Thursday, February 17, 2005


How five banks built a brand through

(A Form of Ubuntu)

Italicized phrases, and those within parenthesis - mine. -Frederica Azania Clare

When the banking industry committed in the Financial Sector Charter to make banking accessible to all South Africans, they realised that it would not be business as usual. Two years before the launch of the Mzansi Account, a dedicated group of bank employees across First National Bank, ABSA, Standard Bank, Nedbank and the Post Office, through Postbank, started working behind the scenes on, what is to date, a success story.
The banks adopted an approach referred to as 'co-opertition' - competitors working together to access a new market and to compete in that market for objectives beyond commercial interests. From a marketing perspective, it seemed an almost impossible task to get five competitors, each with a different marketing philosophy, to agree on a joint brand and marketing strategy. The marketing committee, one of a number of inter-bank committees, was given nine months to launch the product. In that period a brand strategy had to be developed, the marketing plan had to be finalised, agencies had to be selected and appointed and the campaigns had to be produced. None of the marketers were involved on a full-time basis and their collaborative Mzansi responsibilities were in addition to their 'day jobs'. Given the complexity of the project, it is clear that no single person or agency can claim a victory. The marketing committee soon realised that they needed the expertise of different specialised agencies to complement their marketing knowledge. The Mzansi launch succeeded because of the professionalism and drive of all the people and agencies involved. Developing the Mzansi brandThe first step was to develop a brand strategy. The challenge for the banks was to convince the target market that they were welcome and that the banks had suitable and affordable offerings for them. The banks all have strong brands to which the target market aspires, however the banks needed a 'mechanism' to help them to relate and interact with the target market. Under the guidance of Enterprise IG, the banks developed a brand strategy in order to:
Support and align to the brand architectures of the participating banks.
Ensure best use of the co-operative space to build awareness and educate the target market.
Ensure differentiation within the competitive space in order to leverage the existing equity of the banking brands.
Enable migration and limit cannibalisation of the existing products where possible.The robustness of the brand strategy was proven when the Minister of Finance objected to what appeared to be "collusion" amongst the banks and belated adjustments had to be made to the standardised offering. Despite these changes, the existing brand strategy needed no changes to comply with the requirement that the marketing of the product had to be competitive.After the brand strategy was agreed on, Enterprise IG developed the style and the visual language for the new brand. The Communication strategyThe challenge for the banks in developing a communication strategy was to bridge the gap between the existing perceptions and the aspirations of the target market and what the banks have to offer. Although the target market feels intimidated by the banks, they certainly do not want a 'poor man's bank'. The banks had to convince the market that they offered an account which was affordable and accessible but which offers all the benefits of being a customer of one of the big banks and Postbank. The banks realised that only a broad communication approach which included advocacy, PR, experiential marketing and advertising would enable the gap to be bridged. In conjunction with advertising agency, Inroads, and experiential marketing agency Exp Momentum, an elaborate and pro-active communication plan was developed. It was decided that a phased approach to the campaign would be the most effective. In the first phase before the launch, key stakeholders and interested parties were informed of the initiative. The aim was to ensure a soft landing for the initiative by explaining the initiative to organisations and individuals who influence public opinion. Prior to the launch, Fleishman-Hillard was commissioned to run the PR campaign. During this period a coordinated media strategy was used to ensure that the media had access to the right information. The success of these initiatives was evidenced at the nationwide launch events of the Mzansi Account on 25 October 2004. The events received substantial media attention and were well attended by representatives of civil society.In the third phase, awareness of the Mzansi Account was created through a broad advertising campaign using radio, television, outdoor and print. Radio, including community radio, was used to reach the broad target market and inform them of the benefits. The radio advertising was accompanied by editorial input through interviews. Television was used to create credibility in the target market and create awareness in the critical phase of the launch. Print was used to accompany the information provision through editorial. Outdoor, provided by Clear Channel, was used to reach the target market where they live and work. More than 350 billboards were used. Simultaneous to the advertising campaign, the Mzansi Account was taken to the target market by means of an outreach campaign. For six weeks, five teams in Mzansi-branded trucks toured the country. The teams visited 625 locations promoting the generic product through industrial theatre and by talking to local 'opinion makers'. The campaign aimed to educate and encourage trial and usage of the Mzansi Account. Defining the successCommentators have referred to the marketing efforts as a 'low-key marketing campaign'. Given the results, it could be said that the marketing campaign struck the right chord. The banks had to learn fast how to communicate with a market of which they had little understanding. They realised that only a broad and thorough approach would guarantee success. Instead of having an aggressive advertising campaign on mainstream radio and television, the banks chose to take the campaign to the target market. In this way they reached the target market in a myriad of ways in their daily lives, out of sight of many readers and writers of the financial and marketing press. The real success of the launch campaign came about when the marketing team realised they had to overcome the dilemmas of 'marketing by committee'. Good marketing requires courage. When a committee develops marketing it is easy to hide in the group, there is always safety in numbers! Initially the members of the team adopted the stance: 'As long as it does not harm my bank, I am okay!' However, when the advertising agency hit hurdles with the creative, the team realised that they had to collectively take responsibility if the campaign was to work.Another reason for the success is the way in which a relatively large number of advertising, PR and marketing professionals were able to work together. Everybody involved was enthused by what the banks were trying to achieve and the fact that the banks wanted to try innovative ways of reaching the market.Taking the Mzansi brand forwardOpening half a million bank accounts in just over three months is no small achievement and no coincidence. The banks have managed to develop the right product to address the needs of the unbanked, and built on what appears to be a powerful brand. Without proper marketing, 500 000 people would still believe that they are not welcome in the banking system. However, the banks realise that they will only be able to claim victory when a substantial number of the millions of unbanked have been brought into the formal financial system. The Mzansi brand has a role to play in reaching the unbanked, and there is still a lot to learn on how to manage this kind of brand. Nowhere in the world have commercial competitors established a brand to better service a particular market with the aim of aggressively competing with each other in client acquisition and servicing.
[16 Feb 15:30]

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