Inside Citibank’s revamped content strategy

Citibank is branching out its content marketing into new publications, hoping to reach millennial-driven audiences with educational personal finance content, and incorporating offers into its content for the first time. It has launched branded content campaigns this month with Well+Good, Business Insider and Condé Nast.

The bank, which has an eight-person content team led by Dawn Zappetti, head of strategic marketing at Citibank, is working with publishers for more branded articles about wellness and personal finance. But brand awareness is only one part of Citibank’s strategy; commerce also plays a part. Alongside select articles as part of campaigns, Citibank is running digital display ads with offers for the first time. Citibank is using these ads to track the customers who end up taking the offers. For example, next to a Business Insider article entitled: “5 spending traps to watch out for this holiday season,” are two ads that read “Enjoy every moment,” and promote a limited-time offer to open a Citibank savings account at a discounted interest rate. Citibank declined to share any results from any of these campaigns.

Citibank’s Well+Good content campaign draws on the growing millennial interest of the wellness space, a $4.2 trillion-dollar market that companies from wearables to sex products are trying to get a piece of. It is working with Leaf Group’s 8-year-old online publication Well+Good, which sees 4.7 million unique monthly visitors, according to Comscore data. Citibank worked with Well+Good’s six-person branded content team and the publication’s 15-person editorial team to create the Well+Good x Citi content website, which launched at the end of November and has no established end date. Yolande Piazza, CEO of Citi FinTech, also appears in a custom video for the site, giving advice on the financial knowledge needed at different life stages. Citibank articles will also appear on Well+Good’s homepage under its “Featured Collection” section.

Citibank has also launched a holiday campaign with Business Insider and Condé Nast titles Architectural Digest and Bon Appetit.

Citibank says it measures the ROI on its branded content by the engagement and traffic its articles generate by tracking the dwell time, pageviews and the extent at which the content was shared on social media. But Zappetti said it doesn’t come down to  “It’s not like we’re looking at every single article,” she said. “It’s a tracking of behavior on content overall to decide whether it’s productive or not.”

April Rudin, CEO and founder of wealth marketing firm The Rudin Group, said Citibank is trying out an approach that is effective for other industries such as retail, but that the same move might not be as effective for a bank. “Who is going to stop and open a bank account?” she said, “People are more planned about that. Financial services are a laggard in digital marketing, but this feels too out of place.”

Citibank would not comment on the cost of running these content campaigns with each of these publishers or on how each deal was structured, but as recent Digiday Research shows, the majority of marketers do not spend much for branded content. About six in 10 marketers pay under $10,000 for the distribution of branded content for an average campaign.

When it comes to content marketing, banks like Chase and Bank of America have mostly built out their own newsrooms for content to place on their own sites, but these articles have become stale with how-to guides and listicles. Banks are starting to realize that they need to work with sites that are being frequented by people searching for help around broader topics and publications that reach younger consumers since there is a need for help with their finances, said Louis Sciullo, executive director of financial and professional services at Landor.

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