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Image of Scott Goodson interviewing Vinoo Vijay on an orange sofa

Episode 2: Vinoo Vijay

Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer, Truist

Explore how Truist integrates brand purpose in financial services, enhancing marketing strategies and community impact.

Full Transcript

VO: Purpose Haze. A new series featuring Scott Goodson, founder of StrawberryFrog, together with New York Festivals, it will defog purpose through in-depth interviews with those at the forefront of purpose driven companies. Watch what happens when the smoke clears.

Scott: Welcome back to Purpose Haze. We have a really great show today. We are going to have a chat with Vinoo Vijay. Welcome to the show.

Vinoo: Thank you.

Scott: We're going to talk about money, something that's near and dear to all of us. And Vinoo has been working in this space for a long time. He's currently the chief marketing officer, one of the largest banks here in the United States called Truist. And before that, he did a similar job at some of the other largest banks in this part of the world.

Scott: What I think is interesting about this conversation is we're going to focus on purpose and the role it plays in driving him personally, but also this financial institution. So welcome.

Vinoo: Thank you, Scott. It's great to be here. And I'd love to talk about purpose.

Scott: Well, starting with the purpose. How do you feel this particular bank, since you've worked in others, has really come to the world differently than perhaps the other places? And how has purpose played a role? Yeah.

Vinoo: Yeah. And you're probably hearing this from a lot of executives these days is that purpose is not a choice anymore. Everybody wants to be in the purpose business in some sense. The challenge with purpose is it's very hard to do. It's very hard to do authentically and have it be believable and have it be real and have it really have a transformative effect on the ways that businesses work.

Vinoo: And I think one of the great things that our my my company Truist has is that this is a merger of two companies that happened two and a half years ago. It's a new company in that sense. And and so we had the opportunity to really establish from ground up what we were about, why we were about, and how that can manifest in practical ways that allows us to actually live our purpose.

Scott: Do you find that having a purpose makes your job easier, or does it make it more complicated?

Vinoo: That's a great question. I would say it does make it more complicated, but it makes it incredibly more rewarding. Well, I mean, you started with the conversation that said this is about money. And, yes, you know, banking is about money. And money is incredibly important. And, you know, and I know and everybody knows it's a part of every part of our life, whether we want it to be or not.

Vinoo: It has some effect on the well-being of all of our lives. The question, though, and so what we think about when we think about purpose is when I'm in the money business, we're in the purpose business. And our purpose is to inspire and build better lives and communities. Money is a means to that. But money is one part of that ecosystem that allows us to deliver that.

Vinoo: Our teammates are the other giant part of that. Right. And so is it harder to be in the purpose business? Yes, because as you and I know, when we're trying to communicate that or explaining something that feels authentic in the purpose round is much harder than explaining something that feels very functional, even though both are sort of baked within each other.

Scott: I think that when you have a purpose, it lets you move from the business of banking to the movement to the purpose of or sorry, from the business of banking to the business of better living. But you live better lives. And yeah.

Vinoo: You know, when I think about banking, if you go back, you know, if you look at advertising from the early 1900s, yeah, bank advertising was always these pictures of large stately buildings with large columns that signified your money is inside there and it's super safe. It was security. And that was the story that banks were all about security.

Vinoo: And then, you know, over time, that sort of evolved into scale as bank started to merge and become larger and larger and the benefits of scale started to become important to consumers and to communities. And it became about the ubiquity of banking. You know, banking is everywhere and banking is at your fingertips. And in those days you would see advertising of people falling from an airplane and doing their mobile banking while they're, you know, gliding down.

Vinoo: It was all about being everywhere. And then we went to this evolution of the digitization and the mobilization of banking on your mobile phone. Right. The six inch screen and what that meant. And that's an interesting thread because what that essentially said is the efficacy of banking is now better than it's ever been. You can control your money better than you ever could before.

Vinoo: And it's true. It is amazing. I mean, what we can do on our phone in controlling our money is astonishing.

