Standard Chartered Group (SCG) has been in the banking business for over a decade now. SCG has spread its wings to 70 markets across the world, with most of its income and profits generating from Middle East, Africa and Asia. The environment in which the bank industry operates is marked with numerous uncontrollable forces, which make the marketing of financial services, including banks, even more challenging and complex.
An effective marketing strategy of organisations is more fine-tuned to match the needs and requirements of its market base and more specific in its market segmentation process (Ferrell & Hartline, 2008). In the case of SCG, its approach to tailor its offerings to the needs of the specific country, together with its commitment to corporate social responsibility, helps them project a market–oriented image of the bank. For example –
All these signify that SCG is well versed in its sustainability drive to contribute to the economic growth of emerging markets while simultaneously supporting its culturally diverse consumer base through invention and innovation in its product offering. This is embedded in its marketing strategy – to focus on demonstrating SCG as a sound financial institution whose commitment to global sustainable development is unwavering.
Effective ways to improve the marketing communication strategy of SCG
The serendipitous discovery of the marketing communication mix has changed the way organisations market their goods or services to the target audience. There are a plethora of tools under the marketing communication mix listed by Kotler and Armstrong (2010). These are advertising, personal selling, public relations’, sales promotions and direct marketing. If they are used appropriately by organisations, especially those in the financial sector, it can help them build a positive brand image. For example, if SCG is launching a new product in the market it might use advertising to build awareness first, and then go for other forms of communication.
The way customers, stakeholders and employees perceive financial companies holds a lot of significance. Moreover, like any other service offering, the financial sector’s end product is attributed to be vague and intangible. Therefore, the way people see SCG as a brand is of great importance and in order to leave deeper footprints, there is a need to communicate the core values of SCG to establish a strong bond with its wide consumer base.
Marketing communication is defined by Kotler et al (2009, p.690), as ‘an integral part of marketing strategy in which information about an organisation and its offering is disseminated to selected market’. It is a compelling process that encompasses all kinds of communication combinations to engage not only target audiences, but also the employees with the brand. In the case of SCG, all the elements of the marketing communication mix can contribute in bridging the gap of customers’ perception with how they actually wish to be perceived.
To maximise the marketing efforts of the organisation, a systematic and rigorous approach to marketing communication strategy is used to communicate a clear and consistent message to its target audience. It comprises of a chain of activities called the ‘Marketing Communications Planning Model’ (Kotler et al, 2009) –
Figure – 1 The Hierarchy of effects Model (1961) cited in Kotler and Armstrong (2010). Page 547.
According to Brownsell (2010), SCG introduced its global marketing campaign, ‘Here for Good’ using tools like sponsorship of Liverpool Football Club and TV advertisements. It was creating knowledge by informing its potential consumer base that they are here for long-term.
‘Designing the message’ – Due to the multi-service nature of SCG, marketing communications is used to serve three main functions, which are to inform, remind and persuade – all depending on the stage of its product life cycle. This aids the process of designing an effective message which has a sound structure, appealing content and a credible source.
‘Deciding on the communication channels and marketing communication mix’ – In order to pursue a successful marketing communication strategy SCG needs to select the right tools from the marketing communication mix, ones which are suitable to its market conditions. According to Mohr and Nevin (1990, p. 36), ‘when a marketing communication mix matches with channel conditions, channel outcomes are enhanced in comparison with the outcomes of a mismatched communication mix with channel conditions’. In the case of SCG being an international bank, a standardised approach to using advertising as a sole means to carry all its communication messages cannot work. The key here for SCG is to use different outlets of both personal and non-personal communication channels to reach out to its wide consumer base.
‘Measuring communication results’ – After the conclusion of the marketing communication planning it is vital to measure the impact of the message on its target audience. SCG can use customer feedback forms or online polls as a means to find out the overall success of the message and whether it was able to motivate them to purchase the product. This will also help SCG to reform its future marketing communication strategies in accordance to the feedback given.
With the proper implementation of a ‘marketing communication planning model’, SCG can embrace and refine its marketing communication strategy to reach out both formally and informally to its internal and external stakeholders.
SCG operates in an industry which is highly volatile and complex in nature. With the recent economic downturn the growth rate in this sector has plummeted even further. In this dire situation it is all about carving out a strategy which will help the organisation to maintain competitive advantage and also deliver more value to its customers. It is having a strategy in place which can turn any obstacle coming in the way of an organisation into an opportunity. According to Bruner (2003, p.210), ‘it is also strategy which gives a sense of direction to the organisation through the development of activities, resources and capabilities that enable them to gain competitive position’. This competitive positioning strategy is a deciding factor to ensure superior return on investment.
Porter (1980) coined the scheme ‘Porter Generic Strategies’ of having competitive strategies in place, which will create superior value to the customers if applied through two sources – ‘cost advantage’ and ‘differentiation’. In the case of SCG, some of the areas of competitive advantage are –
SCG has always worked towards creating a competitive advantage culture through differentiation, which is highlighted in its each and every move. For instance, SCG creates value through the use of state of the art technology, by diversified product offerings and also through its green banking commitment.
