Four Banks, One Bed.


Four banks have dominated the Australian financial services sector for as long as most can remember. The foursome has caused outrage amongst many bank account holders who have long believed the ‘Big 4’ (ANZ, CommBank, Westpac and NAB) are ‘in bed together’ to fix interest rates and secure large profits, prompting distrust towards the industry.

But in an attempt to get out of the metaphorical bed, NAB embarked on an ingenious marketing campaign that kicked off with a social media tweet which to many, looked like an horrific mistake by one of NAB’s employees which said:

“Sooooo stressed out. Have to make a rough decision and I know I’ll probably hurt someone’s feelings! Arrggghhh.”

NAB was going to reposition as Australia’s honest bank by constructing a ‘love ending’, dumping the other three banks who would remain in the bed, continuing to rip off millions of Australians.

The campaign involved performers singing break-up songs outside ANZ branches, handing out CD’s of break-up songs in train stations, dropping in on high-level meetings of their competitors with signs saying ‘you’re dumped’, and this:


Repositioning: Going from ‘ugh NAB’ to ‘OMG NAB’ in a single day

NAB set out to be different by promising to cut bank fees, to pay the mortgage fees of those who switched and promised not to pass on interest rate hikes announced by the RBA. It was people before profit. NAB identified the common dissatisfaction amongst consumers towards Australian banking institutions, arming them with the motivation to be un bank-like by creating a series of public ploys, instantly creating a point of difference from their corrupt competition.

Banks don’t do this. Banks are restricted by the rules and rigidity of large companies. Banks are not creative and funny, they are sterile and bland. NAB was different.

Who succumbed to the greatest campaign in Australian history?

Unlike the other money hungry banks, NAB offered an enticing series of discounts and financial incentives to attract mortgage and everyday bank account holders who banked with ANZ, CommBank and Westpac (behavioural/usage segmentation) along with the younger users (age segmentation) who were particularly social media savvy and driven largely by social influence.

nab break up skywriting hi resNAB used every public and digital avenue imaginable, from social media to performers to TV ads and a YouTube series. People on the streets who were driven by their innate need to be a part of something filmed NAB’s creative street performances and shared them on social media to be shared and liked and shared again… for free! Gen Y-ers ate the campaign up.

But in their desperate attempt to convince people to leave their untrustworthy banking relationships, their segmentation and targeting strategies attracted a flood of users who had not a great deal to bring to the table. NAB increased their customer base significantly but almost solely in the bottom 20% of users. Suddenly, an abundance of people in financial difficulty or with under $5,000 in the bank were on NAB’s books. Their campaign was so effective with young users, but these users didn’t have mortgages or the motivation to use the higher-end products on offer that ultimately drive hefty profits.

However, what NAB achieved in just one single day was a shift in attitudes towards their service through differentiation while simultaneously maintaining negative perceptions of their competition, essentially repositioning NAB as the better, more honest bank.

But what’s even bigger than that is that NAB became a bank with balls a personality, and that is unheard of.

Woodside. A, Sood. S & Miller. K (2008) When consumers and brands talk: Storytelling theory and research in psychology and marketing, Psychology & Marketing, Vol 25, pp 97-145.

Mazursky. D, Labarbera. P, Aiello. A (1987) When Consumers Switch Brands, Vol. 14, John Wiley & Sons

R. Minhas, E. Jacobs (1996) Benefit segmentation by factor analysis: an improved method of targeting customers for financial services, International Journal of Bank Marketing, Vol. 14, pp 3-13.

WP: DanniMcGowen, 216223021

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