Scott: That's amazing.

Vinoo: It's really astonishing.

Scott: I mean, it's also like ten years ago, nobody in this country paid with their phone to pay with checks and everybody's using.

Vinoo: That's right.

Scott: Zelle and Venmo. And doing 100 other things

Vinoo: Exactly. But we're in sort of this new era, the next era that we're in assumes, yes, you have security. Yes. You have scale. Yes, you have mobile efficacy. And then this fourth element is, yes, you have purpose. The why among all of this helps guide the choices we make. The way that our employees and teammates feel empowered and energized towards an outcome that why, in this era of, you know, essentially communalism where essentially we're all so interconnected and we we realize that what I do affects your well-being, What you do affects somebody else's well-being, whether you intended to or not.

Scott: I think that's a great point. You know, really lovely job of explaining sort of the history of, you know, of how we engage with banks. Like I remember when I was a kid, you walk into the bank and there was like columns of marble and you felt like really small. And then, as you said, then banks became this like on every street corner, and they were everywhere.

Scott: And now money and the issues about finance, they're not just about me. It's about my relationship with my family, my friends. And so many others. We're living in this. It's not just about money, actually. It's about everything in life, right? The interconnected world. That's right. So how does that change that reality that exists? How does that then connect with this brand new financial institution that has a new name as a purpose?

Scott: Right. Not a mission. Like is that that's what they did in the old days. Now it's purpose. How does that set you up for success?

Vinoo: So to inspire and build better lives in communities. You know, that's that that's, that's our sort of guiding light and what that allows us to do and how I think that's sort of motivating us and pushing us is that's the first thing we think about. It's the first set of information we share even in our in our earnings report.

Vinoo: It's the first thing that goes in our annual report. It's the first thing that we talk about when we think about our strategy is how is what we're doing helping achieve that outcome. And then the second thing we do that is equally important is we challenge each one of our teammates to find their own purpose and find a connection between their purpose and the company's purpose.

Vinoo: Because if we can create that connection, then our teammates feel that sense of personal purpose that they're fulfilling and achieving. And both the company and the teammates benefiting from that outcome, I.

Scott: Think is really important because it has to be authentic and not purpose washing or, you know, toothless purpose. So if it's okay, we'll look at a couple of videos now of some of your teammates and as they talk about their purpose.

Speaker 4: My personal purpose is to be a dealer of hope. And hope for me is an acronym helping other people excel.

Speaker 5: Maximizing every moment that I have with every individual because every moment matters. To use care, levity and imagination to joyfully advocate for individual and systemic integrity, courage and love.

Scott: And so how does that help you do what you are doing.

Vinoo: Yeah, I mean, so what you're seeing in that is authentic teammate value is showing up. And that's really powerful because I mean, you know as like you all of us are, you know, leaders of many teammates and we are part of a large ecosystem of influence. And when you have that role and for everybody else, the most powerful and rewarding thing you can do is helping these teammates achieve their outcomes.

Vinoo: And what you're seeing in there is teammates recognizing their own purpose, being vocal about it and being clear about it and essentially saying, this is where I'm headed and come with me on this journey and I know where you are headed and I know where you are headed. And I see connectivity that we can help each other on that purpose path.

Scott: The reality is, though, I mean, you're way out ahead of many others in the sense that recent statistics show that only 25% of chief marketing officer actually activate purpose. So it must be really, really hard. Is that true?

Vinoo: Yeah. Well, purpose cannot be activated if it doesn't come from the top. That's just. Yeah. So, fortunately, we have a CEO and an executive team that has completely bought into being a purpose oriented company. We also have a Purpose activation team that reports to the CEO that is oriented towards making sure that purpose shows up in every part of our ecosystem.

