Chase Community Giving is the largest brand initiative in social media in terms of size (dollar give) and scale (level of engagement). In some ways it is the last one standing since PepsiCo abandoned the Refresh Project. Chase innovated the initiative last year by engaging its customer base (via nominations) and delivered on their most successful campaign to date in terms of engagement. We spoke with Jorge Fontanez, VP & Marketing Manager, Chase Community Giving at JPMorgan Chase & Co., to learn how the brand raised the bar and what the results were.
Brandon Gutman: What did 2012 mark for Chase Community Giving?
Jorge Fontanez: Since its inception in 2009, Chase Community Giving has been exclusively marketed via social media, and for that matter, primarily through Facebook. Although the program was recognized as an innovative philanthropic initiative, we were challenged by an increasing number of similar programs started by other corporate brands that led to fatigue and confusion. Our marketing efforts would be crucial to raise the bar with the goal of increasing awareness more broadly while not incurring significantly higher expense. We chose to engage our customer base and employees as an important strategic objective in order to create a more sustainable program that would be embraced by the Chase community long-term.
Our ability to create a scaled program with efficiency was well planned, but the response was almost unimaginable. For the first time, we invested in our owned assets to advertise and raise awareness of the program by leveraging our more than 5,600 retail branches and Chase.com with over 15 million users visiting monthly. When we invited our customers to nominate charities to participate in the next program, they responded overwhelmingly with nearly 30,000 unique charities nominated – nearly double what we had forecast. By the time voting opened, a majority of those charities had readied their supporters, and we closed the program with a record of 1.5 million votes. We saw a 15% increase in our Facebook fan base—to over 3.8 million, we were the #2 fastest growing app on Facebook and our peak total reach on the platform topped 15.9 million. We never imagined this level of engagement.
How do you value the impact of the program?
The truth is that an initiative like ours does not elicit a positive ROI, but that has never been the intent. The program was launched to help Chase gain a better understanding of what causes and charities are important to the people living in the communities we serve. Of course, we do monitor how our investment helps distinguish the brand; but I personally have been most impressed by the steadfast commitment from senior leadership at the firm to the community and helping make a real impact and difference locally.
How did the American Giving Awards fits within your strategy?
For a second year in a row, Chase has been the title sponsor of the American Giving Awards, a television show created as a “Celebrity Tribute to Community Heroes.” We have recognized the limitations of running a program solely online, and so we turned to traditional mass market channels to help raise awareness for Chase Community Giving. It has been important, however, to maintain the social link, so we continued to allow the general public and our customers to vote on Facebook and Chase.com. We also had what I have described as beautiful social choreography, successfully using Facebook as a second-screen experience so that supporters could engage with us and comment while watching the show. During the show broadcast, viral reach on Facebook peaked at over 20 million users and we complemented this with Twitter using our celebrity talent to drive social conversation and amplify PR efforts. We continue to evaluate the impact of this past year’s efforts and discussions are ongoing for 2013.
Jorge, you’ve accomplished great successes in your career having worked on multiple leading brands at Colgate-Palmolive. Since coming to Chase and leading the CCG initiative, what has been your greatest learning?
I left Colgate-Palmoliveat a time when digital and social media plans were the envy of brand marketers, and although they can still be deemed as sexy, it is becoming more important for these channels to prove their value. Chase Community Giving was a program steeped in the online world, and it has found success by embracing complementary marketing efforts offline. Without the opportunities to advertise in our retail branches or experiment with TV, our options to grow the program would have been limited. Digital and social media are important parts of the marketing media mix, delivering more efficient plans but it has not yet replaced mass media channels that continue to drive awareness more effectively.
What is your advice to fellow brand marketers looking to build or dramatically scale their own community platform initiative? Most importantly, how can they ensure sustainability?
Identify champions amongst your senior leadership that value what social media platforms offer. You must be willing to experiment and be agile, particularly in a fast changing environment where technology advances quickly and impacts how consumers behave. Lastly, engage your online community, listen to them and act quickly. There are few approaches that offer better speed to market, so if you are looking to ensure sustainability of an online community platform, you cannot stop listening.
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