Australian consumers are firmly entrenched in a relationship with one of four large banks that dominate the retail banking market: Commonwealth, Westpac, ANZ and National Australia Bank (NAB).
Over time, a combination of financial distress, interest rate rises and increased bank fees have led to the Australian public to believe that the four biggest banks are all the same - doing what's best to make money rather than caring about customers. This perception of a common purpose amongst the banks led to a lack of motivation to switch from one provider to another.
Against this background of apathy towards the banking industry, one of the four - the NAB had over the course of the two previous years made a number of changes to its business. Fees were abolished and interest rates were lowered in an attempt to be considered fairer and more competitive by customers. But research demonstrated that these changes had rendered little impact due to the perception of similarity between banks.
In an effort to increase customer numbers, NAB needed to make people see the bank had changed and separated itself from its competitors. Therefore a key objective for this brand campaign was focused on changing customer perception.
Changing consumer perception in a category laden with baggage required a dramatic idea, especially when focus groups with non-customers revealed common insights such as: "There is no point switching banks as they are all in it together."
Breaking up is hard to do
The resulting concept was the 'NAB Break Up'. Instead of fighting the perception that all banks were the same, a communication platform was created that would make people witness NAB break away from its banking peer group. The idea was to announce the 'split' in one powerful public moment, that would capture the media and nation's attention - a moment that would make people realise the NAB was different from other banks. To help alter the public perception, every media element of the break-up had to make people believe NAB had changed. The new NAB did things differently.
The goal was to dominate and surround the Australian public with the new message. A limited budget required a combination of a paid, owned and earned approach - primarily driving awareness of the break up while getting people to actively consider switching to NAB and creating a swell of advocates.
First, the bank posted a tweet to 2,000 followers about 'hurting feelings' which spread because people assumed it was posted by mistake. Next the full page break up letter appeared in every major newspaper and online portal in Australia. A giant copy of the letter appeared at NAB head office in the Docklands area of Melbourne. People could find 60 films of NAB bankers breaking up with other bankers on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. The break up escalated with large format sites visible to people on their morning commute. Street furniture targeted customers near NAB and its competitor's branches.
Radio amplified the break-up via a NAB sponsorship of Richard Mercer's Love Songs & Dedications radio show. Various out-of-home media such as street chalking, skywriting, light projections and helium-banners were also deployed . Mobile billboards parked in front of competitor branches acting as temporary stages featuring a man on a piano singing love songs. Print ads appeared in women's magazines placed next to relationship advice editorial.
As confused customers turned to the internet to work out what was going on, a SEO strategy enabled consumers to connect to the Break Up campaign. All activity pointed to the 'Break Up blog' showcasing all of NAB's changes and social media kept people informed for the duration of the campaign.
Positive sentiment about NAB rose by over 320% (Source: Sentiment Metrics) - in a category where negative sentiment is an accepted norm.
Sweeney Research showed that post campaign that NAB was leading its competitors in the key brand perception attributes of "leader in making banking fairer" and "transparent with fees & charges" and achieved increased in consideration and purchase intent for NAB from non-customers.
More than 100,000 people visited the Break Up blog. The campaign generated $5 million of earned PR media in a single day with news stories featuring in key Australian news programs.
Outside of brand results the campaign resulted in a 79% increase in weekly home loan enquiries, a 50% increase in weekly credit card applications and a 20% increase in new transaction accounts being opened. NAB managed to secure the custom of more than 225,000 new customers.
NAB YouTube channel
The Break-up blog