Credit card marketing is, to put it mildly, an extremely crowded and competitive space.
For instance, according to TV measurement company iSpot.tv, credit card commercials got just over a quarter million airings on U.S. national TV in the first half of 2023, in the process racking up over 29 billion TV ad impressions.
“The major credit card marketers are doing an amazing job with brand campaigns that help them persistently stay top-of-mind with consumers,” says Erin Slater, Head of Strategy, Financial Services, at Quad. “But those brand campaigns have to work hand-in-hand with offers that feel truly relevant to attract specific prospective customers.”
The path to true relevance? For credit card marketers, it’s personalization and consumer education. Here’s why:
Millions of consumers are looking to change and/or supplement their credit card experience every year
As Forbes Advisor’s Becky Pokora reports, “In Q4 2022, [U.S.] credit card users reached a total of 166 million, according to TransUnion, up from the prior three years” — and those users are continuing to add additional cards. Last year, Pokora notes, “nearly half the population (47.5%) opened at least one new account, bringing the total number of accounts to over 518 million by the end of 2022.” All that despite — or, arguably, because of — an uncertain economy and record-high credit card interest rates.
“Consumers are electing to change or supplement their credit card experience at massive scale,” says Slater. “Though a lot of the national-campaign, top-of-funnel brand messaging from credit card brands focuses on rewards programs and lifestyle benefits — which are pretty universally appealing — we know that consumers’ specific needs when it comes to credit cards vary significantly depending on demographics, life-stage considerations, geography, financial pressures and more.”
The specter of sky-high interest rates means very different things to different credit card users
Speaking of financial pressures, high interest rates have been affecting various consumers very differently. As NerdWallet’s Erin El Issa reports, “Nearly a third of Americans (31%) say they aren’t worried about their credit card’s interest rate because they pay their balance in full each month,” according to a 2023 Harris Poll survey of 2,000 Americans commissioned by NerdWallet. That said, “15% of Americans have stopped using credit cards completely to avoid paying higher interest rates,” El Issa notes, “and another 15% say they’ve used a balance transfer credit card to save on rising credit card interest rates.”
In other words, roughly one-third of consumers will find interest-rate messaging (e.g., balance–transfer offers) to be irrelevant, while another one-third are scrambling to cope specifically because of interest-rate pressures, driving home the need for personalized offers in credit card marketing.
And that latter one-third is dramatically impacted. In August, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data revealed that “credit card balances saw brisk growth” in Q2 2023, “rising by $45 billion to $1.03 trillion.” Meanwhile, total U.S. household debt reached $17.06 trillion in Q2 2023.
Consumers need more and better knowledge about managing their credit card experience
In preparing this report, Quad Insights viewed a sample of 50 credit card ads that aired nationally on U.S. television in August. More than half emphasized rewards, making them essentially the sole talking point of their product/brand messaging.
But according to another Federal Reserve research paper released in January, rewards are not necessarily beneficial for many consumers. “Credit cards with rewards are rewarding only for those who know how to profit from the system,” per Alexandre Tanzi of Bloomberg News, summing up the Fed’s research. “Consumers with higher credit scores benefit the most because they tend to spend more money — thus earning more rewards such as cash back or miles — and pay on time, according to the study. Card holders with lower credit scores overspend to try to earn more points and incur higher interest payments.”
“A recent Bankrate survey found that 40% of consumers who carry a balance on a given credit card don’t know the interest rate they’re being charged, which can lead to many of those consumers overextending themselves and struggling to make payments,” says Slater. “Credit card brands have a real opportunity to take a more holistic view of consumers’ financial well-being by offering them greater transparency and better education about managing household expenses and using credit cards responsibly.”
Consumers — especially younger consumers — welcome personalized offers
“Personalized marketing campaigns are more likely to engage customers through relevance,” says Slater, “leading to higher click-through rates, open rates and conversion rates. And it turns out younger consumers are particularly open to personalized credit card offers.”
According to Quad’s 2023 Customer Focus Study, 36% of Millennials and 23% of Gen Zers expressed openness to personalized credit card marketing. By comparison, 17% of Gen X and 11% of Baby Boomers expressed such openness.
“Younger consumers in particularly want to feel that the brands they engage with understand them and their needs,” Slater notes. “Credit card marketers that make the effort to connect with consumers as individuals — and educate those individuals on the relevance and benefits of their products — gain the edge when it comes to fostering loyalty right from the start of the customer journey.”
The bottom line
Personalized marketing and education are essential for credit card marketers who want to reach their target audience, build trust and drive more conversions. Working with the right marketing partner — a partner that can leverage relevant consumer data and deploy sophisticated martech solutions that deliver personalization at scale — can make all the difference in driving consumer engagement and satisfaction.
Want to learn more — and continue the conversation? Reach out to Erin Slater, Head of Strategy, Financial Services, at firstname.lastname@example.org.