The Agency / PMG Collaboration

PMG Intelligence Collaborates with The Agency at Central 1 to Bring Industry-Leading Consumer Insights to the Credit Union System

There’s an adage in the advertising world, “If you aren’t measuring, you aren’t marketing.” It’s true that in the digital world there’s access to more data than ever before and there’s never been a greater focus on applying those insights to positively affect the bottom line.

However, effective use of data goes far beyond  driving revenue and optimizing sales funnels. Having the right insights, and the ability to action them, allows marketers to enhance their customer experiences, understand how to  better serve their customers, and ultimately deepen relationships.

And that’s why we are excited to announce a new collaboration with The Agency at Central 1. They have been a long-time partner of ours and a leader in marketing strategy and execution for credit unions, with a focus on optimizing marketing efforts and spend to attract, retain and deepen relationships with their target audiences.

The Agency is applying PMG’s proprietary Life Stage Segmentation and Value of Advice research as a core to their strategic marketing services offering. This unlocks a new level of insights The Agency can apply to strategies and campaigns for their credit union clients. We’re excited about the possibilities this uncovers to drive greater member engagement and growth, and, in turn, build a stronger system.

Central 1 sat down with Rob Grein, President at PMG Intelligence, and Jen Gerald, Director of Marketing at Central 1 and Head of The Agency at Central 1, to learn more about the genesis of the collaboration, what this means for The Agency clients, and their predictions for the credit union system as we move through the pandemic and beyond.

Before we get into what this collaboration entails, let’s learn about PMG and The Agency. For those who may not be familiar, can you each introduce these organizations in a few sentences.

Jen: The Agency is a multi-disciplinary collective of in-house research professionals, marketers, strategists, creatives, interactive designers, and writers. We’re unique in that we’re a standalone agency that also happens to be embedded within Central 1. So not only do we have 30+ years of market research and consulting experience with Canadian credit unions, we also bring a lot of value in terms of efficiency because we’re integrated with so many of Central 1’s other service and product teams. I honestly believe we’re the best resource for any credit union looking for affordable strategic marketing services with a partner that understands, and believes in, the credit union value proposition.

Rob: PMG is a multidisciplinary research and data science company. We were founded in 1993, and for the past 30 years have worked in almost every major industry category in Canada, including insurance, pharma, tech, risk management, and financial services. We have built a specific focus in behavioral modelling within the financial services sector, and we specialize in data analysis.

How did The Agency and PMG start working together?

J: The Agency has our own consumer research group, and we’ve collaborated with Rob and PMG for many years whenever our clients needed access to deeper research. Last year Rob and I started chatting about how we could bring more insights to credit unions in a way that was accessible, affordable and actionable for them and this collaboration model really ticked all those boxes. Finding opportunities for credit unions to reduce costs, and share insights and intelligence is an integral part of Central 1’s purpose – and partnering with an industry leader like PMG is one way we can deliver upon that.

R: Jen did a wonderful job summarizing. I’ll add that PMG has a very specific interest in supporting credit unions because the model that we have created is very much geared to support community-focused organizations. Credit unions have the unique ability to bring things to market in a way that is much different from larger institutions, and we are very aligned with this approach and the system’s focus on the member above all else.

Jen, what process did The Agency go through to determine this type of research was needed for your clients?

J: Credit unions have so much more on their plate than their marketing. They’re dealing with shrinking margins, increased competition and many have considerable capital investments on the near horizon. These are just some of factors putting pressure on their marketing spend, and so it’s critical for credit unions to maximize their marketing efficiency – to earn the most return on their dollar as possible. We conducted surveys to dig deep into credit unions’ marketing priorities, their challenges, and anything else that might impede their ability to reach their goals. This research, and also our experience with clients, showed that while they want to prioritize data integration and already have access to data from a variety of sources, for many the big gap is the ability to analyze it and then operationalize it. PMG’s bench strength in data analysis fills the first void, and The Agency can turn that analysis into actionable marketing strategies.

Let’s talk more about the research itself. Rob, what can you tell us about PMG’s Life Stage Segmentation and Value of Advice research?

