This isn’t a great time to be a banker – or a banker’s marketing consultant.
Since 2008, when the collapse of Lehman Brothers and Northern Rock triggered a financial meltdown and a wave of costly bailouts, banks have struggled to dispel the perception that they’re greedy, irresponsible, and aggressively indifferent to the well-being of their customers.
It’s going to be an uphill struggle: the British government has sunk £133 billion of liquid assets into reviving the banking industry and committed to another £1029 billion’s worth of guarantees, indemnities and provisional support. That kind of money buys a long, lingering public profile.
Pre-crash bank marketing didn’t help matters either. Look past the cringe-inducing musical gimmicks of this 2006 Halifax ad (if you can) and listen to the message: “we’ll give you extra, 50 times extra – what are you waiting for?” In other words, don’t stop and think, just come over here and let us clowns throw our money (our investors’ and customers’ money) at you.
Worse was to come. Halifax continued the campaign during the financial crisis (when their parent organisations were being bailed out at taxpayer expense), and then doubled down, persisting in the face of public disapproval for another two years.
The failed TV ads of yesteryear are preserved for posterity online, but financial marketers have changed tack in recent times, serving up informative, useful content that is intended to be shared by a generation of YouTubers.
There are many benefits to using video to lead your content marketing strategy, and the biggest plus point for banks is the ability to connect with customers instantly. The right messaging supersedes the bank’s identity and recreates it – the video becomes more memorable than the industry’s unloving reputation.
Barclays’ Life Skills service and its associated campaign, on the surface of things, don’t have much to do with banking. That’s a major part of its appeal. In the video we see ordinary-looking people talking about ordinary-sounding successes and everyday activities on ubiquitous-sounding Facebook groups.
On the website we see a focus on long-term learning, transferable skills, making an investment in one’s personal future. Barclays’ name is attached to it, but it’s about you, not them.
Nationwide took a similar-but-different approach. Their MoneyStuff channel is pitched at a younger, college-and-university-age, first-proper-bank-account demographic. It keeps the frivolity of the pre-crisis years, but instead of bankers making spectacles of themselves, it outsources the humour to popular YouTube creators – young people with a track record in youth-focused Internet comedy.
The videos blend self-aware humour with sound information, and the call to action is tucked away at the end, almost an afterthought. The highlighted promotion of discounted cinema tickets says Nationwide aren’t pushing greed – they’re appealing to thriftiness.
It doesn’t look like a marketing campaign. That’s why it works.
Halifax, eventually, learned their lesson. The Jargon Busters campaign is more staid and bankerly than past efforts; the humour is a wryly raised eyebrow at fiscal folly of the sort Halifax would like you to forget they once encouraged. Gone are the Halifax staff breaking into implausible musical numbers; the new video content is animated, voiced over, and palpably unlike the old campaign.
Difference is key. Halifax want you to believe that they’ve changed, and that what they’re offering now is sound advice that’s a little more mature than the competition.
So far, it seems to be working. The shift in emphasis from brand awareness to consumer benefits, the adoption of real talent from the target market and the drive to build trust intermingle in a warmer form of advertising than explicit and relentless promotion. Consumers benefit from the content, banks benefit from the much-needed social rehabilitation.
For more insight, please download our video marketing whitepaper.
Jon Mowat is the managing director of Bristol-based production house Hurricane Media