Vinoo: And as the CMO, it is you know, it's a it's a it's a blessing and it is difficult. It's a blessing because we have that opportunity. It's difficult. It's an obligation that we have to fulfill. Well, if you think about the marketing ecosystem, that's also gone through an evolution, right? So, you know, back in the day when I started marketing, I was, you know, 30 years ago, you know, what I was doing was, you know, relational databases where the big new thing, you know, Oracle to just come out with their databases and and we would pull files and send out mail and and create loyalty programs.

Vinoo: And it was all very outbound. I'll give you this if you give me that very transactional based marketing, very powerful, very successful, then marketing sort of went into this evolution of, you know, how we would think about sort of more experiential marketing, which is right time, right place, right customer, the CRM orientation using the all the capabilities of the software and data, that ecosystem that we have to make that work for sort of being as, as relevant to the client with a customer at that moment with the information that you're sharing.

Vinoo: Great stuff. Very good. But again, I think the obligation of the CMO today has got to be to connect the internal ethos of the company with the external delivery of what the client and community see and that connection strengthens the brand in a way that nothing else can. And the importance of the brand in a world where, you know, social media kind of dictates your brand, that authenticity is incredibly important.

Vinoo: You have to be real about it, otherwise you'll be called out on it and so the CMO's job now, I think is making sure that what you see externally matches who you are internally and purpose is the thread that strings that together.

Scott: Break down often is external. Like you hear a lot of symbols like they understand the internal part. Yeah, but they have difficulty taking that, you know, translating the purpose into something that can help them build their business, right? So is it because it's hard or is it because they don't know what to do? Is it because, you know, you mentioned the history of banking.

Scott: Is it 80 years of how you do bank advertising? And now we're at a pivotal point where it's a brand new place and it's a whole new way of thinking about it, Like, why are they having such difficulty and what has helped you kind of leapfrog all the rest?

Vinoo: Yeah, I think it's easier to fail in purpose than it is to fail in function. And that's because function has sort of grounding in it and purpose. If you don't recreate the grounding that sometimes is invisible, you will end up feeling at it, right? So how do you tell a purpose story? It's really hard. It's hard. Yeah. It's really hard to tell a purpose story without people looking at that and saying, Well, but that's.

Scott: What you do because it's hard. It's not because it's easy.

Vinoo: Exactly. Well, you do it because it's real. And it takes the company to a different level. It takes the conversation to a different level, an important level. But yeah, super difficult. So the failure risk is higher for sure and you have to manage for that. Now, what we did is we said rule number one, we aren't going to say anything that we don't authentically believe and repeat internally.

Vinoo: And so one of the words that is the most important word as part of our how we deliver on our purpose is this word care. Okay, so we have care as one of our core values.

Scott: I was going to get to that actually the care part, but keep going.

Vinoo: Okay. So because care is such an important part of our internal delivery of purpose, we said, you know what? We're going to translate that internal narrative into an external narrative and argue that when you start with care, you get a different kind of back. And that is our external narrative that when you start with care, you have to write back.

Scott: Not every marketer has left brain, right brain. And what I find interesting about you as an individual is you understand how to do all that, the marketing strategy and the execution. But you also have this amazing sensitivity. You really understand humans, do you, in your past life, don't get into exactly what you did, but you went into branches and you saw how people use and interact with pens and things like that, and you picked up on aspects of what most people would probably ignore.

Scott: How do you get from inspiring building better lives and communities to a care? Because that's ultimately what is now your outward message, which can show a couple of films in a moment, but yeah, please.

Vinoo: Yeah. So, so again, is it true? Start with that. And so we really felt like that was true about our intention within the company was care. And, and then the second component was is there genuine pathways of translation of that commitment to things that the clients and communities would see that it's different and better that they would value.

Vinoo: And there is a pathway and we could see that relatively clearly. Wow. So, you know, a simple example is what we did with our new checking account, which we call trust one checking is we took the position of what would a caring checking account do. Well, one of the things that a caring checking account do, We would stop having you worry about what your balances so that you might get dinged with fees.

