The merits of CAN versus breaking up

I am continually fascinated by corporate marketing. In my day (oh I sound so old) communications strategy was all about ‘above the line’ and a bit of ‘below the line.’ You would tell the agency the problem then they would tell you what you should stand for and create a campaign around that.

Given that I am no longer a corporate marketer, I remain fascinated by how it all comes together. So I felt excited to hear directly from the marketers at CommBank who were accountable for the creation of its most recent campaign.

As I sat and listened to Monique Macleod from CommBank talk about the bank’s 10-point strategy I thought to myself how amazingly different it is to the recent NAB campaign about ‘breaking up with the other banks’.

One campaign is positive and uplifting; the other leaves you wondering ‘so’. The NAB campaign seems to be all about them rather than the customer – and as a non-NAB customer I was just left thinking ‘how is this relevant to me?’

I am also not a CBA customer yet I find the energy and simplicity of the campaign energising.

I’m sure each of the banks spent a fortune on research and testing. But all marketing this century is about ‘how did I make the customer feel’ – and if the communication leaves the potential customer feeling ‘nothing’ then, as far as I’m concerned (no matter what media they use), it is very last century.

10 key things for any campaign (According to CommBank’s Monique Macleod, general manager, brand and broadcast.)

1. Start with a purpose – “CBA enable progress and potential”. That is, CBA enable customers to ‘move forward’. This is internal focus – the real question is ‘How do customers feel about this?’

2. Be clear on the audience – not about demographics. It is about what people want in their life – get to the end benefit. How do we add value for people?

3. Define what matters – what motivates them versus important. There are table stakes that are expected of the brand, and they do not make people emotive or feel anything (of course a bank will be safe).

4. Tap into the zeitgeist.

If ever there was a time when Australians needed inspiration, belief and heart it’s now. Maybe the CBA role is to rise above the status quo – the feeling of the people – how do we bring positivity to the brand and what we stand for. We knew we wanted to rally the nation… but we couldn’t preach.

5. Listen and learn, customers don’t want to be told what to do. “You don’t tell me to do it. You certainly don’t do it for me. But you do help me.” CBA listened and changed the execution.

6. Get people talking. The campaign felt more active because there was the teaser. It was a risk to get attention. Many events were staged all over the country and people got involved.

7. Make it local – sometimes central marketing tries to protect a campaign so much that we don’t let our people get involved. Let your people own it, giving them permission to do with it what you want, and having a place to tell us people’s CAN stories.

8. Invest more in employee. We treated the 52,000 employees as importantly as the external campaign and created brand ambassadors. A lot went into making them live and breathe it from day one. They were a priority and we had a crack team. INVEST in your employees – they are the ones that run with it

9. Mobilise supporters early: employees, industry, media, partners, suppliers. CBA brought in influencers to include them and let them know what they were trying to achieve with the campaign. So they understood it – and they could help leverage it.

10. Drive engagement; relentlessly keep people talking about it. The positivity; the minute you are a CAN person then you are no longer a CAN’T person.

“We took time to get the brief and refined it over and over. Each of the agencies had to be aligned. We created the brand positioning; we did not let the agency do that. Visual identity was evolved,” says Macleod.

I suppose I did not get the same insights into the strategy behind the NAB campaign, but what I do know is that I would rather feel good and uplifted than numb or, worse, disinterested.

Customer-centric companies who authentically listen and respond to customers will be the winners this century.

Naomi Simson is considered to be one of Australia’s Best Bosses. An employee engagement advocate, she practises what she preaches in her own fast growth business. RedBalloon was named as one of only 13 BRW Best Employers in Australia in 2012 for four years in a row with an engagement scorecard of over 90% in each of those years – the average in Australian businesses is 54%.

One of Australia’s outstanding entrepreneurs, Naomi regularly entertains as a passionate speaker, a blogger and a published author, most recently publishing Five Thanks a Day. She has received many accolades and awards for the business she founded, including the 2011 Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year – Industry.


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