Our Guest: Mark Pedrotti, SVP, Director of Marketing
Company: Berkshire Bank
Allan Greer: Martha, what do you think matters most in terms of banking today?
Martha France: That's a great question and one that our guest has put a lot of thought into. Check out what he has to say about maintaining brand consistency in different markets, and how to look beyond geography when thinking about communities. He talks about what he's doing to advance his marketing and how Berkshire Bank is leveraging data and analytics. One thing that is for sure is that marketing is at the heart of the matter when it comes to banking.
Allan: Hello, and welcome to Bank Marketing Today by Vya. I am Allan Greer, and together with Martha France, we are interviewing bank marketing leaders about current trends, new marketing technologies, branding and the overall state of the banking industry. We will be joined from time to time by additional Co hosts and experts.
Martha: In this episode, we spoke to Mark Pedrotti at Berkshire Bank about what matters most in banking. So let's get to it. We hope this episode of Bank Marketing Today helps simplify your marketing tomorrow.
Martha: Hello, I am Martha France and I am joined today by my co host, Allan Greer. We are truly excited to be talking with Mark Pedrotti, SVP Director of Marketing at Berkshire Bank. Welcome to the Bank Marketing Today podcast Mark.
Mark Pedrotti: Yeah, thanks for having me. This is exciting.
Allan: Yeah, we're so thankful to have you here and really looking forward to this conversation. I thought I'd start off with the fact that you've been with Berkshire for quite some time and I’m curious, this is kind of a two part question. First of all, how did you get into banking, and I also noticed you have a video side of it and I’d love to get your take on how you incorporate those two together through your storytelling and videos with Berkshire?
Mark: Every year, I keep forgetting when I started here. It's just been so long. But I did, in fact, start here many, many years ago at Berkshire Bank. I think it was like 14 years ago and I was an intern. It was a college internship program. It was like summer work that I would come back for and I was going to school for marketing, specifically, sports marketing. They kept inviting me back to work on projects and things like that and they offered me a position at some point. I just kind of started building my career here. I came in with no experience, absolutely nothing other than a passion for marketing and you did mention video and a passion for commercials and passion for sports, which, you know, Berkshire has been in kind of the sports realm of advertising and marketing for many, many years. So it was very humble beginnings on my end, because I didn't know anything about banks. I never wanted to work for a bank. I didn't know what banks did really, other than give me a checking account. And actually back in that day, it was a passbook. You'd go and they print what your balances on your passbook were which funny little caveat to this. I opened my first bank account in third grade, you know, it was Berkshire County Savings Bank, which is now Berkshire Bank. They came to my school and they said, “Oh yeah, if you put $5 or $10 in, there was some matching program”. I think to this day, my savings account is still from that original, $5 to $10 deposit I made into that.
Allan: That's amazing, so actually, you started when you were in third grade?
Mark: I did, yes. So I was a I was a valued customer when I was in the third grade. Whatever that age is.
Allan: Maybe what 6 or 7? Yeah, for me that was the best four years of my life, actually third grade. No, I'm kidding.
Mark: You mentioned the video side of it. I came in with a passion and Berkshire Bank had allowed me to pursue some of the video editing and the video production stuff. It was it was at that time when we really started to grow as a bank and acquire other banks and things and more resources were there and more things to do. So, I always thought having a video department within your organization's great because you have the pulse of the organization, you have the creative kind of freedom to do things like that. I think I was kind of right, because this is the medium we are all in. Video is where it's at on Social Media and Broadcast and all that. So yeah, I think I brought that element too Berkshire Bank, and it's been a great ride.
Allan: That's amazing. Congrats to you, that’s so rare. You're able to combine passions and turn it into something very long term, long term employment, and doing amazing so, good for you.
Martha: Yeah, not many organizations really allow you that freedom and really recognize the talents that you bring to the table. You've been able to introduce that and keep them really ahead of things. Is that something that Berkshire Bank does throughout the organization, really recognize talent and nurture it that way? Can you tell us a little bit about the approach to attracting and retaining talent?
