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Serge Lapointe
Serge Lapointe, VP of Marketing
TD Financial Group
   Conversation Starters
  • Serge does not have to love the product he markets. It’s all about the challenge.
  • Biking has probably made Serge a better marketer.
  • Paradox: While TD Insurance’s market share is growing, the value of its portfolio is declining. Serge explains why.
  • Given Serge’s inspiration, TD Bank’s advertising campaigns may be subliminally seductive!
  • Serge only has 10 friends. (OK… on Facebook!)

Storyboard: FS Marketing Guy Embraces Challenges

Serge Lapointe takes the category from low-interest to fun. Expect nothing less from a biker.

Originally posted Friday, August 31, 2009


The Marketing Landscape

What are the biggest challenges you see in marketing right now?
One, the changing media consumption habits of consumers. People still watch TV, but they watch it differently. They watch with their laptops; vote for things online; skip by commercials. They spend more time online than ever before, and less time with newspapers and magazines than ever before. It’s really difficult for our media suppliers to adapt. The old ways of looking at things – reach, frequency, measuring campaign effectiveness – don’t work. You’re not measuring apples to apples anymore, so it’s harder to plan and harder to determine ROI.

Two, the impact of the economy on consumers and marketing. We’re in the middle of a recession that’s making a profound impact on how people consume and think about consumption. Frugal consumption is now “cool.” You’ve never seen more Mercedes parked in front of Wal-Mart than you do today. People are looking for value, which has an impact on your products and services. Consumers are questioning in the value of added-value services. For TD, that means people who buy car insurance are relooking at their policies and changing their deductibles – so the value of the policy is dropping. Our market share is growing, but the value of our portfolio is actually diminishing.

I have seen a lot of info that suggests that these changes are permanent. Enough people have been burned that it’s going to change how people consume permanently. Enterprises need to adapt to that.

What do you think of the various social media channels?
Tons of people go there; we [marketers] spend an awful lot of money there. But we haven’t cracked it yet. We don’t understand the dynamics. Can you sell product? How do you measure sales? Or are you creating an environment where they’ll buy in the future?

Personally, I don’t frequent them a whole lot. It’s not clear to me what I should be doing there. On LinkedIn, I just get people that want to do business with me. I don’t follow many forums. Forums are places where people complain. And, I don’t find my friends in these places.

Serge, you only have 10 friends on Facebook!
Exactly. I have 10 friends, and they’re all around here. I just had lunch with Graham, and he’s one of my Facebook friends. What on earth do I have to tell him on Facebook that I couldn’t tell him over lunch today?


Career Path: Why Marketing?

How did you know you wanted to get into marketing?
This is all I’ve ever wanted to do. When I was 15, my vision was to be an Air Force fighter-jet pilot. I read a book called Subliminal Seduction, which is all about imagery, phallic symbols, booze – and how those images influence people. What really struck me was not so much the imagery and the idea of subliminal seduction, but the idea that a small group of people can influence big numbers of people.

In my own way, I realized I could actually change things and make a contribution.

Now, I’ll say that I have been in it a long time… I have never seen a production that involves changing imagery to make it subliminally seductive, but it has fulfilled my dream!

What’s your favorite part of your job right now?
Creating a new brand. Changing a brand is not just changing the logo and communication. That’s just the veneer. It’s what you deliver behind it and how you deliver it.

That’s my entire job right now. TD Insurance is the combination of two companies that really don’t have any particular brand positioning. We are just a bunch of names to our customers, and there’s an awful lot of white space available. So, how do we change ourselves from a brand perspective, a cultural perspective, and so on, such that consumers here in Canada can say, “Yes, these guys are different.”

The fun part is that I’m into everything - brand advertising, business advertising. We’re spending seven figures in research to understand consumers’ attitudes towards insurance in Canada. Then you have 4,000 employees that have to buy into this. It has to be part of the corporate culture.


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