RETAIL BANKING | Contributed Content, Singapore
Simon Faure-Field

Why customer 'sensation' is important in Asian retail and premium banking (Part 2)


Last week, we took a look at how international banking brands are engaging as many of their customers’ senses as possible, in as pleasurable a way as they can, as a key to creating loyalty through an engaging customer experience. This week, we will take an overview of how bank brands in Asia are actually implementing these principles in practice.

On many occasions a banking brand is called upon to impart a distinct nuance to its brand. For example, Standard Chartered in Hong Kong, opted for a specially created fragrance to help reposition their new showcase Lan Kwai Fong branch. The branch’s complex and captivating aroma features top notes of tangerine, bergamot, mandarin, lavender, pineapple, cardamom; mid notes of nutmeg, lily of valley, white rose and bottom notes of cedarwood, patchouli, sandalwood, musk, vanilla, amber.

The choice was based upon the bank brand’s heritage originating from Africa and India with branches having a desired upmarket, high quality, warm, customer-focused and comfortable feel.

The bank brand’s ‘contemporary lifestyle’ music selection for at their flagship Lan Kwai Fong branch was chosen to harmonise and compliment the three different public areas, whilst reflecting the brand’s tone and feel. Much thought and consideration has gone into this whole process on the part of the bank’s marketing team and outside brand consultants.

The signature fragrance and contemporary lifestyle sonics at Lan Kwai Fong have also been reproduced by Standard Chartered in their Pudong and also their Shenzen branches.

Citibank Singapore, meanwhile, have opted for fragrance styling in their CPC (Citigold Private Client) service. Designed to reach a target audience of Asian clients with net value of U$10M to U$20M, part of the repositioning strategy for this brand is to create an experience that is sophisticated and gives a sense of ‘arrival’. The property is an exclusive, cultured and professional environment presenting the bank’s most affluent customers with a unique banking relationship offering deeper and more sophisticated, individual guidance for personal and business wealth.

As a branding bonus, so as to reinforce the positive emotional experience, Citibank also provides customers will a beautiful boxed gift for people who loved the scent - a reed diffuser set so that their homes can be perfumed with the same fragrance!

A relaxing scent leaves the clients alert without it being overpowering, and compliment the property. It is designed to assure customers that the bank understands them and everything that they have achieved. A wide variety of private spaces and flexible facilities cater to individual needs and enable a tailored experience for each customer. Characterized by attention to detail, the design, furniture and finishes reflect the sophisticated level of service on offer. Contemporary curated art further distinguishes these unique environments while emphasising global values and relevance.

When a bank employes both fragrance and music together, the music can be further leveraged by making it the ‘onhold’ soundtrack for customer service telephone calls. This has been done by OCBC Singapore in order to deliver a consistent experience across multiple brand touchpoints.

Banks in Malaysia have also been fast to catch onto these powerful sensory techniques, CIMB and OCBC Malaysia most notably. CIMB Bank has adopted fragrance styling in its own private high nett worth banking suites in Singapore, going for a contemporary Asian floral scent. OCBC meanwhile have rolled out music styling in a big way for almost a decade now, opting for classical and jazz in their Premier Banking suites to create a more premium feel, whilst styling their retail banking with more contemporary ‘lifestyle’ appeal.

At the end of the day, bank brands are trending towards exclusivity, experience and relationship-building in their sensory strategies, especially for their Premier Banking services. The concept of an exclusive ‘club membership’ is often considered a parallel to the atmosphere they are striving to achieve.

Working at the subtle subjective level of consciousness, sensory styling is able to create this image in a real, palpable and ethical way. I confidently predict that - as in the retail industry - as banks realize the potency of these techniques and awaken to the positive effect on their balance sheets, this will be a common branding strategy for banks and other financial institutions with a retail interface, moving forward.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Asian Banking & Finance. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Simon Faure-Field

Simon Faure-Field

Simon Faure-Field is the founder and CEO of visionary customer experience consultancy, Equal Strategy. The company, which has offices in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, advises global brands across multiple industries how to achieve consistency in “brand atmospherics”, specifically telephone and customer environment (‘sensory’) touch points which enable companies to achieve powerful competitive advantage in the context of their long-term business strategy.

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