Mark: I think it’s just a good example of how Berkshire is able to do that. I think we've been really great at cultivating talent. And, you know, reaching across the aisle, sometimes is hard at organizations when there's different business units. But here, I just believe people just really want to work together and work for a common goal. I think I've been in a lucky position because we service the entire bank, but when we kind of work with these different business units here, they know the skills that we have, I know what they can deliver to us and it almost seems like just a great partnership and in creating, creating anything, really, but the bank as a whole. I don't know anything on the financial side, because, you know, I've been in marketing for so many years here, but you still see the same people who you've kind of grown up with, and that's because they were experts and passionate about their areas, kind of like me.
Allan: I’m also curious, what else differentiates Berkshire in the market do you think?
Mark: I think we have a very unique niche in our markets. Everybody here does truly believe we're a community bank. We know our customers, we know the organization's we donate grants to, we know the organization's we volunteer for. So in that sense, me sitting in the Berkshire County market, I know what's going on here. And I think we are a community bank, in the markets, we serve and in the markets we have a presence in. On the flip side of that, we do invest in technology when we can. We do think about those kinds of higher end banking experiences. Concierge banking, private banking, you know, we have wealth management, so we can go upstream, downstream, whatever. We're in a very unique position with those big bank resources, and still carry that small bank attention to the communities we serve. I think that's really what differentiates ourselves. Small banks in our community are great. But there's only so much that they can do. And the big, big banks in our communities, they're great too, but they don't get down to the level of community, they go back to their state or back to their other areas of the country and go on their way. But we're here. And I think that’s our unique stance in our in our regions.
Martha: But that’s a tough thing to do, right? Like to give that small bank attention, even though you're spread across multiple regions. So how do you manage that from a marketing standpoint, so that you're relevant to those local communities, and you can give them that small bank attention, but yet, you have the brand consistency and everybody recognizes you.
Mark: I mean, if it was just on marketing to do that, it would be so difficult. We would be so fragmented. I think we have a great message and a great core here in marketing. But if it wasn't for our people in those regions, I don't think we'd be able to be proud of us being in this kind of position as the community bank in the markets we serve. So we rely highly on our regional presidents, highly on our regional leaders in those areas to tell us what their communities are like, what their communities need. We rely on just their expertise and knowing all those communities that they serve. It'd be hard if it was just on us. But we're a nice team here and couldn't do without them.
Martha: So in thinking about the marketing team and the work that you've done. Can you tell us a little bit more about the, “All Wallets Welcome Campaign” that you did? And as somebody that carries a duct tape wallet, I really appreciate the nod to the duct tape wallet at the at the end of the video campaign.
Allan: That was very impressive, Martha. That’s the first one I'd seen.
Mark: You are our inspiration. You've validated a kind of a little bit of a cheeky joke we wanted to put into that thing. So it was a proud moment for us.
Martha: Happy to do it.
Mark: We ran that, that was last year's campaign through diversity and inclusion efforts that we've done here, you know, asking our communities to bank with us. Just based off of you, you being here, you know, you being a part of our community. And that was a kind of a no barrier way to bank with us. And we wanted people to know it doesn't matter how much money you have in your wallet, that's, the concept of it, or how your wallet stacks up against others, and we only care about one thing in your wallet and that's you. And that was just kind of our way of saying regardless of wealth, regardless of anything, you can bank with Berkshire with dignity, and we'd love to have you and I think you could say, oh, the wallets represent people, the wallets represent this and that, yes, all of that. That's why it's an inclusive kind of campaign.
Martha: Yeah, you're right. There's so much that comes out in that, that what the wallets represents is me. For me, it's kind of like life stage. And you know, it's got a little bit of my family tied to it. So yeah, I love it. It was so clever. And so well done, congratulations.
Mark: I think over the years, we've just been so lucky to have the support to roll out campaigns like that, like feel the pulse of the organization. And even if you 180 or transform, you know, we're in a transformative stage right now, we still have the ability, and we still have the passion to message to where we're going.
