Fernando Chacon: Using data to cross borders in Latin America

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Fernando Chacon, Chief marketing officer, Banco Itaú

Fernando Chacon,
Chief marketing officer, Banco Itaú

For Brazil’s Banco Itaú, serving Latin America requires communicating across an entire continent of diverse people and cultures. That takes experience, market knowledge and lots of data. Here, Fernando Chacon discusses how Latin America’s largest financial institution promotes products and services across borders while balancing the use of analytics with a human touch.

Banco Itaú bills itself as a Latin American bank. How can you serve a diverse set of economies, countries and cultures without seeming impersonal and homogenous?

As the economies and markets of each country where we operate differ, our brand identity varies to reflect that. We’ve identified the principal challenges in each of our markets and outlined potential customized strategies—while running a single regional campaign in Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay, with slight linguistic adaptations according to country. Every country where we operate has the autonomy to develop their own products and services, but we also provide our own analysis, market modeling and strategies according to what we see as our customers’ needs and behavior. Our brand proposal is to be a catalyst for transformation in the lives of people, irrespective of their nationalities.

What is a catalyst of transformation?

Through our products and services, our customers accelerate their dreams, whether it’s securing financing to own a home or to grow a business. The term catalyst or agent of transformation just means that we understand that our responsibility goes beyond merely providing a financial function. That’s why we promote things like biking, financial education and cultural and sporting events.

How did that become part of your brand positioning?

It was defined by our extensive research and a review of our history. We looked at what our strengths are, our values and the context in which we find ourselves. Now more than ever, relationships between customers and brands are based on learning and sharing.

How are you using technology to learn more about your customers’ needs and desires?

We’ve been using analytics to guide our marketing decisions for a long time. Our decisions on what products and services to offer and how best to foster relationships is based on an in-depth understanding of our customers, their aspirations, necessities and habits. This is possible only through the robust use of analytics. We have more data, more knowledge and consequently greater assertiveness when we make budget allocations. These are all guided by marketing return on investment. It’s still important for marketers to be sensitive, intuitive and creative, but we’re increasingly making our media and sponsorship investments based on objective measures of what the effective results of each action will be.

Can you describe a situation in which you used marketing ROI to green light a proposal?

One example that comes to mind is our sponsorship of the Rock in Rio festival. We sponsored it for the first time in 2011 as a master sponsor and are still doing so. But to make this decision our marketing department analyzed the ROI of sponsorship by inputting information regarding the costs for us and then all the opportunities we could gain from being involved with the festival in terms of brand benefits, tickets for employees and clients, etc. We use spreadsheets that get the job done and help us understand in objective terms the benefits to the bank in terms of final cost of such programs.

What have you learned about the dos and don’ts of analytics?

It’s vital to remember that analytics is a great tool for marketers, but to create true value you must complement analytics with your own knowledge and vision of the business. Decisions based solely on data aren’t inherently valuable. You’ve got to mesh the needs of the business, the client and the situation with data. Another thing is that the organization must want to drive more business from existing customers—and it must believe that analytics can help make sense of various interactions and intentions. The real power of analytics from a marketing standpoint comes from the disciplined management of existing customer relationships with the added benefit of enabling data-based decision making.

How are mobile phones changing Banco Itaú’s relationships with its customers?

People are more apt to be doing various activities simultaneously. They’re also in much more of a hurry. This is very apparent in the way customers communicate with their banks. The customer relationship is being carried out from more diversified points of contact and at various times during the day. As a result, we’re adjusting our communications and product development strategies. Our customer resource management tools work on a real-time basis with the customer, constantly alert to their changing habits and behaviors. At the same time, we have to be very sensitive to how we use such capabilities. Consumers don’t tolerate unnecessary invasions of their privacy if they don’t see a benefit for themselves.

How does your marketing team work with the CIO or IT department to make sure you have all the technology you need?

The fact that customers increasingly relate to the bank via digital channels means that technology is an integral part of the customer brand experience and in the applying our communications strategy. Because of this, the marketing teams have to collaborate constantly with IT. The goal is always to stimulate one another and exchange ideas and foster creative solutions. The best way to do that is to have the CMO and CIO establish a common set of objectives and projects from the outset.

How would you describe the CMO’s role at the executive table?

Be the representative of our customers to the committee. For me, the CMO’s role is to strengthen the brand, keep it aligned to business strategy and ensure that all of it is done with a focus on the customer.

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