Move onUp: 5 Questions with SunTrust CMO Susan Somersille Johnson

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SunTrust OnUp Confidence Starts Here

SunTrust is busting out all over—in the new SunTrust Park that will be the home of the Atlanta Braves beginning April 14, and in a strategic follow-up campaign to the financial services company’s groundbreaking Super Bowl ad (voiced by Gary Sinise) in 2016.

Following on the spot’s creation of the “onUp movement,” SunTrust Bank has unveiled the next phase of its marketing campaign to inspire Americans to take control of their personal finances. “Confidence Starts Here” is a series of ads that celebrate what it feels like when someone achieves financial confidence.

The first new spot shows a middle-aged guy who’s going to take a whack at some very daredevil-like roller skating. His initial appearance doesn’t inspire confidence, but he nails it.

His carefree and competent approach reflects what SunTrust would like its customers —and participants in the onUp “movement”—to feel about their own finances: confident and enjoying life.

“The campaign advances our company’s purpose of ‘lighting the way to financial well-being,'” said SunTrust chief marketing officer Susan Somersille Johnson. “Most people are surprised by how simple, predictable patterns can help them make real progress toward their financial goals, regardless of how much money they make.”

The second ad, “Sounds of Confidence,” will be filmed in the infield at SunTrust Park—the home park to the Atlanta Braves, which just opened—in a scene showcasing a grounds-crew member stepping up to the microphone and launching a rock-star performance that also points to the power of financial confidence.

brandchannel spoke with Johnson for more insights:

bc: It’s been a year since you launched onUp at the Super Bowl. How’s it going?

Susan Somersille JohnsonSusan Somersille Johnson (right): We have far exceeded our expectations. We were thrilled to reach a million people last month. The movement is behaving very differently than a campaign; it’s spreading in ways we couldn’t have imagined.

People are taking onUp to kids’ soccer games and talking to other parents about it, and talking to support groups about it. We had forecast 600,000 people signing up and we’ve reached one million. Now our goal is five million people in five years. People are getting tips and tools, and sharing their stories.

bc: Why are you calling onUp  movement? 

Johnson: We’re very careful to make it distinctively a movement. We measure success by how many people have taken steps toward financial confidence. It includes a lot of people who aren’t clients of SunTrust. That’s the commitment we made as a purpose-driven company—to help everyone, not just clients. As marketers, our business is to promote our company, of course, but we’re serious about trying to help everyone.

SunTrust OnUp

bc: Is it difficult to instill confidence if people are worried about their economic security?

Johnson: The economy has a big impact on people’s finances, of course. But our research showed that anyone can reach financial confidence; it’s not correlated to income. You can get financially confident if you have certain habits in place. The economy of course has an impact on that.

Last year was a difficult year for Americans. We think a confidence message will have more legs this year. People are looking for more upbeat and confident messages. Last year we focused on stresses and other issues, but as the economy brightens, more people will grow confident, and our message will follow.

bc: And are American consumers feeling increasingly confident now?

Johnson: We know that 75 percent of Americans remain stressed over money. But especially with the Fed making moves on interest rates, we know confidence is improving.

bc: How does the opening of SunTrust Park fit into OneUp?

Johnson: It’s going to give us incredible added exposure and visibility. We’re in the Southeast, of course, but Braves fans span the country. One thing we’re doing is bringing financial tools to the fans.SunTrust was built as a mixed-use community, not just a ballpark, so one thing we’re doing is building a financial well-being center right outside the parking zone.

We’re calling it the onUp Experience, and it’s really an entertainment center. There are trivia contests, and you go in and get “drafted” and get a personalized baseball card. And through it all you’re learned basic ideas about financial confidence.


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