Vinoo: The other thing you want to not worry about is getting declined because that's kind of embarrassing. And so the Truist one account made sure to have the capability to not only remove the fees, but also to give a little buffer so that you aren't automatically declined if you don't have the balance to make a purchase that comes from a very specific intention.

Vinoo: And so that that was a really key was sort of making sure we believed it. And then the other is partnering with great, you know, agencies teammates to find a way to tell that story in a way that's distinctive. And, you know, we've tried many distinctive ways of telling that story because it is a very hard thing to express.

Vinoo: But we have committed ourselves to expressing that point and finding a way to do it over and over again.

Scott: So the two components are the proof is in the pudding. You need something inside the company or the product that really demonstrates that this is not just, you know, fake. And then secondly, you need to find an authentic way to express it. Yeah. So now I'd like to show a film from many in the campaign, but there are similar in the sense that they focus on an employee and they demonstrate how care is central to the DNA of everyone working there.

Speaker 5: And I remember kind of thinking like, oh my gosh, I think we could be sisters. You know, I think we look, you know, and I don't think of that. I think you're the one to tell me that we had the same birthday. It's really unbelievable when you think about it, because it's been like really over 20 years that you were my mother and father's banker.

Speaker 5: You became my banker. And now Fran is in her third year of college and you're her banker is so unbelievable because I'm just 20 years old.

Scott: Can you talk about how you got there and why this is an important story to tell?

Vinoo: Yeah. So again, we took a step back and said, what has made what is making our purpose hum right now and what was making our purpose hum was our teammates commitment to purpose and their commitment to connecting their personal purpose with the company purpose. And so we said, You know what? We need to lean into that and we need to find a way of showing our teammates expressing their purpose in the form of care in moments that matter to clients communities.

Vinoo: And so that was the basis of it. But then you, you know, used how do you tell that that story in a way that feels fresh and and and authentic because, you know, you don't want to do what the, you know, quote and quote trite and common

Scott: Bad

Vinoo: Which just feels very boring and not authentic.

Vinoo: And so this was our way working with StrawberryFrog to do that.

Scott: And interestingly, like crisis and opportunity, right? The bank launches. COVID hits. Yeah, and just think about it. Here's a new bank. Yeah. So no, no one's going in to meet tellers. No one's going into actual locations. So you have to not only launch a new brand, you have to, you know, activate your purpose. You have to somehow solve a problem where, you know, consumers and local communities aren't going into the local branch.

Scott: Right. So I could see how care becomes a really great message, right? Is that how you thought through it?

Vinoo: I think that there's a lot of the truth to that. I mean, if you think about where we are as a society care matters and, you know, we've just gone through this incredible moment, through COVID and we are still coming out of it emotionally in many ways. Yeah. And we are appreciating the impact that a simple act of care can have.

Vinoo: And that can be really small. It can also be giant. And that I think, is what we love about that idea.

Scott: As a business leader, how do you how do you find inspiration for these ideas? Because you don't often see a leader of a large organization find that type of solution. They would naturally go to care, right?

Vinoo: So yeah, yeah. So yeah, you know, part of it is, you know, you mentioned I've been in the I've been the CMO of a number of financial institutions and, and so I've seen this, this narrative from a few lenses and I think the, the art for us as we think about it again, I always remind the team, if it isn't true about us, you know, the job of a marketer is to find the authentic truth about our company and then underline it.

Vinoo: Yeah. And so we have to go back to what is true and what I saw in Truist was the truth about care. And so if that's true, then our job is to, you know, ignore the difficulty of telling it and simply find a way to tell it. And so we took that commitment. And again, that telling is not just externally, it's also internally, because if we remind our teammates who they're about, then they create outcomes that serve our clients communities that in a way that reinforces that commitment.

Vinoo: And so it is a virtuous cycle that we build. And that's exactly what we tried to do. It is, again, it's the challenging approach, but it is the more rewarding approach. And, when you get it right. And that's our ambition.