Allan: It's also kind of a great segue into the next question I have, because I know Berkshire has been around for about 175 years, and really entrenched in the community. I’m curious, tell us a little bit about the “Best Community Come Back” initiative and what that involves.
Mark: So we announced the “Best Community Come Back” back in September, but it's our multi year $5 billion dollar commitment. And it's really focused on strengthening those communities that we serve, fueling small businesses, first time homebuyers, volunteer projects, those sorts of things. It's really all about kind of that philanthropy, financial access, empowerment, environmental sustainability so that's our investment back into those sectors where we think the world is a better place when all of those things have an investment in and this is our way of, of basically pledging that this is where we're going. This is how we become a leading ESG organization here in the markets we serve. A leading social responsible organization, you know, it's a customer facing. Well, why are we transforming? What is that? Well, to our customers, this is why we're doing it. This is why because the investment back to you is so important. That was a really great announcement we had in the early fall and I’m looking forward to updating our customers going forward on how we're doing on our pledge.
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Allan: Next question, and I know it is a little bit of maybe a big question. But I’m curious, what do you think is your biggest marketing challenge and how do you go about addressing those?
Mark: The biggest marketing challenge I think our spread out markets doesn't help. Look at some of those Boston based banks. They are in very close proximity to all the markets that they serve. I'm not going to name any of them, because there's tons of them, all the ones you know. If I were just looking at Massachusetts, all those Eastern Massachusetts banks, they're not in Syracuse, New York, they're not in Connecticut, they're not in Southern Vermont. So I think one of our biggest challenges is just kind of being spread out there. I also look at that as a competitive advantage, too because you get to touch different communities, you get to see a lot more. And if we're relying on our people to help us see that, I think that's why we can be successful there. But having marketing sitting in one place, looking out at all of our regions, it's a challenge for us every day. But I think that's the one challenge we love, because we get to work with great people.
Martha: Can you tell us a little bit more about the communities and how you define community? I mean, of course, you're spread across these geographies. So there’s that. How do you really define community?
Mark: There's two ways to define community. The original way that everybody says is geography. These are the towns, these are where the branches are. This is where we work. That's what a community bank does and that's great. But I also think community is not defined by geography. Community can be defined by just a like minded group of individuals. LGBQT, like that's a community and you focus in on a community like that. There's love and there's passion in there so why define it by a bank down the street, a bank that's been in your town for 175 years. We can go beyond that. We have a great relationship with NESN in New England, and they have a community as well. They have the Bruins, they have the Red Sox, those are communities. Those are like minded people who root for a team. So we think that not defining it all the time is a very competitive advantage for the bank. And we kind of love making inroads with all.
Martha: Mark, what are you doing to advance your marketing?
Mark: Well, I think we are advancing our marketing, I think everybody is on the digital side, social media, just using Google tools to know how your messaging is doing, how your products are doing tracking those sorts of things. We are, you know, making a huge commitment into those digital channels. You see broadcast going digital. I look at the Netflix and the Hulu and all that. That's how people consume their content now. So our advancement is really going to be in ways like that, and less traditional, we’re going to still do traditional, you have to, you know, if you're in a community, you have to say, here's a billboard, I'm here, still. But how do you reach people where they want to be reached now and understand customers that way? We've done a whole lot of journey building within our customers. Now say, if you, you don't want to talk to anybody on the phone, we want to know that. Oh, you want to get a text about your account, you want to get a text about something. Okay, we're going to put you in that because we understand that that's how you want to be communicated too. So a community, it's great to know the feedback of what they want, and how they want to be marketed to how they want to bank. And I guess one other point that we have here, we have this kind of omni channel approach with our customers. If you never want to go into a branch, we have ways of you going online, we have ways of using mobile banking. We have this my banker concierge banking program, it's branchless, like, they'll meet you at a cafe to you sign, sign documentation or meet you at your business, those sorts of things. It's about us getting that out there and customers understanding that we can do things in different ways. And then if you want to come into the bank, we're here to help. I think there's a nice mix of how our customers want to be banked and how they want to be marketed to, and however they want to bank, I think we have a solution for them. And hopefully along the way, we can educate them that, hey, you know, checking your balance on your mobile app might save you a little bit of time, if you're coming to the bank on a weekly basis. That's where we're going and I think that's kind of the future of banking.
