ANZ’s Cunnington swaps banks for bureaucracy

He led the project to bring the National Bank and the ANZ together. And he led it bloody well. But now ANZ’s head of marketing Mike Cunnington is off for a new adventure within government. 

Cunnington, a finalist in the TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards, was unable to be contacted as he is away on leave, but he is now working as a deputy commissioner at the IRD in Auckland in the Information, Intelligence and Communications department. ANZ corporate affairs man Pete Barnao says there’s no news on a replacement at this stage. 

Despite having fantastic success in his other roles, not least of which was helping the UK Labour Party win its first election in 23 years in 1997, there probably aren’t too many marketing projects more complex than the merger of the well-loved National Bank brand with the rather less well-loved ANZ brand.

Cunnington, who ran AIM Proximity for three years before joining ANZ in 2007, began planning the marketing strategy eighteen months out from the announcement and established a team dedicated to helping him manage the merger. Then he and the team began a meticulous programme of researching, drafting advertising concepts, more researching, signing up high-profile sponsorships, pre-empting competitor responses, media planning and yet more research.

It was clear that National Bank customers would not like the merger, and the perception was that this decision would lead to job losses, branch closures and an eventual decrease in service, but due to such thorough planning the marketing was able to be structured in such a way as to allay all functional concerns. It was also able to address the emotional concerns by presenting the new and improved ANZ bank with the line ‘The Power of Two’. 

In addition to the simple but effective above-the-line work created by its agency TBWA\, he also led one of the largest below-the-line communications programmes ever undertaken in New Zealand, with one million ANZ customers migrated onto the National Bank system and its associated products and 1.2 million emails and 500,000 eDMs dispatched within two hours of the announcement (adding to the complexity of this project, stock exchange rules meant it had to inform the market—and so, the media—about the decision before telling its 9,000 staff or two million customers). 

History had shown other bank mergers typically ended badly, with high customer attrition rates. There was a lot at stake if things didn’t go smoothly. But the transformation project set a new global benchmark for successful bank mergers and the ANZ brand is now stronger than ever. 

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