Horse's Mouth: Craig Herbison, BNZ

  • Horse's Mouth
  • November 13, 2015
Horse's Mouth: Craig Herbison, BNZ

After Craig Herbison was appointed as BNZ’s chief marketing officer in 2011, his first big act was to launch the new brand platform via Colenso BBDO in the form of a polarising, existential teaser campaign that asked whether money was good or bad (answer: neither, it’s what you make of it that counts). Since then he’s made ‘Be Good with Money’ a central pillar of the business and around one year ago, he was promoted to director of retail banking and marketing. So, after saying goodbye to the Airpoints scheme earlier this year and launching another confronting campaign about the perils of not planning ahead, are the marketing efforts paying dividends?

On self-assessment: “I’d probably give us a seven out of ten. Consideration and how non-customers think of you is a pretty traditional way of looking at how your brand is improving and in terms of our brand strength among the major banks, we went from last to second in a very short space of time on ten percent share of voice. But we also want our customers to walk out of an engagement and have them feel we’ve helped them be good with money and I’m still not comfortable we’ve nailed that yet.”

On ownership: “When I did the original ‘Be Good with Money’ campaign, that was an executive team ownership piece. They all owned it. And I think that’s why we got such good traction because it didn’t just come out of marketing. It came out of the business. And for some of them it was quite new. They were 20 year bankers and marketing had probably been in the marketing department. But that was why the bank decided to have a CMO and put that role at the top table.”

On the 'Shred My Mortgage' campaign: “Feedback from customers is that they can see themselves and their loved ones. It has resonated in a very real way and that was our intent. To show the reality of the situation in a neutral way without being too negative or taking a stance that may feel like judging people for being in this situation. Financial literacy is a very real issue and this is confronting. However, we have the solution to the problem and this is the conversation we wanted to raise awareness of. In essence, being good with money is about showing leadership on these issues.”

On persistent problems: “[All the banks] have financial literacy programmes. Everyone knows it’s an issue. But it’s still there. Only nine percent of people are confident with money. And it hasn’t moved [since we launched the brand]… If you have a problem with driving too fast, or drinking too much, those things are public interest conversations that get raised. And people are confronted with the outcome of either abusing alcohol or drugs or not being safe on the roads. But there’s no real conversation around people, families or communities who are bad with money. It’s so invisible that you might not see it, your partner might not see it, your community might not see it, and there could be a real time bomb there in terms of your finances. So how do you surface that question? What’s the lightbox moment in banking? The thing that gets you to see where you really are today? Where you spend your money, or where you invest, is all based on habits and that’s based on the environment, your family, your education. And if you want to change those habits, customers need to be supported through that journey. That’s our view of the world. And there are absolutely a lot of partnerships that will be needed to activate this for customers. This is the piece of work we need to invest in more.”

On the end of Airpoints: “We had about 150,000 customers who were asked to reconsider where they were and what they were doing. It wasn’t their choice. They were quite happy with what they had ... But Global Plus ended up being a bit of a no man’s land from a brand perspective. Were they Air New Zealand customers? Or were they BNZ customers? And that was one of the problems. A number of customers we felt were on the wrong product for their needs and as a bank conduct is really important to us. There was also some stuff we thought wasn’t quite right with the commercial relationship. We were quite clear that if we were going to reward customers then we wanted the brand equity to attach itself to our business and we also wanted some flexibility to move that conversation on to more recognition. The problem with these types of programmes is the value crystalises over credit card transactions, but actually the value they give you comes across a whole range of products.”

On retention: “We’ve retained the vast majority I would say. Certainly more than expected. A lot of single product customers left and they had a credit card only and you’d expect that because they have a relationship with another bank. It was a very interesting situation because a lot of banks were very interested in those customers and there was about $1 million a week being spent during the height of it. Everybody was in there trying to move customers in a particular direction. But, again, it comes back to what’s more important: is it the banking and the rewards are a cherry on top? Or is it the rewards? And I think what we’ve seen is the banking is more important. They liked the idea of cash as an immediate substitute. And with [the new rewards scheme] BNZ Advantage we’re seeing good lift again from those customers  … Also, if you think about where the rewards value comes from, it’s from our pocket now, rather than from our customers’ or merchants’ pockets [through credit card fees].”

On recognition: “Three months after a customer joins we do a health check to make sure they have the right products and services. That’s a key point where people can churn and of all the things we do, the thing that has the most impact is saying ‘thank you for your business’. That statement is recognition that the value they are creating is reciprocated in value from us. We know that relationship-based banking is really important in a retail business for certain customers so we should embrace that because that’s how they feel they’re recognised. If they get a priority queue, or if they feel they get relationship-based pricing, all those sorts of things, then that’s something we should be offering.”

On self-help: “If I look at Fitbit and the impact it’s having on gym memberships, you don’t need one because your personal trainer is on your wrist. Uber is a digitally enabled experience so it’s changing how customers can do things more themselves. You think about what 3D printing might do to industries. What does it mean for Lego, for instance? Businesses are being disintermediated by customers doing things themselves that other brands were able to do previously for you. And brands that enable customers to manage things and do them themselves are the brands that will survive and thrive.”

