The new media battleground: content marketing banks

Following on from ANZ’s move into publishing with BlueNotes, BNZ, RaboDirect and Westpac have now made their own forays into the content marketing landscape. But the approach that each bank has taken differs not only in terms of the content being covered but also in terms of who produces the material for publishing. 

Much like established publishers that have been plying their trade for decades (if not centuries), banks now also have to find ways to create content that engages with consumers. And for an industry that has thus far specialised in creating verbose contractual agreements and advertorial pamphlets that customers wilfully avoid to their own detriment, engaging with the public on an editorial level isn’t necessarily banking’s strongest point.

This being said, BlueNotes has attracted some decent readership traction, thanks in large part to a chunky mailing list and the quality of the content that’s sourced from a range of writers on both sides of the Tasman. By bringing on respected writers such as Bernard Hickey, ANZ ensures that the content published on the website doesn’t descend into advertorial murk, and this approach has seen the publication gain decent subscriber traction, with the latest figures showing that BlueNotes receives about 70,304 unique browsers per month and has 2,050 external subscribers (the most recent stat available also show that it has 56,687 internal subscribers among staff members).

But ANZ will now learn that competition is an inevitable part of the publishing industry, as Westpac recently launched RedNews, which the bank’s external relations manager Chris Mirams says “was created with the objective of providing practical and helpful information, stories, opinions and analysis to our customers from subject matter experts and well known New Zealanders”. 

“We launched with four categories — Property, Digital, Women and Community,” says Mirams. “[And] due to the strong response we have had another category, Business, has been added.”

In addition to monikers that feature primary colours, BlueNotes and RedNews also share their approach to producing editorial content.  

“New content is loaded onto the site daily (not all categories),” says Mirams. “We use a combination of in-house writers, freelancers and guest columnists. RedNews is overseen by myself, sitting in corporate affairs, as we view it as providing a news service for customers. It is information and news focused, not products, services or marketing focused.”

One key point of difference between BlueNotes and RedNews is that the latter has a section dedicated specifically to stories of women in business.  

“We are strong supporters of gender equity and value the contribution women make to the success of New Zealand,” explains Mirams when asked why this was included as a discrete section. 

“This is reflected internally with over 40 percent of the leaders in the business being female and through external programmes we have created such as The Westpac Leaders Fellowship and the Women of Influence Awards. It is this on-going support that is behind having the Women category.”

To some extent, both Westpac and BlueNotes have modelled their content marketing projects on the slew of business news publications that have always been available on the shelves. In doing so, the banks are positioned as experts that have inside info on all things related to business.

But as is the case in more traditional publishing, having a scope that’s too broad could potentially lead to delivering a significant proportion of content to subscribers that isn’t exactly relevant to their needs. 

For this reason, BNZ has instead decided to focus on the homeowner niche in launching its content marketing hub.

Conceptualised by Colenso BBDO, GoodHome is an online programme with an eDM and Tumblr blog that’s designed to inform BNZ home loan customers on a range of topics, including interior styling, home planning and renovations. 

BNZ also took a different approach to content by partnering with Michelle Halford of The Design Chaser, Stephen Hart of Hometopia.co.nz and DIY personality ‘Cocksy’ to produce engaging material for the website. 

“The benefit of having genuinely useful and interesting content delivered through a social platform is vital,” said Maggie Christie, the director of integration at Colenso BBDO, in a release. “It allows customers to easily share the smart thinking and spread the brand’s promise to non-bank customers.”

By restricting its content to this niche, BNZ is able to focus on stories that are relevant to a specific group of people. And while this excludes the various other aspects of business that banks are involved with on a day-to-day basis, it enables BNZ to communicate directly with a very profitable section of its customer base. 

In contrast to the articles on BlueNotes and RedNews, those published on GoodHome take a more blog-based approach and provide tips to consumers on a range of home-related topics. But BNZ isn’t the only financial institute that has posited itself as an advice-giver.

RaboDirect has also taken this approach through Commoncents; but, in this instance, the range of topics covered extends well beyond home ownership.

“This site is about opening up our brand to new audiences and engaging people about savings when they’re probably not really looking,” says RaboDirect’s head of marketing Matt Gardner.

Rather than restricting its content to written form, RaboDirect has incorporated video clips, which provide advice segments.


“The video series within Commoncents is called ‘Scrimp & Splurge’,” says Gardner. “These are short videos, shot for web covering smart New Zealanders, who are the best at what they do, sharing their personal stories and views of the world normalising the idea that we should find ways to save money, without compromising the things we love.”

Interestingly, RaboDirect doesn’t restrict its content to the Commoncents microsite. 

“While Commoncents is a destination site, we focus more on pushing the content out via a variety of channels including some of our sponsor assets with TVNZ. Ultimately we want our content seen where the audiences already are,” he says.

The first video series is currently available via TVNZ’s on-demand offering, and Gardner says that there will be more to follow.

“We’ve just launched a wedding-themed video in the last few days featuring Greer Berry from Fairfax – this is part of a broader promotion we’ll be running soon. We’ve also got a heavy content focus for our Managed Funds offering. This is unique in the market but bringing this to life requires a different approach.”

And while each of the banks have taken a slightly different approach to content marketing, one thing is clear: this will not replace traditional advertising or paid media. Instead, these online hubs are designed to complement the more traditional forms of advertising and elaborate further on the brand stories that are introduced in a 30-second TVC. And this means that banks will have to become accustomed to competing not only as financial institutes but also as publishers. 

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