An honest banker
Parting the dark clouds that have surrounded the British banking sector since the beginning of this recession is not an easy thing for those trying to market them.
Cutting through the mistrust that surrounds them requires personal relationships with customers, something that many of the bigger banks had lost interest in.
Harnessing the excellent word of mouth reputation that the brand enjoys, First Direct has decided to let the world know what its customers think of it â€“ be that good or bad. The bankâ€™s new microsite offers a level of transparency that has never been seen before in the industry. Scraping social media feeds, blogs and forums (much like Squidooâ€™s heavily criticised Brands in Public site) for mentions and allowing customers to comment on the site.
Natalie Cowen, marketing communications manager for First Direct, explained it thus:-
“The new microsite is a very open and transparent way of projecting the voice of our customers.”
â€œPssst- this is any companyâ€™s best marketing collateralâ€
Word of mouth is one of the most powerful and well-trusted marketing tools out there, but amplifying its effect outside of your community of customers and their friends, family and colleagues has always been difficult.
That is until now. First Direct has not only recognised that customer testimonials are their strongest marketing resource, but also that they could do something completely different to other banks by letting good comments sit alongside bad comments and compete for share of voice using crude real-time social media graphs and keyword clouds.
The really clever bit is that the bank has then taken a mixed selection of comments and is using them as part of a wider print, digital out of home and online campaign. Not only are these comments amplified online, but also offline in the wider media.
First Direct has tried this approach before through a series of TV ads that featured customers talking about their affection for the brand.
They didnâ€™t have the same resonance because they lacked authenticity â€“ only offering the good and not the bad.
Consumers are a lot more savvy than we give them credit for and First Direct has recognised peopleâ€™s dissatisfaction with being spun a story, particularly in the personal finance sector. Now more than ever we realise that banks arenâ€™t infallible and First Direct’s transparency flips the perception that banks are secretive, monolithic organisations on its head.
In showing its human side First Direct has reconnected with current and prospective customers and reinforced one of its USPs â€“ industry-leading, personalised customer service.