TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards 2016: SBS goes toe to toe with the heavyweights

The challenge

In 2015 SBS Bank set on an ambitious crusade to revitalise and modernise itself from the ground up.  

With a new CEO and general manager of marketing and strategy, and big dreams for off-the-scale growth, it was time to take on the big Aussie banks outside of its traditional stronghold in Southland and become a national player.  

But armed with the knowledge that awareness and consideration for the brand reduced significantly the further north you went from Southland, the bank knew it needed a makeover; one that was different and one that would get it noticed by consumers outside of Southland.

Before the rebrand, its awareness was almost non-existent in Auckland. 

Conducting research, SBS found consumer sentiment was the bank was ‘old and building society-like’, a bank for the older generation to save with. It found consumers saw the brand as having a dated look, and lacking a clear differentiation in the market.

Plus, with new leaders and a new company vision and strategy, the very traditional board had to be convinced to take a big leap of faith, outside their comfort zone. And the execution of the idea had to be done within seven months.

The response

The SBS makeover strategy set down a plan for success. First of all, create a clear point of competitive difference – SBS is  a member bank, the members own the bank and that means member benefits. All of the key activities then needed to be aligned to this important point. 

Next, rebrand the bank with something that reflects its new strategy, something the rest of the country could get behind. 

SBS had a fiercely loyal customer base that was at risk of churning from a big brand change, but the marketing team managed this risk by consulting with existing members on changes along the entire process, to make sure everyone liked the new branding.

And finally, SBS simplified its product offering, focusing on home loans for acquisition. 

The bank’s marketing team had from April to November 2015 to have the business completely re-branded, simplify the product offering and get a new campaign to market. 

A campaign was designed that could be the bank’s creative vehicle for two years: Eric and Sandra, who are looking to buy a new home.

The team developed a full marketing mix campaign to get the bank noticed on national scale, which included mainstream free to air TV, Sky, video on-demand, radio, digital, outdoor and in-branch.

A fresh brand was designed with a new, orange logo, and everything with a logo on it was replaced. All the branches around the country were refurbished, with the executive team and CEO visiting all 16 locations to reveal the new brand, to ensure buy-in around the country.

The website was redesigned and the internet banking platform was rebranded. 

Sadly, in January 2016 the new SBS CEO Wayne Evans passed away. SBS says it intends to continue the ‘great vision’ Evans had for the brand before he died.

The results

After its rapid, seven-month-long race to the finish line, SBS was rewarded with results.

The bank started to receive the highest levels of public awareness and exposure it had seen for many years, with the new look approved by both the market and its loyal existing customers. 

The bank’s two key commercial targets were also looking ‘very healthy indeed’, and SBS reports it was even outgrowing some of the biggest banks in New Zealand in terms of lending.

The mainstream media also came to the party, and the bank’s story was covered on TV3, Stuff.co.nz and the NZ Herald.

After just seven months the bank had gone from lacking likeability outside of Southland, to becoming a modern, distinct challenger getting noticed in key growth markets such as Auckland. 


Financial and Banking


SBS Bank

Marketing Partners:

DoubleLux, Immediate, Retail Dimensions, Sweeney Vesty, Minutepast2 

Judge’s comment:

“Facing a ‘burning platform’ SBS has reset its business to establish a compelling position to challenge the big established banks both now and in the future. All 7 Ps of the marketing mix were reset as a catalyst for growth.”

Finalists: ANZ New Zealand (x2), ASB Bank, IAG NZ

  • This story first appeared in the Awards issue of NZ Marketing.
  • To read more on the TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards 2016, click here.

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