Putting money on content marketing: how the main banks have embraced the tactic

As has increasingly become clear, content marketing is an effective, progressive and less intrusive way of reaching an audience. The modern audience has less time for shouty or obvious tactics. We’ve grown smarter, wiser and more distracted with a myriad of content options to consume, particularly the millennial audience, which is spending less and less time in front of the television. While perhaps a few years ago it would have been hard to see it coming, banks have gotten very good at employing content marketing tactics, particularly when targeting a younger audience. We thought we’d take a look at a few examples from the main players.

Now, to start off let’s get our definitions clear. The Content Marketing institute defines content marketing as: ” … a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

So basically, it’s content with real value to consumers, the kind of content consumers might actively try and seek out.

Kiwibank has seen success with this, with the creation of The KB Series, which it used to attract Jamie Curry’s legion of young fans.

Curry, 18, has built a massive following over the past three years with her comedic skits showcasing the ups and downs of her life as a school girl living in rural Napier, shared via multiple social media channels under the name Jamie’s World. And while the oldies often seem to struggle to understand what all the fuss is about and why anyone would find this kind of content interesting, she has created hundreds of episodes that teenagers relate to and she has rapidly become one of the most influential and recognised teenagers in the world.

So, Kiwibank had the clever tactic of creating an online series documenting Curry’s big move from Napier to Auckland, and her financial woes that came along with it. It also ties into its other work about being independent, like its ‘Indepen-dance’ campaign.

Of course, there are some issues around using influencers to spruik brands, such as flagging the endorsements as ads, and some have been pulled up on it overseas. The ASA released guidelines on social media advertising in 2012, but it can get a bit murky and part of the appeal with content marketing for brands is that it doesn’t look like an ad. For the trailer, there’s no mention of the Kiwibank association on Curry’s Facebook page, although the YouTube description does mention the bank is involved (and there is a Kiwibank logo at the end of the clip).  

Here’s what we’ve been waiting for! Episode 1 of Jamie's World  KB Series. Jamie’s made the decision to move out of her…

Posted by Kiwibank on Sunday, 19 July 2015

But, the content strategy road has worked for the bank.

“We met Jamie at a time when she was about to leave her parents’ home in the Hawke’s Bay, and move to Auckland to further her career. This is independence in action, so we collaborated to tell her story,” says Kiwibank head of marketing and communications Regan Savage.

“Given Jamie’s appeal to the hard to reach millennial demographic, we timed The KB Series to coincide with our mid-year tertiary campaign. They weren’t linked explicitly but ran simultaneously, using targeting smarts available to any brand that leverages the power of modern marketing channels.”

He says the response and engagement to the series was phenomenal. “It was our most successful mid-year tertiary campaign to date.”

Turning 18 is a significant milestone, as emphasised in the series, he says. “You either get a full time job, or go and study, or go travelling. No matter what 18 year olds leave school and start to make their own decisions as adults, including decisions about money and finances. We want to hold on to those 17 year olds we have as they turn 18, and also attract new 18 year olds as they shop around trying to find a bank that matches their values.”

He says today we can understand more than ever about our customer groups. “ … and the creation of this type of content reflects what we understand about millennials and their attitudes to brands, and what they expect in return for their attention – their attention being a very precious commodity given their hyper-connectivity and inclination to graze across channels.”

ANZ has also used a content marketing strategy for its ‘World shapers’ campaign, featuring prominent New Zealanders achieving inspirational things on the world stage, including Sir Ray Avery and Sir Peter Jackson.

The campaign was produced by TBWA Auckland.

“Sir Peter appears in his role as the creative director and visionary behind the Great War Exhibition, of which ANZ is the Principal Partner. Sir Ray appeared to help publicise his Lifepod initiative, which ANZ has supported by making a donation to his charity Medicine Mondiale,” says ANZ head of brand, retail and business marketing Matthew Pickering.

He says the response has been fantastic and continues to drive growth in its key brand metrics. “Alongside the TV advertising we have created a series of content videos which tell the stories behind each person featured in a lot more detail. These have performed extremely well, particularly for Sir Ray and Sir Peter.”

