that we communicate to women and organize our content has evolved from the conversations that we’ve had over the years with women about how money fits into the big picture of their lives. Our content fits into the five categories of content that women told us matter most – family, home, lifestyle, career and investments – to make it easier for women to navigate the site and find what they need.
We’ve learned that to be successful, for example, we need to be genuine, engaging and empathetic – our reader must feel like we understand her. We’ve done this in one way on Women & Co. by including our photos and writing in the first-person to engage emotionally with our readers and open up about our own vulnerabilities. We become a trusted resource by drawing on our own expertise, yet we’re making our content actionable by sharing a story – which helps our readers develop an emotional connection to our brand.
Curve: Are there any lessons from the success and experience of Women & Co. that could be applied to the financial services sector as a whole?
LD: Women & Co. continues to be a “petri dish” for Citi, where we’ve been able to dip our toe in the water to get important learnings about content marketing on a small scale to help drive innovation and insights across the company.
In essence, we’re working towards redefining what consumer engagement means in a conversational economy and the important role that content plays in helping a brand be present in social conversations in a way that is relevant, resonant and rewarding to a consumer in that it is delivering value.
Developing content with a human voice is key, and ensuring that the voice is consistent across multiple platforms is a must. We’re not just talking about our web site and social platforms – this way of talking to our customers needs to be infused in everything we do, from card statements to white papers. As a company, we are still learning – we share best practices on content development on Women & Co. on a regular basis to inform our strategy on all Citi platforms to determine the right tone, the right frequency and the right method of distribution for each.
Linda Descano, CFA®, is Managing Director and Head of Digital Partnerships, Content and Social for North America Marketing at Citi, and President & CEO, Women & Co.