It's fair to say the last major campaign launched by ASB didn't go as well as planned, with the shouty, bearded frontman Brian Blessed being sent back to Blighty a bit earlier than expected. The bank's Succeed On tagline remained, however, and, after being in a bit of a holding pattern as far as its comms were concerned, ASB has now returned with a new campaign via Saatchi & Saatchi that aims to show how New Zealanders really talk about money—and the ASB products and services that might be able to help them deal with it.
Anna Curzon, ASB’s general manager of marketing, says it spent a lot of time and effort mapping out the customer journey and understanding, through its partners Carat, TRA and Search Republic, where its customers were throughout the day and what they were looking for.
"We needed to create empathy. We know these conversations happen across New Zealand every day, so it was about us saying 'we understand and it's okay'. We tried to reflect that and show them some things that can help."
Saatchi & Saatchi's joint executive creative director Corey Chalmers says people don’t talk about banking, they talk about money, and usually their difficulties with it.
"ASB respectfully understands its role in people’s lives, and we wanted to reflect that in funny yet relatable conversations about money so people can say ‘I’ve had that chat.’ We wanted people to feel they’d dropped in on a scene from a film, not a hard sell ad. They do resolve in product solutions, but it’s unobtrusive, useful and simple."
Curzon says the campaign is a combination of great storytelling and useful content that "showcases how our customers are using our products" (the first two clips focus on its mobile app and Save the Change, a rounding-up tool that was created in 2010 and has led to $65 million being put into various savings accounts).
She says customers in West Auckland and South Auckland have been particularly big users of the Save the Change product and that gives her a massive buzz because "we're being useful".
$65 million might not sound like that much when you compare it to the huge profits the major banks continue to rake in, and, not surprisingly, she says the recent financial results, which saw ASB claim a record $806 million profit for the last financial year were very pleasing (in comparison, ANZ clocked in with $887 million). Added to that, Curzon says ASB also improved its brand love scores significantly after working "really hard to partner with customers and find out what they want from us and what we can give them".
So what did ASB learn after the Brian Blessed malarkey (one pertinent point a wise man made at the time was that telling New Zealanders they're flawed and don't celebrate properly was bound to rub them the wrong way, unlike Goldstein, which spoke about how great we were and stroked our collective ego).
"The Brian work did a great job in terms of launching Succeed On and creating awareness," Curzon says. "Succeed on is still who we are. It reflects our culture. And it's a really positive statement. But when we spoke to our customers they said can you look for ways to be more relevant to us again for the next evolution."
She says it needed to focus more on everyday solutions and she points to the work for Get Wise and its recent work for business banking around Ambition—what Shane Evans, ASB's head of brand and retail, calls "the pointy end of Succeed On"—as good examples of that philosophy in action.
Evans says the latest iteration of the campaign was a great project to work on with Saatchi & Saatchi and some really good casting meant while a lot of the "everyday conversations" were scripted, the actors also bounced off each other and created some off the cuff gems.
ASB has a long history of product innovation, most recently in the social and mobile space. So does advertising matter as much as good products, especially when there are so many other sources of information and comparison online? Curzon points to a Simon Sinek quote—"people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it"—to sum up its belief. So while the public facing stuff is about getting people's attention, another major role is to show off the culture of ASB and "be clear about what we stand for".
Even so, she says "fitting into the slipstream of people's lives" is about becoming smaller, not larger. Design guru Dieter Rams said back in the '80s that the best design is invisible and, increasingly, as this Wired story describes, the winners in business—and especially in tech-related business—are the ones making things easy by creating and/or linking systems and data in the background.
"We really need to look for ways to remove friction and that's design," says Curzon. "We're having a lot more conversations around design and customer journeys."
The first two ads will screen on TV, ondemand and online (YouTube is being used as a lead channel, and it also includes digital, social, TV, outdoor, radio and in branch material) and while banks are still among the biggest spenders in terms of traditional media, they're increasingly dabbling in the content game. ANZ has Blue Notes, BNZ has just launched the property focused Good Home, Westpac has Red News (and its Start Asking campaign also employed staff to answer financial questions on YouTube), and RaboDirect has a site called Common Cents. ASB's strategy has seen it create additional content that Curzon says will be useful for customers and can fit into the "nooks and crannies" of the modern media landscape (ASB has also done some content marketing work with Fairfax in the past).
So do customers actually want to hear from banks? Curzon believes so and she says it's taken quite a scientific approach to choosing what content to create for YouTube (so far it has ten videos offering financial tips and tricks). It's not just deciding to do the most entertaining topic, she says. They're all designed specifically around customer feedback.
"We know through search data that people are looking for help. It's really demand-driven ... For us this is not really a campaign. These are assets that work really hard for our customers."
And if it's deemed to be relevant and helpful, as Curzon and co. hope it will be, Google's algorithm means it should also work for ASB by pushing its content up the search results.
The cynics might suggest that if ASB really wanted to be helpful, they could reduce their fees. Or give more to charity. But another solution would be to put their development team to work to create a robot babysitter that doesn't actually need to be paid. Who knows how to get hold of Robbie?
Roger Beaumont: Executive GM Marketing & Communications
Anna Curzon: GM of Marketing
Shane Evans: Head of Brand & Retail Marketing
Emma Lynch: Brand Manager
Debbie Lowe: Manager of Digital Brand & Strategy
Bhavika Rambhai: Social Media Manager
Ali Duncan: Digital Brand Manager
Catrina Kuehler: Digital Brand Manager
Alyssa Wood: Associate Brand Manager
Carolyn Galloway: Digital Optimisation Specialist
Saatchi & Saatchi
Executive Creative Directors: Corey Chalmers & Guy Roberts
Director of Strategy: Murray Streets
Senior Strategist: Ian Hulme
Creatives: Daniel Lunn, Thomas Marcusson, Charlie Godinet, Matt Sellars, Cory Bellringer, Sunday Punch
Business Director: Teresa Davis
Senior Account Directors: Michael Wood, Brad Bateman
Senior Account Manager: Liz Jones
Account Managers: Kylie Marsh, Tessa Denize
Account Executives: Brendan Haddock, Vinay Naran
Head of Content: Marty Collins
Senior Producer: Anna Kennedy
Content Producers: Amy Hansen, Josh Forsman
Studio Manager: Tias Somers
Retoucher: Nick Browne
Mac Op: Pip Reeves
Designer: Ross Davies
Digital Production Director: Lorraine Guerin
Technical Director: Matt Skinner
Digital Producers: Matt Couston, Rugen Du Bray, Tim Turner
Information Architect: Sarah Kelliher
Senior Digital Creatives: Neill McAlpine, David Hunter
Digital Designer: Megan Ying
Digital Designer/Front-end Developer: Francis Wu
Senior Front-end Developer: Georgy Malanichev
Systems Engineer/Back-end Developer: Dmitry Shumkov
Senior Flash Developer: Steven Ashby
Motion Graphics Designer: Tomas Cottle
Animation: Fluxx Animation
Agency Editor: Ian Bennett
Creative Services Manager: Andi Dalton
Agency PR: Isobel Kerr-Newell
Production Company: Goodoil
Director: Hamish Rothwell
Executive Producer: Sam Long
DOP: Crighton Bone
Colourist: Pete Ritchie
Editor: Peter Sciberras
Post House: Blockhead
Animation Production Company: Assembly
Music & Sound Design: Franklin Road
Composer: Jim Hall
Sound Designer: Shane Taipari
Stills: Ross Brown @ Match Photographers
Search: Search Republic
Brand research: The Research Agency