The year is 2004, you’re a teenager getting ready for a friend’s birthday party, and you need to get some money in anticipation for the night ahead.

You hop in your CRV, make a right on Main Street, and walk into your local bank. You say what’s up to Jill, the clerk, and ask her if you can take out $50 from your account so you can pay your friends back if they buy you a drink.

Jill gets your account info and takes $50 out and hands it over to you.

You go on with your day, end up at the club downtown at 12am dancing, your bestie buys you a Stella Artois (it was $4), and you hand over some cash. Boom, that was life in 2004.

Flash forward 20 years and you can send money anywhere, anytime, to anyone with the press of a button on your phone.

Money has simply become numbers on a screen. AI money-saving tools, robot investing, facial recognition, banking in 2024 is like something out of a futuristic film you would have watched in the 90s.

These shiny new features are music to the youth’s ears. Apple’s new “Tap to Cash” feature is a PRIME example of this problem.

Every single bank in the U.S. is making this high-tech push, wanting to be seen as cutting edge, and having the best tech to keep your money safe and help it grow.

However, there is one company completely flipping the banking industry on its head with a 2024 campaign that is hyper-targeted to the very audience they know will take them from $500B to $1T in assets.

Let’s deposit this check…

PNC is the 8th largest bank in the United States, boasting $562B in assets, and one massive problem. With the rise of Fintech since 2015, PNC’s competition has significantly carved out market share through increased efficiency and leading a new era of banking, while PNC’s business has stagnated.

PNC’s assets growth has stalled, growing <1% YoY since 2021. 

But in 2024 PNC is making a push that on the surface seems simple, yet in reality is a deeply researched campaign that I believe will help them reach the upper echelon of banking by 2030.

For context, Baby Boomers own 50%+ of ALL THE WEALTH in the United States, they’re the wealthiest generation by far. 

Every person with a dollar to their name wants to keep their money safe and help it grow. Yet it seems as if every single bank is pushing features and campaigns that solely cater to the more tech savvy generations like Gen Z and us (Millennials).

That was until PNC came to play. In their new “Brilliantly Boring” campaign, PNC is making a push to cater to the breadwinners in the United States, the REAL demographic that can help them climb up a rung, the Baby Boomers.

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The campaign goes headfirst against the efficiency, streamlining, and digital interface of nearly every ad their competitors are running and instead is honed in on this idea of boring.

Not yawning, long-lines type boring, but dependable, not-risky, and fundamental type boring that is the starting point for all fun.

It’s just like stretching before playing your favorite sport, not fun at all, but it gets the job done and is necessary if you want to live to see another set LOL. 🎾🎾🎾

But the true genius of this campaign is shockingly in PNC’s willingness to take a BIG risk. Tying your brand to “boring” is something I think every Marketer would cringe at, but in this context IT WORKS.

Your grandparents change banks when they struggle to log into their accounts, when really they just forgot their password. My mom is often overwhelmed by the plethora of account options by her bank that the experience is NOT enjoyable for her (or me since I’m the one helping her LOL).

Sometimes the fast-changing tech landscape can be a massive barrier to entry for older generations. In many industries this is fine, since so many companies want to tap into the younger generations, but in banking this is a gap in the market.

The tech being Marketed is appealing to the demographics with the SMALLEST amount of wealth in the country (aka Gen Z and Millennials), whereas there isn’t much being Marketed to the older generations.

(This is a screenshot from their site.)

So PNC is speaking to the Baby Boomers, advertising almost exclusively on cable, and giving them exactly what they’ve been craving, SIMPLICITY.

Around since 1865, boring with your money (they’ll keep it safe), boring with their banking (you don’t need to know what AI is to use their bank), and boring with their tolerance for risk (they won’t be over-levered).

This move all comes back to audience value over audience size for PNC. Millennials, Gen Z, and Gen Alpha account for 190M Americans and counting, compared to 140M Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, and The Silent Generation. 

(Another screenshot from their website.)

Let’s say you have a B2B software that helps entry-level Marketers with their job.

Sure you could market the software to those entry-level Marketers since your product helps them directly, build a larger community since there are more entry-level Marketers than managers, and hope they are advocates for your brand to their manager.

OR, you could target the budget-holders, the decision-makers. There will be fewer, they’re harder to reach, but it is much more valuable to have 10 of these people than 100 of the group without decision-making abilities.

PNC is sacrificing size of audience for value, and that’s something very few brands are doing in this age of keeping up with the Joneses.

This is PNC’s new home page, they’re making this “boring” push loud and clear for site visitors. It doesn’t mean out of date or stale, it simply means doing what it takes to keep your money, no risky bets.

With a potential recession looming they’re letting it be known that your money is secure with them, they aren’t chasing the newest flashy investment to make a buck.

It doesn’t hurt to be in tune with the macro economic environment as a business.

The entire campaign is an unorthodox approach from PNC, but it came from deep rooted research going through the customer journey themselves.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our day to day that we overlook the most subtle opportunities. Learning from trends in their very own customer service calls, using competitor’s products to help discover key positioning opportunities, and studying the trends of the macro environment, PNC did it all.

When doing anything, your customer research is the backbone for success.

This campaign has just recently launched so there isn’t any data out yet on its effectiveness, but I’m expecting the sentiment to be very positive, and the ROI to be evident.

Now if you don’t mind me, I still have to deposit this check LOL.

Daniel Murray
Daniel Murray
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