Martha: But really now to do all that, to understand the journeys, to understand that channel preferences, it seems like that would require a lot of data. Can you tell us a little bit more about how your group is using data, and the kinds of data analytics and market research that you're doing?
Mark: The KPIs and the KLI’s, the lifestyle indicators, looking at those opposed to looking at other things, I think it really helps us understand what that next moment is. So if we're marketing to a person, because they have a certain amount of money in their deposit account, banks have been doing that forever. But we look at, oh, this person just bought a home, they may be in the market for something they may not know about what a home equity is, or something like that. So you look at those key moments of a customer and I think that's where journeys are so incredible is you onboard a customer into a journey, and you're actually educating them on things that matter to them opposed to kind of taken a shot in the dark. That's where we're going and I think customers are really going to appreciate that we're not wasting their time. We're talking to them about things that are relevant.
Martha: Yes, so it sounds like that data is really factoring into your messaging and the customer experience. Do you take that all the way, you know, there's a lot of talk about personalization at an individual level where are you in that progression?
Mark: We're getting there, the personalization is really what comes next. We’re probably at the key lifestyle indicator part. We have something for everybody, we have the next progression of what a customer may need. But I think the one thing that we really have going for us in the future is our my banker, is our concierge banking. Mixing the data that we know and that we have and that we're really working to keep refining on a day by day basis. Giving that to our bankers who do know people individually is such a powerful thing, because you're not wasting your time having conversations with them. And you already know what they like and what they don't like and you know the next steps to move forward. We're going to rely on data completely and our people who work with our customers. It’s going to be a very big advantage for Berkshire.
Martha: So Mark, having that data, is it a challenge getting it into the hands of those people that are spread out there among your communities? You know, the ones doing the concierge service and the one to one banking.
Mark: It's always hard. You need obviously a repository for that data. You need to have a culture of knowing where that data is. We work towards kind of keeping that in front of all of our bankers here. There's a learning curve to the whole thing, but I think all it takes is, it's some good interaction to understand that that data was so important. I couldn't have gotten here, I couldn't have figured out what maybe their next step was into our relationship without that, and I think it really equips our bank to be most competitive with the communities we serve.
Martha: I totally agree.
Allan: I think everybody at times feels like there's aspects of their job that slowed them down and I’m kind of curious, what slows you down? What activities maybe get in the way of being more strategic in your marketing versus being tactical and how do you address it?
Mark: There's always things that slow you down. Just over the years we were a bank that was acquiring other banks in different regions. That's how to this day, that's why our regions look this way because, you know, we went into certain markets and did that. So those things always kind of slowed down what you're trying to do, but we never looked at it that way. We looked at it as we were kind of building these communities and starting with a good foundational piece. But you know it takes a lot of attention away from the bank and the message that we're trying to put out there. So I think just the way we've had to focus in on certain projects in certain markets for a while, it took us away from a little bit of, I think, where you are seeing some of this branding that we're doing and stuff, but I also look at it as us building our family as well. And those communities are coming into our fold and understanding what Berkshire is. So if there's growing pains with it, so what? We're creating a better kind of foundation of what Berkshire is.
Allan: I love the thought behind it, you know, because it's all about the people, right? You know, it’s interesting, too, because of technologies. You spoke a lot about digital, but you what technologies excite you today?