Scott: Do you feel like the the purpose releases your creativity? Yeah. If you think about like more transactional marketing, yeah, it's harder perhaps to be creative. You can do creative, of course, but this purpose let you be creative.

Vinoo: I don't know. That's a I think it actually might make it harder to do creative because here's what I've heard from creatives and you will know better than me, but here's what I have to. Don't give me a complete white box, right? Because if you give me a complete back white box, I have nothing to push against it.

Vinoo: You got to give me boundaries. And when you give me boundaries, I know what to push. And that pushing is what creates something interesting.

Scott: But they also connect to the emotion, right?

Vinoo: For sure. Yeah, absolutely. So the emotion part is there, but we have to make sure that we are giving a more clear set of guardrails that allows that conversation to happen within that space. Yeah, like if you take a pure functional thing that you're expressing, you can have a lot of quote and quote creative fun with it because you're not really seeing anything other than entertainment.

Vinoo: Right. And and so in the entertainment realm, you can sort of have a lot of, you know, lots of ways of doing that. Yeah. So in some sense, the grounding is more obvious. It's that function and then you can have a lot of entertainment around it. Whereas in care it's more, it's more ethereal. And so the way that you create the story has to fit that mood.

Vinoo: And that is the that, that is the box. And that's a, it's an interesting challenge. And I think an awesome challenge.

Scott: So do you think Well, let me ask a different question. What is the difference between branding and purpose?

Vinoo: The simple answer is branding is about essentially a reflection of an expression of who you are, and purpose is who you are. But I'll take it one step further and say, as a brand, like if you have a brand executive who in your team and so I have a brand leader on my team.

Scott: Yeah.

Vinoo: Her job is really expressing our purpose, you know, because if we're simply expressing our brand, then you end up expressing functions and taglines. If you express our purpose, you, the work shows up in a way that's a lot more integrated with the rest of the ecosystem, both beyond marketing client experience. I want our voice on the IVR to reflect our, our, our purpose.

Vinoo: I want our decisions that we make in hiring to reflect our purpose. I want the way that we create our experiences, to reflect our purpose. And yes, I want our advertising to reflect our purpose. But that becomes the mandate, not brand or advertising.

Scott: That's great. I'm sure there are some young marketers out there watching today. Do you have what.

Vinoo: What would you say Scott

Scott: What do you say, Well, we're young too, but, you know, let's say young blood. Yeah. Do you have any words of advice? What would you point to in terms of how they should be thinking about what we've been talking about.

Vinoo: Inspire us with something different, something better? I mean, I think that it is very easy in our business to follow the lead. Yeah. Particularly in organize. You know, when you're in a business and most marketers will be in a business where they're not on the line, they're not doing the line business and they're never going to do that line business Well, a lot of them are never going to do that line business.

Vinoo: What they're doing is, you know, expressing how that line business gets delivered and how it's articulated. And that's a really important part. But doing that requires a level of, I think, breakthrough ideation and and I encourage that because, you know, we are in a world of in a sea of sameness. And I'm like most people, super bored by my advertising work .

Scott: Who Likes advertising and other than some.

Vinoo: Well, that's right. And we need to be the ones to change that. And that comes not just from creative ideation, it comes from strategy. And if it comes from strategy, it actually permeates across all the pieces of the company.

Scott: The creative is a strategic tool.

Vinoo: 100%, 100%, internally and externally, right? Great marketing comes from great strategy because if you have great strategy, essentially it gets translated into how the company builds its services, how it staffs, how it creates experiences, and how it chooses to tell that story creatively. And that's what makes really awesome creative. And so I would encourage people to really think about the bigger opportunity there and really make creative more interesting.

Scott: You talk about.

Scott: Your relationship with the CEO and the kind of meetings you have when you talk about like on a day to day, how does purpose? Yeah, you know, impact does not say.

