Theresa McLaughlin, TD Bank Group’s chief marketing officer, speaks during her keynote at Dx3 in Toronto. Photo submitted.

Published: March 13th, 2018

TORONTO – When asked if there’s more overlap with other departments in today’s world of marketing, Theresa McLaughlin’s response was a resounding yes.

“There’s no question,” TD Bank Group’s chief marketing officer said during Dx3 on March 7. “Great marketers are also great tech people, great data and digital people. So when you look horizontally across the company, you have to get out of your office and you have to work with partners across the organization.”

At TD, where McLaughlin has been CMO since 2016, the company’s objective across all departments is to connect human experiences and, of course, encourage customers to come back, she said. And everything the bank does comes back to one question – is the brand delivering the promised experience to its customers? Most people recognize the cushy armchair that’s been the bank’s symbol since 2001, but in 2016, McLaughlin spearheaded a Canadian customer research study shortly after taking on the role of CMO to make sure the chair still resonated with people, and more importantly, better understand how people felt about their financial situation.

The data showed that 79 per cent of people were not confident about reaching their financial goals. The message couldn’t be clearer for TD – banking isn’t comfortable for everyone, but it remained an integral part of people’s lives. That’s why shortly after, the bank changed its tagline from “Banking can be this comfortable” to “Ready for you.” The bulky armchair was changed to a much slimmer version with square edges rather than round.

TD’s new chair, which replaces the cushy armchair that’s been the bank’s symbol since 2001. Source: TD commercial.

“There are certainly times when banking can be transactional, for example, you need to cash a cheque or process a transaction, but there are other times when it’s not,” McLaughlin told ITbusiness.ca after the keynote. “You notice fraudulent activity on your account, or you’ve lost your card, or you’re trying to close a loan for a home loan, those are highly emotional times and customers are looking for a partner that can build confidence.”

Innovation is a big part of building that confidence, said McLaughlin. Analytics, AI – not blockchain, she noted, although it’s something they’re keeping an eye on – and social media are only some of the tools used by the bank. But it’s not simply about adopting the newest piece of technology.

“We’re in the trust business, so it’s important for us to not take risks with people’s data and money. It’s about doing the right things at the right time,” she said, adding it’s possible to adopt innovation at a rapid pace as long as there is a process in place to test and “fail fast” in a controlled environment.

“It’s like triaging. When you go to the hospital there’s an emergency room, they don’t skip the procedures, they just go faster and there are procedures for emergency situations, and for regular situations, they get triaged to a different route,” she said. “They’re both following process, but one is going faster in a more agile way to reflect the emergency nature of the situation. It’s similar with innovation.

“Technology, robotics and analytics, all of these things are hugely important, but at the end of the day, it’s a people business.”

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