R: We determined that for credit unions and other financial services companies to truly impact a client’s financial success, they really need to understand the changes and obstacles that financial consumers experience as they move through life. Essentially, we have been able to take a vast amount of data about the interactions members have with their credit unions throughout various stages of their lives, and from that create a model that predicts outcomes.

Research is often sentiment-driven: someone tells you what they think, and then we make decisions based on their sentiments. But what someone states does not always translate into what they do. We have invested a lot of time into determining what offerings resonate with credit union members, so we can be laser-focused on how credit unions can best support them, and in turn acquire more members.

The pandemic has obviously created many new challenges for marketers. What’s your take on consumers in a post-pandemic world?

R: The pandemic affected how people make decisions. Pre-COVID, people were naturally change averse and not as engaged with their financial relationships. They may have been acting out of habit and had things on autopilot a bit. But the pandemic inserted a stressor into that and caused people to stop, pause and evaluate. Now decisions may be more goal-oriented versus habit-oriented.

Consumers want more from their financial services provider now. They want to be heard, and not just sold a product. They want a provider who will help them in their journey. And consumers want to be more involved: they are more engaged in their financial destiny, and they want a partner in achieving their goals.

Marketers need to understand their consumers more than ever as there is a real alignment of values happening now. Overall, I think this is a wonderful time for the credit union system.

J: Something we often talk about is the heart vs. smart. Credit unions have always won in the heart. So what Rob is saying here is truly exciting because the thing that has always differentiated credit unions from banks, the thing that we’ve always had but maybe hasn’t driven growth as much as we wanted it to, now consumers are really paying attention to it.

Are there any key things that you think organizations should be focusing on at this moment?  

R: As I mentioned, the pandemic is creating this market correction in consumer behaviour and how people think about their financial relationships. I think the opportunity that exists for organizations right now is looking inward—looking at the existing relationships they have with consumers, and building on them.

Consumers are more open to listening to the ways in which companies can serve them, and the opportunity for increasing share of wallet has not been this high since PMG was formed. That is why we have been focusing on our PMG 360 platform, a predictive analytics platform that we will be sharing more information on soon.

J: Well I don’t think this will come as a surprise to anyone but building a really robust end-to-end digital channel for members is crucial – that’s going to allow credit unions to be really responsive and effective with their engagement and growth strategies and it sets the stage for actioning predictive analytics like PMG 360. It’s a really unique time for credit unions in Canada because essentially the entire system is modernizing both their digital and payments operations on masse and that’s going to bring so many opportunities to enhance the member experience.

Lastly, what excites each of you the most about this collaboration between Central 1 and PMG?

J: From The Agency’s perspective, we’re so excited to bring data analysis to credit unions that the big five banks have relied on for many years, that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive for most to invest in on their own. And as a team we love a new challenge and this is just the beginning—we have so many ideas about what we can do. I think ultimately what excites us most is knowing the impact this can have. When a credit union has success and we know that we played a small part in it, that’s so gratifying for the team.

R: Our firm is excited knowing that this data can really help credit unions and ultimately their members when it comes to managing their financial sustainability, planning for retirement, or achieving any of their other financial goals. This is a way that we can really contribute to the success of not only companies, but also to people. We have been collecting and analyzing data for three decades, and we’re always thrilled when our work can impact everyday Canadians. With Central 1 being a fundamental anchor for supporting the credit union system in Canada, the alignment made perfect sense. We are very excited about this.

About PMG

PMG is a highly-experienced market research and intelligence agency with advanced skillsets in mathematics, psychology, sociology, business, and economics. We are dedicated to advancing our industry through the development of next-level data capture and data analysis methodologies. Born in 1993, PMG entered the market as a full-service market research consultancy. Over the past 25 years we have had the opportunity to partner with many different organizations spanning a multitude of industry segments. Today, our portfolio includes some of the largest and most recognized brands in North America.

Learn more about PMG Intelligence here.

About The Agency at Central 1

The Agency is the only full-service marketing agency of its kind – embedded in the credit union system and solely dedicated to unlocking greater member growth and engagement. Our in-house research professionals, marketers, project managers, strategists, creatives, and writers have decades of experience conducting research and consulting for Canadian financial institutions and credit unions.

Learn more about The Agency here.