The Often Overlooked & Neglected ATM Network As A Marketing Tool

Posted by Calvin Johnson on Jun 25, 2015 7:00:00 AM


OK, I admit it. I am a bit of an ATM fanatic. I cut my banking teeth in the early days of ATMs. In fact, over 40 years ago, I was part of the team that launched the huge ATM marketing success of Tillie The Alltime Teller for the First National Bank of Atlanta.  

If you have a second, read more about the Tillie the All Time Teller campaign from the Wells Fargo "Guided By History" blog referenced at the bottom of this post.  You'll love it! 

I later went on to manage statewide ATM operations for this bank and two others, even creating the largest ATM network in Georgia. I also served on the Operations & Technology Committee for two regional shared ATM networks. And I authored the ATM Surcharge enabling legislation in Georgia.

Heck, I am so old that I spoke at three of the first five BAI ATM Conferences, long before its name was changed to Retail Delivery.

And my message back then was to use a bank’s ATM program as a differentiator, as a marketing tool, and ultimately as a revenue generator.

ATMs were at the core of my personal banking DNA, and sometimes I wonder if banks take their ATM programs for granted in today’s world of online banking and mobile banking. If they are indeed relegating their ATM programs to second class delivery system status, they are missing out on a great marketing opportunity.

Imagine my delight when I came across a research report reminding us of the importance of a bank’s ATM network.

For American consumers choosing a bank, cash may still be king.  A recent study shows the main factor for most people shopping for a bank isn’t personal recommendations, interest rates or online and mobile features — they want to make sure they have access to a branch and ATMs.

A study conducted by Credio, an arm of data research company FindTheBest, asked 3,000 American bank customers what the most important factors were when selecting a bank. The answer, for 41% of customers, was ATM and branch availability.

As would be expected, millennials look to online and mobile and take advice from friends more than any other age group, but surprisingly they, too, mainly want to make sure ATMs and bank branches are available.  What's more, recent SYNERGISTICS survey results reveal that consumers’ attitudes toward new ATM functions have grown more positive over the years.

synergisticsSYNERGISTICS: Expanding the Role of ATMs

These findings shouldn’t be very surprising once you think about it since cash is universally accepted and people still need access to get it.

When Credio asked respondents what they’re most satisfied with at their current banks, online and mobile capabilities was the most common answer (for 31% of respondents), closely followed by customer support (29%), and ATM and branch availability (27%).

The fact that people end up liking the mobile features offered more is also no surprise. It’s the most frequented channel in terms of pure number of visits, but that is not to be confused with which channel is most important in the selection of a primary financial institution.

After all, digital banking and mobile banking are still in their infancy when compared to the venerable ATM.

Senior Management Implications

  • Convenience remains one of the most important reasons consumers select a particular bank, and the availability of non-surcharge ATMS can increase the appeal of your brand.
  • When looking to optimize your delivery system, don't overlook the ATM network as a valuable differentiator in your community bank's bag of tricks.
  • Be creative in your ATM marketing approach.  History shows that consumers will migrate to a brand that stands out from the crowd.

Long live the ATM!

How does your organization stack up?  Align's self-assessment can provide you with some valuable insight into your performance relative to some of the highest performing community banks in the U.S..


Wells_Fargo_Tillie_Exhibit"First National Bank of Atlanta , a Wachovia predecessor, was concerned that the relatively new automated teller machine (ATM) it introduced in 1974 would appear cold and difficult to use. In those days, customers were accustomed to walking inside a bank and chatting with a pleasant teller. So First National named their ATM “Tillie the All Time Teller,” and put the face of a smiling blonde girl on the front of the machine. “Tillie” looked inviting to customers and suggested that the machine was highly user-friendly. Did it work? In a word, yes. Tillie launched one of the most successful ATM systems in the banking industry. In their efforts to promote Tillie, First National hired a blonde actress who wore a red and white polkadotted dress in TV ads. She sang: “I’m Tillie the All Time Teller, I work for First National Bank” as she stood beside the machine. In another Tillie ad, a balding, middle-aged man approached the machine singing, to the tune of the classic “If You Knew Susie” : Oh, if you knew Tillie like I know Tillie Oh, oh, oh, what a girl! She works to please me, to make life easy Oh, oh, she makes my banking smooth and breezy Day or nighttime, I don’t care When I need money, I know my all-time teller’s there! If you knew Tillie, like I know Tillie Oh, oh, oh! For Tillie’s third birthday, she was toasted to the refrain of “For She’s a Jolly Good Teller.” As the song ended in the ad, a drawer opened and blew out three candles! The bank also hired Tillie look-alikes to help customers at branches learn how to use the machine. Personalizing this new technology worked for First Atlanta. Customers enthusiastically embraced Tillie and helped her maintain one of the highest transaction rates per machine of any such service in the country. By 1977, Tillie was so popular that three other banks purchased rights to the program."

-Truidi Cox, "Tillie The All Time Teller," Guided By History, (Wells Fargo's blog about history & community), August 2009.


Topics: Delivery System Optimization