Financial companies are beginning to learn from their experience on the Internet how to put more punch into their marketing messages, according to speakers at a roundtable organized by the Advertising Club of New York on Tuesday.

The speakers represented Chase Manhattan Corp., Fidelity Investments, Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., and Deloitte & Touche LLP.

They said the static on-line billboards that characterized many companies' early Web-based branding efforts are giving way to interactive offerings that are drawing consumer responses as never before.

Because most Web-based businesses still are too new to be evaluated in terms of revenue or profit, consumer responses are considered a useful way of measuring brands in cyberspace.

Thomas Morey, vice president of electronic media at Chase, said the bank has improved the interactivity of its Web offerings and this is attracting more consumers seeking information and applications-particularly about credit products.

"The quality of the applicants is high, and we're doing well," Mr. Morey said.

MetLife vice president Richard Painchaud said his company has similarly upgraded its Web site to offer "more tools for people to interact." These tools-some only indirectly related to MetLife's insurance business-helped the company boost the average number of monthly visits to its site to 500,000 last year.

One of MetLife's most popular features is a calculator that tells a person's ideal weight based on height and sex. About one in four visitors uses the height and weight table. Another popular feature helps people deal with bankruptcy.

"Our interaction with customers focuses on what matters to them from a life perspective," Mr. Painchaud said.

The panelists agreed that providing access to a wide range of information on-line is useful. But the best companies make on-line marketing information work hand-in-hand with transactional services.

Fidelity has had much success with its trading services. In January 1997 about 3% of its trades were done on-line. As awareness of the capability has grown, so has volume. About half of all its trades now come from the Internet, said Stephen Killeen, senior vice president at Fidelity.

The Boston company has been running an integrated marketing campaign designed to reinforce its brand to users of the on-line trading services.

The marketing material is "everywhere as an equal call to action," said Mr. Killeen. He said image awareness helps to draw people to the site and convert them to doing business on-line.

Chase also has integrated direct marketing material with its on-line service.

"We now have a wider base of users," said Mr. Morey. "So we're asking, 'How can we holistically serve their needs?'"

Ken Horner, partner and director of information technology at Deloitte & Touche, said many financial companies are struggling to take on-line marketing to a new level, designing messages tailored for specific customers. Data warehousing technology should help banks to create so- called segment-of-one marketing campaigns.

Even as Internet financial services gain acceptance, bankers must ensure on-line branding complements and supports activities back in the physical realm.

"Money and banking for many is still a hand-to-hand experience," Mr. Morey said. "You can have customer service enhancements and on-line transactions, but they won't replace the hand-to-hand experience in the short term."

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