Vinoo: So every circumstance is going to be different. But so what I would say is the heart of this kind of approach, a purpose driven approach, if it doesn't come from the top, won't work.

Scott: Right.

Vinoo: So stop. Try something different. Right. But if it does come from the top, then it actually shows up without you having to do anything. And your obligation becomes to make sure that you are amplifying that commitment in ways that is, you know, inspiring internally and externally in ways that are that allow the teammate to do tangible things.

Vinoo: So, you know, I'll give you a simple example. We just finished doing an internal video that's about 20 minutes long. It's a documentary style. It really describes what it is that we've been doing as a company, and it's not for external audiences, it's really for our internal audience. And and it's it's we've been showing it now is sort of like these screenings and and what we are doing in that is helping people, reminding our teammates why what they signed up for, who they're about and how they can be and live up to their own values of themselves and not just see it as a corporate job, which is very easy these days to do.

Vinoo: And that's a disservice less so to the corporations, disservice to the teammate, because that's where you spend your time, you know?

Scott: So every day it sounds like there's like 100 rays of light coming out of this purpose. Once you get it, once you figure it out, once you land on the strategy, it allows you to trial and error a little bit. But then also really Yeah.

Vinoo: And you and I know

Scott: Heart and soul

Vinoo: And so it's not it's not easy.

Scott: It's not

Vinoo: Not it's very hard to be consistent with it. Yeah. The journey and commitment to the journey is what I would encourage people to take. And if we can stay on that journey, the goodness of that, even when not all things work in that in that box outweighs not even attempting the journey. And you see that in all the conversations that you are having and I'm having with other executives of other companies.

Scott: Well, you see.

Scott: That it when it's done properly, it electrifies everyone that's inside and outside.

Vinoo: That's right. And and you know, properly, it doesn't have to be perfect. No, right properly is you're moving the ball in that direction.

Scott: It's a journey.

Vinoo: It's a journey. And it is a journey that is better for all parties. And and so it's a journey very worthy of attempting. If you have the commitment from the top.

Scott: There's a lot of new work that you're about to launch. We're going to run one of those now

Speaker 6: When I first met you, you had stated, Listen, this is what's going on with my business plan. I don't Where do I go?

Speaker 5: You ask questions that let me know. You actually care about my situation and you don't judge me. And I love that.

Speaker 6: So you feel more empowered. Did my job.

Speaker 5: Yes, I do. There's a level of stress that is like gone now. It's like the burden is gone and it's like I can breathe again.

Scott: This is a next evolution of the work you've been doing. How does this work sort of symbolize who you are and where the organization is going and your sort of journey with the purpose?

Vinoo: My journey reflects, I think, the journey of where marketing is evolving and I'm trying to stay ahead of that curve. Yeah, the you know, I think today a marketer's fundamental obligation, a chief marketer's fundamental obligation, I think is ensuring that the company understands and lives its purpose internally and externally and helping clients and communities understand that. That I think is the core role today, and that is supplemental to what has historically been the natural rules.

Vinoo: Yes, you've got to drive organic growth through performance oriented marketing. But you know, what we call modern marketing is now kind of a few years old. Yeah, but yes, you should do that in markets. Yes, you absolutely have to be in a position to drive experiences and create better experience. You know, they talk about the chief growth officer or the chief chief experience officer.

Vinoo: Conceptually, the marketer has to be leaning into those things. But even more important today and how I think you energize both growth and experience is purpose.

Scott: I very much appreciate your point of view and your perspective of this has been a really rich conversation. Any final thoughts you have on purpose? Do you have a personal purpose?

Vinoo: I do. My personal purpose is to make every as many individual moments of the day as possible the moments of care and joy, because my personal theory is that if I can give a little care and joy in every individual daily moment, more so than not, I end the day on the positive and and that accretion over time is good for me and good for the community that I serve.

Scott: Wonderful. I appreciate the time together with you today. Yeah. Awesome.

Vinoo: Thank you.

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