Redefining Marketing – Brad Davis, CMO at Opus Bank

Malena Amusa Issue 05 - May/June 2013, Marketing & Sales Leave a Comment

CMO Brad Davis is giving marketing a whole new meaning at fast-growing Opus Bank.

Brad_Davis_Anderson_LA_AdvertisementBy Malena Amusa

During his first week on the job, Brad Davis announced that there was no Marketing Department.

At an all-company gathering, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Opus Bank said, “At Opus Bank, everyone is part of the marketing team!”

At the heart of it, Davis wants to do more than merely advertise the California-based bank. He strives to build a purpose-rich company, whereby the excitement of employees translates directly to clients. And, it has.

Since its launch in 2010, Opus Bank has soared from a five-branch bank with $460 million in capital to a 55-branch powerhouse with more than $2 billion in assets. It now ranks among the top 300 U.S. banks in terms of assets.

Despite competing with large, highly resourced banks, and launching just two years into the fear and fray of the global financial crisis, Opus Bank excels. Working closely with Opus Bank’s CEO Stephen H. Gordon, Davis breaks the noise of the marketplace.

By aligning his team and engaging employees companywide in marketing, by identifying pre-existing resources to engage clients and prospects, and by gaining fresh perspectives, Davis has helped the start-up bank overcome major challenges.


A primary challenge Davis tackled was the “positive dissonance” among execs. When it came to answering the three big “who are we,” “why do we exist” and “how do we win?” according to Davis, “Everyone was saying positive, powerful things, but we needed to be aligned, consistent and concise.”

Marketing From Within

Davis’ goal was not to dictate people’s thinking, but to listen very carefully and identify places where people had common ground to move forward. “You can’t be clear externally until you’re aligned and clear internally,” Davis said.

In turn, Davis boldly cultivated an internal marketing force whereby execs are in sync regarding the company’s purpose, mission and goals. While shaping consensus at the top, he also organized several companywide motivational events to super-charge the group with excitement.

“We have to remember, employees are our first customers,” said Davis, who was featured among the top 50 marketers in America by Advertising Age magazine, and named the No. 1 CMO by U.S. Banker in 2003.

Using What You’ve Got

Another major challenge Davis faced was taking advantage of “touch points,” which are the many different encounters a client has with the bank.


“When we sat down to look at it, we identified 140,000 touch points a month with our clients and prospects, including 45,000 ATM transactions and thousands of people who call the bank, read their bank statements and visit the website.”

“The most important touch point is personal contact with our clients,” Davis said. As a relationship-focused bank, our business is helping our clients grow their business. We don’t sell products, we sell solutions based on our clients’ plans for their business.

We realized our clients could represent the power of partnership better than any advertisement.”

As a result, in April, Opus Bank launched “Opus Spotlight,” an online video magazine starring clients in unscripted video testimonials.

Betty Crocker School of Management

Davis indulges new ideas, without unduly recalling his experience, which includes 14 years in retail at the Dayton Hudson Corp., a doctorate in law and a 10-year run as the marketing chief of Washington Mutual Bank.

Despite helping Washington Mutual go from having $30 billion in assets in 1995 to $300 billion in 2005 (the year Davis left), he does not tout his experience around the office.

“I had to be careful not to bring old perceptions to new circumstances,” Davis said. “I bring my experience to the table but view everything with a fresh perspective.”

Embracing what he calls the Betty Crocker School of Management, Davis encourages cohorts to add their perspective to the batch of possible solutions, just like the famous Betty Crocker’s out-the-box cake mix prompts users to add key ingredients.

“Betty could have put the egg in herself, but she left that for you to do so you would feel an important part of the process,” Davis said. “I always tell my team, ‘Make sure you leave room for other people’s ideas. As opposed to resisting new ideas, look for other points of view.’”

This recipe for success certainly came in handy at one very important meeting—when executives agreed on the very mission of this stand-out bank.

Brad and Team - low-res

“When we were building our mission strategy,” Davis explained, “one executive would say ‘We’re focused on entrepreneurs,’ and someone would add ‘successful entrepreneurs,’ and someone else would say ‘and business leaders.’ And finally we’d add ‘who’ve rounded the economic corner.’ Then you’d hear a voice from the corner say, ‘and need a partner for growth.’”

“This,” Davis said, “was a true collaboration.”

Malena Amusa is a freelance writer based in Saint Louis, Missouri.

Brad's Key Partners:
Anderson LA (Printing) | Elliot Bay Productions (Cinematography & Events Management) | York and Chapel (Ad Agency)

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