Adapting Zelle to Today’s Changing Consumer: a Conversation with Early Warning VPs Melissa Lowry and Jeremiah Glodoveza

August 5, 2020
By PRSA Board Member Elsabete Kebede
Adapting Zelle to Today’s Changing Consumer: a Conversation with Early Warning VPs Melissa Lowry and Jeremiah Glodoveza

Marketing a consumer brand in today’s rapidly changing environment is challenging. This is especially true for Early Warning VP of Consumer Brand and Marketing Melissa Lowry and VP of Communications Jeremiah Glodoveza. They’re responsible for marketing  Zelle®, Early Warning’s contact-free way to send money through a participating banking app. At this week’s #FridayForum moderated by PRSA-SV Board Member Meghan Fintland, Melissa and Jeremiah shared how they and their teams are adapting the Zelle brand.

Engagement Procedures, Consistent Messaging

Zelle is owned by seven large banks and more than 900 financial institutions of varying sizes are contracted to offer Zelle. Last year, Zelle processed 700 million transactions. With this large of a network, Jeremiah explained that it’s essential to have standard engagement procedures in place and to use consistent messaging. “All of these consumer touchpoints are inextricably linked so it’s critically important that our teams work closely together,” he said.

Flexibility Key to Success

Many brand marketers have had to reconsider and outright pivot their campaign ideas and direction during COVID-19. “We needed to revisit everything. From timing to messaging to tone to the channels we’re in,” said Melissa. “Everything we thought we knew had to be reconsidered.”

For example, for Zelle’s Pay it Safe, originally a marketing campaign, was redirected to become an educational campaign. “Data pointed at the older generation in the adoption of digital banking,” Jeremiah added.  “We doubled-down on educating as many people as possible on the functionalities of digital banking.”

Lead, Communicate with Empathy

Authentic internal employee communications, particularly at this time, is important. Acknowledging the difficult environment employees are in and demonstrating empathy is important. For the Zelle team working in remote locations, this means ensuring appropriate communication channels, one-to-one touchpoints from leadership, and providing a space for people to share how they’re adjusting to the new normal.

As for authentic executive communications, Jeremiah advised Zelle executives that, “It’s okay to be vulnerable, to be nervous and stumble and acknowledge that you may not have all the right answers. Because in this environment, who really does?” He explained that raw and vulnerable communications, not polished (and potentially watered down) messaging, resonates with Zelle employees.

Utilize Data to Drive Strategy

When developing new strategies, the Zelle communications team is heavily data-driven. Using data gave the team a better understanding of where Zelle fits in the marketplace. “We use data to find those nuggets of insights,” said Melissa. For example, by using real-time feedback, her team identified trends like the rise of splitting the cost of groceries and interpersonal charitable giving.


Will the $3,000 transaction limit be increased anytime soon?

ML: Our bank partners set the limits and are working to increase it.

How is Zelle reaching out to consumers?

ML: By focusing on clear core messaging, the best channels, and asking ourselves what problems we can solve. There’s a whole new world of people that never thought they would need something like this payment app, but now they do.

Have your metrics changed?

JG: What’s become more important than the quantity of reach and impressions is  the quality of coverage metrics. We’ve focused our key messaging on the people who need to hear it the most.

ML: Some of my metrics have not changed as far as awareness. Education on how to use Zelle safely is something the team is working on more intensely right now.

Would you change anything if you could?

JG: No. With crisis procedures put in place beforehand –– including one for a pandemic–– Zelle was in a position to quickly pivot with minimal disruption to our consumer base.

ML: We’ve strengthened our relationship with the data science team. It has never been on a weekly basis like it is now, so there was more we could have done early on to build that relationship.

How is Zelle addressing financial instability and social justice?

ML: It’s about thinking of consumers, not just as data points, and learning what they’re feeling and experiencing. It’s important to reach them where they are, authentically, and understand the context of that. For example, Zelle did a campaign with Tyrann Mathieu where he gave back money to four families in his community. As far as social justice, Zelle is continuing to learn. We’re focusing on internal reflection before publicly positioning where we stand as a company.

*Some answers edited for space.

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