"What's In Your...Coffee?"

Lately, I have found myself walking around some fairly 'hip' places in our country. A really happening intersection in Boulder, Colorado. A revitalized cool part of DC. And, my local favorite 'cool place' hangout - Carytown, right here in Richmond.

You know what I found in each of these places amid the hipster shops and chic boutique clothing stores?

A Capital One bank. Oh, excuse me.... I meant a Capital One Café.

Have you seen these?

You have probably heard about these Cafés that have been hyped by Capital One in their televisions ads. But, you should really go into one and get a real sense of what successful branding/marketing looks like in our modern world.

These new Capital One Cafés are definitely more of a coffee shop and/or a "We Work" type space - rather than a bank. And, that is their brilliance.

After all, the last thing people want - especially young people - is another bank. So, Capital One reimagined the relationship between customers and their... café. Oh, I'm sorry, I mean...bank.

Here is the key that I think Capital One has discovered and executed on so beautifully -

We can no longer convince the younger consumer to come to our world - no matter how much money we spend.

We have to be smarter.

We have to go to their world. The places where they will naturally be already. In an environment that is totally attractive to them - relaxed and stress-free. Give them more of what already they naturally do and value.

Then, by association and a shared sense of values, you may become part of their world..

In other words, it is all about them, not us. With these cafés, Capital One has demonstrated that they authentically understand this group and they are committed to go with their flow in every way possible.

It important to note that many organizations may do one or two things to attract this younger, up and coming group but if you are not 'all in' and communicating your distinct brand consistently on a 360 degree basis, it just comes off as marketing (yuck!), and not authentic. And, that is a real killer.

That's why I love this Capital One 'all in' initiative. Because they are credibly 'all in' in meeting millennials where they are - they may actually pull off this formidable marketing challenge - move this reluctant group from their totally online banking world (rejecting the banking experience their parents and grandparents embraced) back to a new kind of banking relationship. But, a banking relationship nonetheless.

This is even more interesting since Capitol One was originally one of the 'digital disruptors' for the financial industry. Back in its earlier days, Capital One was one of the pioneers in taking finances on-line, digitally and directly to their customers, and in fact, delivering the impersonal financial relationships that millennials now see as the standard.

Now, bravely, they are attempting to take the banking relationship the other way.

What Capital One is doing with their cafes is experiential marketing at its best.

Check out the myriad of smart strategic moves that Capital One is delivering with its cafes to attract the millennial target ...

  • Capital One Cafe employees are coached not to talk about banking unless asked. No pressure. No sales job. Have some coffee, hang out, have a meeting here. Feel at home here. Brilliant.

  • Free Wi-Fi. And, love this, ATMS are fee-free for everyone - not just Capital One cardholders. Millenials can't stand "gotcha" fees (In their world, everything is pretty much free on the internet.) By no fees for everyone, this is a safe, democratized place for them and their friends.

  • Hip, indie music. Great vibe. Even made me feel 'cool'. Totally different from either traditional banks' no-music (strictly business.), or 'elevator music' (sea of sameness) experience.

  • The design of these retail banking establishments are not by 'retail banking' architectural specialists. Rather, Capital One Cafés are designed by the Rockwell Group known for the award winning design of several 'W' hotels. (Where any truly hip millennial must stay.) Also, most of these cafés tend to be located in restored, existing buildings that have real character - not a new, free standing retail banking box. Very cool.

  • As Business Insider commented: "It feels more like a co-working space than a bank or financial center. There are plenty of device charging stations, and comfy seating to encourage an extended stay." Sounds like where you would find my millennial kids.

  • Capital One Cafés offer guidance discussions that are 'real life' and entirely relevant to issues that these young folks may in fact, be facing. They don't 'push' these meetings, they just have them available. At the back of the cafe, there's a large interactive screen which features 'life coaches' (not bankers) teaching 20 minute sessions on topics such as wedding finances, and 'How to talk to your significant other about money'. In-tuned topics that again show Capital One truly understands and empathizes with this audience.

  • Meeting spaces that are available free of charge to nonprofits and college groups. It's allowing the Capital One Café to provide those important human, community connections. Sweet music to the ears of those increasingly more affluent millennials.

Now, that's 'all in' marketing.

Capital One with their cafes has everything strategically aligned - starting with their own people's brand behaviors (most important - 'People believe People'), their space and the environment (very cool, relaxed and fresh), and their 'giving back' causes. Today, these are the branding elements that really matter and are most credible and impactful to your audiences. Don't start, or relaunch your brand with just new ads, logos, and tag lines. These can be a little inauthentic and shallow. Start with the real stuff. People believe people.

Mike Friedman of Capital One says: "The cafes are a unique opportunity to present a physical manifestation of our brand and take this as an opportunity to connect with customers on their terms."

Is this all for show? Do these cafes really make business sense for Capital One?

As The Financial Brand newsletter commented; "Would Capital One really continue building these cafes if they weren't working?" Currently, there are twenty-six Capital One Cafes in major cities across the U.S. Many more are in the works.

So, how about you, are you waiting on customers to come to you - on your terms?

Or, are you going out there and intersecting with them - where they currently are, and how they currently live?

If you follow the latter - 'what's in your wallet' may be a whole lot more (i.e. muchos $$$s) down the road.

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