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Citizens Access Launches New Bank Using Advanced Audience Strategy


Citizens Access Bank was tasked with building a national, direct bank “from scratch” in a nine-month time frame. The goal was to generate $3 billion in deposits in its first six months, while creating a savings experience that is differentiated and unique. The journey to pursuing this goal included a few challenges:

  • Brand recognition - “Citizens Access” would be a new brand nationally, and its parent company, Citizens Bank, which is well known regionally, had no recognition outside of its eleven-state footprint.
  • A highly competitive direct bank environment all with differing business models competing for the same digitally savvy consumer.
  • Building a brand with consumers who were very rate sensitive and geared to search first for rates through search engines and aggregators (such as Bankrate, Nerdwallet, etc.).


Merkle and Citizens Access tackled this challenge using a three-part strategy:

  1. Building a picture of the desired audience – Merkle conducted the primary research to identify the direct-to-bank consumer. This helped Citizens understand the characteristics of the consumer. 

    Merkle’s proprietary Neuroanalytics was used to better understand motivations. The study uncovered and quantified the digital banking customer (referred to as Optimizers), highlighting their desires through cognitive psychology. From this study, key themes emerged as being important: simplicity, transparency, and trust. In terms of benefits, market leading rates, FDIC, access anytime, anywhere, products, language, and experience were also very important.

    These insights drove many of the the critical decisions around the naming of the bank, product development (features and benefits), fee structure (no fees), and addressed how customers wanted to experience the brand. In short, the understanding of the audience guided many of the critical marketing launch decisions.
  2. Understanding the audience relationship and interactions – Merkle’s proprietary M1 platform was used to find and size the audience, understand behaviors, psychographics, attitudes, and media consumption patterns. It also helped determine how best to reach the consumer using addressable media.

    Another factor of success was the Bank’s analytics teams. Using multifactor analysis – the interplay of different media tactics were identified and optimizated. We then used that information to understand the media consumption, journey, and LTV performance.
  3. Leveraging customer feedback to shape and evolve the Bank – Over 15,000 data points and customer feedback were captured and analyzed each month. This information helped identify areas for product and service expansion, defect remediation, customer experience improvement, and  brand and communication evolution. A nimble planning process enabled the Bank to reporitize focus quickly to address needs using an agile planning approach.


If you wanted to build a bank from scratch, where would you begin? How would you determine your branding, products, and services in addition to platforms and marketing strategies? What would be your guiding principle, and how would you stay true to it each step of the way?

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In balances in the first 10 months of operation


Of deposits from out of footprint states


Of balances coming from existing Citizens Bank accounts


Net Promotor Score

Keys to success

  • Research to understand the customers: demographics, banking behaviors, and motivations
  • Insights to drive all the critical decisions around the launch of the bank such as: naming the bank, product features, benefit positioning, and channels
  • Creating a unique experience for the consumer, focused on three key motivations
  • Mapping the segmentation to actionable data to find the exact individuals in addressable media (display, social, affiliates, and search)

Discover how we did it. Contact us today.

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