Five lessons from NAB’s “bank break-up” marketing campaign

NAB’s huge attempt to differentiate itself from Australia’s other big four banks has quickly become an early candidate for marketing campaign of the year – and with good reason.

In today’s media-saturated world grabbing consumers’ attention for more than 30 seconds is hard enough and extending a campaign over four or five days is no mean feat.

The bank’s campaign started on Friday with what looked like an errant tweet from one of NAB’s corporate Twitter accounts suggesting that the tweeter was preparing to have a difficult break-up conversation.

Next morning The Daily Telegraph carried an exclusive story about NAB’s intention to pay subsidies up to $700 to assist customers switching mortgages from the Commonwealth Bank and Westpac to pay exit fees.

The next business day – Valentine’s Day – the bank launched its “break-up” campaign, declaring it was breaking out of the big four banking group to go it alone.

That was followed up on Tuesday with a plethora of stunts.

CDs were given away at railway stations with break-up songs, signs were scrawled on footpaths, planes and helicopters carried banners and actors performed mock break-ups around the country, with many of the stunts filmed and placed on YouTube to continue the campaign.

The cost of the campaign will probably run into millions of dollars, but the effectiveness of the multi-media blitz suggests that NAB got its money’s worth.

But what can SMEs learn from the campaign? Here are five marketing lessons we’ve extracted:

1. Co-ordination is the key

The impressive thing about the campaign was how NAB was able to leverage different mediums. The campaign started on Twitter, carried over to print and then involved a number of guerrilla marketing stunts, with it all backed up by the bank making the head of its retail banking division, Lisa Grey, available for interviews and TV appearances. That kind of concerted marketing push takes planning, but having all the elements working at once delivers a bigger bang.

2. Social media – and video – are key

Launching its campaign with a mock Tweet was smart because it underlined NAB’s willingness to utilise media used by the younger customers it most wants to attract. What was perhaps most impressive was the use of YouTube, where there were more than 50 break-up-related videos. They were not slickly produced – indeed, the point was to give a home-video feel around the ambush marketing stunts – but they had a humorous feel that works well. That is something SMEs could easily replicate, but beware, the audience can be fairly limited.

3. Try something different

One reason the campaign stood out was because it was so un-bank like. Paying for a piano player to play break-up songs outside a rival bank’s headquarters is not something you expect from one of Australia’s biggest companies, but NAB’s willingness to experiment and take risks was one of the keys to the campaign. For SMEs stunt-based marketing can be risky and can have a limited audience but the right stunt in the right environment – perhaps a trade show or industry event – can create some serious buzz.

4. Take on your customers directly

NAB was very pointed about talking about, and to, its three main rivals. They were mentioned in the ads, criticised openly and attacked collectively as well as individually. The danger there was that is that mentioning rivals in your ads could give them a free kick. But when you are desperately trying to differentiate yourself from your competitors explicitly taking them on via marketing can work.

5. Beware of setting expectations

The danger with such a huge and different campaign is that NAB must follow it up and keep proving that it is different from its big rivals. If its next campaign reverts to the normal sober bank advertising we are used to it could lead consumers to question whether the campaign was a one-off market share grab or a real commitment to doing things differently to other members of the big four. You must be able to live up to your brand.

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