Mark: I love quick, automated, frictionless banking. Whatever you can do in a branch that you can do on your phone, in absolutely no time, I think it’s where banking is right now and where it's going to just keep progressing. But investing in things like everything that surrounds that mobile app, the online experience, but what else is in there? What other bank functions can you add to that? I think it's like, what's that financial literacy? What's that financial education what’s that goal setting with your finances? Those sorts of things are really hot button topics right now. I think the Neo banks are doing that to a really great clip. I think the community banks, the smaller ones don't have the resources to do that, but I'm excited that Berkshire is that right size, that we are able to maybe not do it as great as the big banks and those Neo banks, but really move in that direction, as our customers are scratching their heads saying, “Well, why wouldn't I go to one of those Neo banks, that's the way I want to do it”. So we're kind of addressing that. I think anything that kind of disrupts what the big and the Neo and the small are trying to figure out, that's where our attention is going.
Allan: That’s interesting, where do you think the banking industry is going as a whole? It’s such an evolving business.
Mark: I think touching on Neo banks, that's where banking is going. But I also believe that people still love their communities and community banks. I don't think enough banks do enough to address the mix of tech and community. I mean, I may be sounding biased, but this is the right size bank.
Allan: Well you've been there since third grade. So I understand that…
Mark: I know but people, they need banks, they need people sometimes to talk to. Another one of our challenges over the next couple of years is going to really be able to explain to our customers and our communities that we'll be seeing this. So we're going to be announcing some new messaging here, “Where you bank matters, where you invest matters, where you borrow matters, where you create matters”. I'll boil it down to this. If you have a direct deposit and a checking account with a community, a local bank, that is such a simple decision. But it makes a huge impact on your community. Because we are invested in our communities. That's why, and if you're invested in us, that's the more we can support your community by deploying money to that exact community. So that's why where you bank matters, and a socially responsible bank, a bank that cares about the environment, a bank that cares about social justice, that’s why where you bank matters as well. I've always seen these kind of larger banks not really have the ability to reinvest back into their local communities where they have branches, because I don't think they know what's going on. I don't think they asked their customers to invest back in into them the way that a right size bank like us will do. So I think this is a unique position for Berkshire Bank.
Allan: Where do you go to learn and keep up with the industry and expand your knowledge?
Mark: American Banker is fantastic. The financial brand is great. They ask awesome questions, their polls are amazing, their data is great. So taking banking aside, it's important to feel the pulse of all retail companies out there that are using social media. I'm using social media on a personal level. I buy things on social media. I think that's a really nice place to get your information catered towards you. But I think Berkshire Bank needs to continue to communicate on there, use all of its channels, not just one over the other. I think creating brand advocacy there, where I think we can have these conversations with our customers and, and hoping over time that you're having these great conversations, and you're building a customer base on there, because you're offering value. Social media is the future of conversation. It's the future of relationships and relationship building. So at Berkshire, there's a whole bunch of good stuff we're doing now on social media. Connect with us, follow us because we want to collaborate.
Martha: Well, Mark, I've certainly enjoyed this conversation today. It's been great getting to know you better and getting to know Berkshire Bank better. I think you definitely have convinced me that it should be a brand that I should love and follow and take a look at given the commitment to the communities you serve and the transformation you're going through. It's just incredible, congratulations on all of that and thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today. I know Allan and I both enjoyed this and we wish you continued success at Berkshire Bank.
Mark: Yeah, I really appreciate the time. And I really appreciated the questions, I thought they're poignant. My last point here is going to be that sometimes banks look like commodities. But banks really can lean into this, “Where you bank matters," these communities become stronger and this world becomes a better place when you know where your money is, and where your money is being deployed. That's what a great community bank can be.
Martha: Allan, I really enjoyed hearing Mark talk about his personal journey and how he is able to live his passion at work. And I really admire what Berkshire Bank is doing in terms of strengthening communities and ensuring that all can bank with dignity.
Allan: Yes, as far as community, I like his perspective of considering the broader definition of community in terms of common interests and lifestyles, rather than simply geography. I think it really matters to people on a personal level. So Martha, a quick question. Since you brought your duct tape wallet, are you picking up lunch today?
Martha: Uh, uh, um, you know, it looks like the adhesive has glued shut again, sorry.
Allan: Thanks to our listeners for joining us. We really appreciate it. Be sure to subscribe and give us a review. We would love that. If you have any ideas or topics, questions you'd like us to cover in the future just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much.
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