“We’re fortunate to be involved in many great initiatives that support the community from NZ Cricket to Daffodil Day, which lend themselves to creating engaging content. A lot of our focus now is about developing different content targeted to different audience groups to drive greater relevancy and value for our various customer segments.”

He says Facebook is used as a strategy of extending ANZ’s reach and engagement online using various video on demand platforms. “We find that supplementing TV with online video can extend our reach by up to 15 percent as well as deepening engagement through long form content that can be optimised to different audience segments.”

ANZ tries to communicate the things that are important to our customers, but do so with warmth and humanity, he says. “If you appeal to people first on an emotional level they are more likely to feel more favourable towards your brand, regardless of category. Banking is still about trust and security though, so for ANZ it is certainly not about being frivolous or flippant in any way.”

In another ANZ content marketing scheme it also released an online game, Temptation Lane to engage with customers in a fun way, read more here.

ASB successfully courted the young’uns with its Snapchat campaign, cleverly going to its target audience rather than trying to lure it and attracting tertiary students with a medium they are familiar with.

ASB general manager of marketing Shane Evans says the campaign was hugely successful and the bank will continue to use Snapchat.

It involved users adding ASBBank on Snapchat and the bank released two challenges each week on the ‘My Story’ section. Each challenge was open for 24 hours and those who completed it entered their details to go into the draw to win anything from McDonald’s vouchers to concert tickets.

There was also a total of 22 scholarships to be won between January 5 2015 and March 20 2015, with every challenge entered correctly also being added to a draw to win $10,000, which was be deposited into an ASB Tertiary accounts.

Evans said earlier ASB has around 20,000 friends on Snapchat and achieved 160 percent of its target for sign up accounts.

Evans says the bank also used Snapchat to drive customers into the branch. “We had activations at our branches whereby we said that we had a prize locked inside a safe and whoever cracked the code won the prize. We had up to 500 people queuing at our Auckland University branch.”

There were even some unexpected pleasant surprises which came from the campaign, he says, with the bank receiving about 800 ‘snaps’ from its users, completely unprompted.

In regard to content marketing, it would appear Westpac and BNZ are doing less in this space at the moment.

We contacted Westpac about the changing face of banks and marketing tactics to attract a younger audience, but it declined to comment in this instance. We also contacted The Co-operative Bank but it didn’t respond.

When we spoke to BNZ external relations manager Katherine Kornish recently about the face of BNZ and its marketing play she said its main focus is helping customers to be good with money.

“Statistics support the need for this, 86 percent just 9 percent of people believe they are good with money. One of the many ways we do this through our marketing, is by having some pretty confronting conversations, prompting people to think about their financial situation,” she says.

“People will remember our ‘work till you die’ campaign to encourage people to consider KiwiSaver and their retirement savings. Last year we ran ‘Shred’ – to draw attention to how much money people can save in the long run by paying off their mortgage faster.”

This campaign had the interesting aspect of having an ad extend into the real world.

For the campaign, via Colenso BBDO, it shredded $6 million and put it on display in Auckland’s Aotea Square from September 29 until October 1. The activation was also supported across various channels, with a TVC, a Facebook campaign and YouTube clips which all used the shredded money as a provocative reminder of the amount of money that Kiwis burn through their mortgage repayments everyday.

Kornish says in terms of engagement, the bank has a BNZ community – a forum for peer to peer conversations. “It’s where our experts can provide advice and tips and people can share their own experiences. Plus our ‘be good with money’ workshops are designed to help young people understand the basics of money management.”

Banking isn’t generally something people get excited about, she says. “Very few people would feel the same about making a banking product purchase as they would clothes or shoes for example. Banking is something people are apathetic about, they set and forget and generally don’t change unless they are significantly dissatisfied by their current provider.”

But attracting customers young could help, she says. “Fewer than half of people ever change banks in their lifetimes, so banks cannot rely on switchers to generate customer growth. Attracting customers young; engaging, activating and retaining them creates a funnel of customers for banks, hopefully for life.”

So, though banks have traditionally been thought of as, well not particularly exciting. It’s cool to see they can use their means to produce fun and engaging content and make a (let’s face it) often boring subject of interest to consumers, particularly young consumers. This is no easy feat, and we look forward to seeing the campaigns to come. 

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