Figure – 2 Porter’s Generic Strategies cited from Quick MBA website
Drawbacks of having a competitive position is that in dynamic conditions competitive position can change. There is also a notion put forward by Porter that organisations cannot achieve advantage from all of the generic strategies as it can lead to confusion. There is an element of risk involved in becoming a cost leader, which is to lower the quality of the product in order to cut cost. Organisations also suffer when their competitors enter the market with a more superior product with lower price which better meets the overall needs of the customers despite them being the torch –bearer for innovation and invention in the product type. For example – Like SCG’s ‘Saadiq Islamic Banking’ HSBC bank launched its own ‘Islamic Banking’ provision to target a similar market segment. The major problem lies in how well SCG is able to maintain its differentiation strategy to outperform other competitors in the market.
In the case of SCG it is clearly aware that being in a competitive position is fundamental to their long-term success. As competitive position cannot be achieved on its own competitive strategies, it can help shape the organisation’s position in a favourable environment. At the time of financial turmoil it was through risk management and customer relationship management strategies SCG was able to fortify its position, when other banks were highly shaken during the crisis. Their strategy of targeting niche markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East has also worked in their favour at the time when economic power is shifting from the western world to eastern world. SCG’s commitment to grow ethically in the community they work and live in is also a commendable strategy to create value.
Banks are a ‘strategy focused organisation’ where everything is aligned to a strategy at all levels (Kaplan & Norton, 2004). These strategies are like frameworks or sets of guidelines to increase efficiency and the performance level of the banking industry. If banks are able to integrate strategies into their culture and these strategies are able to contribute to the turnover, this will help them maintain supremacy over competitors. The strategy process is comprised of three main elements – strategy planning, strategy formulation and strategy implementation.
As Mintzberg (1987, p.67) states ‘strategies are both plans for the future and patterns from the past’. Strategies of banks are mainly associated with defining its long–term plan and improving the strategies pursued in the past. There are different routes taken by banks to develop their strategy that will give them a competitive edge. As the banking industry is synonymous for its tight regulations, strict control system and intensive competition. It becomes difficult to predict success or failure in this industry type.
As there is no clear-cut formula to succeed in the banking industry, strategy has a vital role to play to keep banks on the track. There are different routes to strategy development available for banks as mentioned below.
The starting point of any strategy development is to do a ‘SWOT analysis’, which comprises of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. As mentioned by Johnson et al (2008, p.119), ‘SWOT analysis summarises the key issues from the business environment and the strategic capability of an organisation that can have a huge impact on strategy development’. It is through SWOT analysis that banks can determine future opportunities in the banking industry and with the help of the analysis banks can eliminate the prevailing threats that can hinder their performance. For instance, in the banking industry opportunities can emerge in the form of mergers and acquisitions. Increasing competition and economic downturn can pose a serious threat to the dynamics of the industry. SWOT analysis is a powerful technique for banks to form its strategy based on its capabilities over other competitors and also how well – equipped it is to survive any major blow which comes its way. Based on the information provided in the case study, below is the ‘SWOT analysis’ of Standard Chartered Group.
Worldwide presence using ‘think global and act local’ approach.
Diversified range of service offering.
Use of state-of-the-art technology like SAS software.
Strong operational existence in emerging markets like Hong Kong, Singapore, Nigeria and India.
Effective talent management programme in place to develop competencies amongst employees.
| Weaknesses |
Less focus on marketing communication strategy.
Too much importance given to its core strategic markets.
Huge potential of growth in emerging markets.
Use of merger and acquisition policy to enter a new market. For instance, Standard Chartered Bank acquired Union Bank in Pakistan to expand its market share.
Rise in local and international players like HSBC, Citi Bank and Barclays.
Regulatory changes in the banking industry.
Global recession was a major setback to the banking industry.
Less product differentiation.
‘Ansoff’s Product/Market growth matrix’ as defined by Proctor (2000, p.260) ‘is a framework invented by H.Igor Ansoff in 1957 to assist organisations to map strategic product market growth’. The prominence of Ansoff matrix cannot be overruled in the expansion and growth of the bank industry. According to the matrix it proposes four key directions for growth which are illustrated in Figure 3.
Figure 3 Ansoff Matrix cited in Johnson, G., Whittington, R. & Scholes, K. (2008), Page 258.
Market Penetration – A bank’s Market Penetration strategy implies that it penetrates the existing market with its existing products to retain its existing customers through indulging in relationship marketing activities and also to expand its market base further.
Product Development – This strategy involves banks to -offering new products to existing markets. For instance, online banking was offered by many banks with the innovation in technology. There are many constraints attached to this strategy such as high investments, technology failure and project management risk.
Market Development – Banks often venture into new markets with their existing products to attract new customers. This strategy is often followed by many banks to maintain their international image.
Diversification – This strategy is employed when banks offer completely new products to new markets. Banks mostly go for related diversification by providing products like insurance plan, Islamic banking and mortgage plan. This strategy entails higher risk for banks as it involves stepping into an unknown territory.
In the case of SCG, it has followed the ‘Market development’ and ‘Product Development’ strategy more rigorously than ‘Diversification’ and ‘Market Penetration’ to secure future growth.
To conclude, in the bank’s strategy process, a combination of both SWOT analysis and Ansoff’s Product/Market growth matrix needs to be used to ensure development of a strategy which will maximise its productivity.
References and Bibliography
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