On looming disruption: “There is a high barrier for entry [as a bank]. But there are 4,500 startups doing fintech and looking at banking and ways to add more value for customers, so it’s definitely there. There’s a lot of talk about payments and international transactions, currency, all those sorts of areas. Banks aren’t important to customers, but banking is. So for us it’s coming back to what is banking, what’s our core business and how can we enable that so customers can do more of it themselves? We know if they do that they’re more satisfied, they advocate more for our business and they get a better outcome.”

On growth: “In certain segments we’ve seen big gains. Youth is a good example of that. [Online banking platform] YouMoney was a key part of enabling them to do banking the way they thought their brain works. We built that in participation with that segment by getting them in a room and saying ‘how do you think internet banking should work?’ We landed that and that’s grown. That also talks to the participation of customers and how you develop your business. It’s great to have formal research and insight, but there’s no substitute for getting customers in a room.”

On the rise of online: “We’ve had a few store closures as you always need to reshape your business … But [banking] hasn’t been entirely replaced by digital processes and systems. Certainly with the complexity of helping customers be good with money, it’s not about artificial intelligence, it’s about human beings sitting down with human beings and having a conversation. If people want that sort of conversation as a channel, then we need to have that for them.”

On marketers’ perceived lack of business acumen: “It is always something that’s levelled at marketers. It’s a bit fluffy, it’s the colouring in department, those kinds of things. But the skill a marketer has is getting really deep insight and understanding of customers. Businesses today are here to serve their customers and people who understand their customers deeply are seen as adding a lot of value in the executive table. Being able to analyse what you see and gain insight is a commercial exercise.”

On crushed dreams: “When I first came to the bank I said ‘show me the vault’. But there is no vault. Very disappointing.”

On winning Auckland: “We have a relative distribution weakness in terms of our physical store network in Auckland. But that’s not the only way to talk to customers, particularly about home loans. We have a strategy to do that … Auckland GDP is expected to grow by five percent in the next few years and the rest of the country zero or less. And making sure we have our business tilted and tooled towards the growth opportunity is what every business is focused on. ASB has a historical strength here. ANZ has scale and is using it and is clear that it wants to dominate here. But it’s going to be all about execution. I don’t think anyone has the strategy that’s different, but the difference might come in how those strategies are executed.” 

On finding a voice: “Increasingly, we are a challenger brand. We have to be if we sit in the market position we are today. We’re also seeing a lot of other banks are finding their voice as well from a comms and marketing perspective. TSB and Heartland and some of the other brands have really stepped into that more national type conversation, which I think is good for everybody.”

On sweeteners: “Incentives have become a big part of the landscape today … What you see in the market at the moment is cash back, which is used reasonably effectively. That’s not particularly differentiating though and you can drive volume by stepping into the market. They’re coming for price but they might leave for price. And what we always see is when we get a lot more customers in, we get a lot more customers leaving. But everybody else has seen that as well. If you really want to help customers to be good with money you have to move the conversation away from price and they need to see all the other value add services you can give them to make their financial situation better.”

On corporate social responsibility: “Customers today expect you to behave responsibly. We’re carbon neutral and there are a lot of things we do. But you can always do more. I’m interested in looking at companies overseas who are getting real growth through the thing they most talk about, which is their story. We have Closed for Good, which is New Zealand’s largest day of volunteering and we put 3,000 staff out there. This is our sixth year. It doesn’t get a lot of media coverage, but that’s one way we give back in a mass sense. Everybody has two days where they can do volunteering so it comes at a cost but the benefit in terms of staff and their engagement is huge because they love it. They feel like they’re contributing back to the community. So that more than makes up for it.”

On quantifying the success of 'Be Good With Money': “We have talked a lot about it. What would be the index that says we’d been successful helping New Zealanders be good with money? One of the challenges for retail customers is it’s largely hidden in terms of their financial success. How can we get them to share they’ve been successful? Some of the simple ways are the leverage people get in the housing market and the growth of wealth. We have seen customers [giving us data] with our Mission Zero campaign. All the banks do their balance transfer campaigns after Christmas. And we stepped in to say ‘here’s a campaign to never have to pay credit card interest again’ by giving them tips and tricks and doing a bit of a behavioural change campaign. That has had an impact. And we have decided we won’t do credit card campaigns prior to Christmas because we don’t want to fuel some of the behaviours that lead to people stretching themselves.”

On changing focus from saving the Kiwi to fixing finances: “Our Community Finance scheme is for the people in New Zealand who are either unbanked or are banked in a way that is not optimal for their situation with payday lenders and the like. They don’t have the skills and the knowledge and the access in some ways … It’s interesting that we’ve stepped in but our competitors haven’t followed, and I guess you can draw your own conclusions about why that is. We’re still pretty passionate about being there for all customers and helping them to be good with money, not just for the affluent or for wealth generation, but across the board.”

On prime position: “If you were in banking [Be Good with Money] is a position you’d want to own. And we certainly see our competitors talking a little bit more in this space.” 

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