The success of the ING Direct initiative above provides food for thought for any business-to-consumer organisation. Lenders and intermediaries could gain from such an approach to their marketing activities. However, the final paragraph in the extract says that customers can't transact in the cafe but that it yielded $200m, that's confusing.
Experience marketing, as the authors call it, is a good way to build a brand and ING Direct is also a great example of cross-selling, all the better given that coffee and financial services would usually be considered to be unrelated. It has always been a challenge for financial services retailers to gain the attention of consumers given that many consider personal finance matters to be boring and are not prepared to engage. Consumers' general lack of pension provision is an example of this. Therefore it is refreshing to see that ING Direct has adopted an innovative approach to gain attention and engage in dialogue. Perhaps the cafe environment also helps to make consumers more comfortable with the ING brand because they are being introduced to the company through a social experience that involves no pressure to buy an attached financial product. Consumers are more likely to associate ING with a pleasant social experience rather than a cold financial transaction.
Having read the full article, it is interesting to note that the ING Direct Café charges similar prices to Starbucks and that coffee and snacks are by no means cheap or subsidised. People are willing to pay because ING has developed an appealing environment in the right location. It is thought that the cafe makes a profit and it is interesting that the firm plans to open two more in other US cities soon. This makes the marketing strategy even more appealing – ING's initiative is effective but does not cost them anything and may well actually make money in its own right This has massive implications for all of us involved in sales and marketing and indeed anyone who is in business to make a profit. We could all learn from this and perhaps take a fresh look at our marketing strategies as a result. After all, our industry is not as effective as it could be at marketing itself. On the mortgage side we get away with more than IFAs do because consumers need a home loan to realise their dreams of property ownership and will therefore engage. The same should be true with pensions and investments, i.e. consumers should want to build a better long-term future, but the marketing of long-term financial provision is not working nearly as well as it could.