Internet innovation in the financial sector

From time to time, we have had a chuckle in this column about ‘the Youth.’ About politicians, social entrepreneurs, corporate figures all being anxious to target ‘the Youth’.
 Chris Harrison
Chris Harrison

From time to time, we have had a chuckle in this column about ‘the Youth.’ About politicians, social entrepreneurs, corporate figures all being anxious to target ‘the Youth’. And the fact that it always makes me think of one harassed young person being chased down by a baying crowd of people, all anxious to talk to him or her.

One marketing category that finds it hard to get beyond first base with young people is banking. There are many reasons for this, and I am sure we can all cite a few. My observation is that banks lack the ability to demonstrate genuine empathy towards young people.  And they lack the patience, in marketing terms, to pursue young people through the twist and turns of their development into young adults.

Banks succeed in so many other areas of commercial endeavour that youth marketing stands out as their Achilles heel. So I thought I would share a youth banking approach from Africa that is showing signs of success. Here I define success as attracting and keeping the interest of young people. And turning that into business.

The example is from South Africa. But as it involves the creation of a Youth Portal (a broad and capable gateway to Internet engagement), I expect the brand owner to broaden its geographical scope in due course. The brand is Standard Bank.

As with all professional marketing activities, the Bank began with defining their target audience as tightly as possible. They wanted to engage 16-22 year olds who are ‘always on’ (the Web). Who live what we call a connected lifestyle, and whose focus is all about themselves – their dreams, goals and lifestyle. Then the Bank bravely went out to discover what this group thought about banking. And discovered that they see banking as business focused, product obsessed, serious, intimidating and dull.

But the most important insight that the Bank and its digital agency Aquaonline came up with was the lack of any sense of urgency about beginning the financial journey. Banks love to talk about lifetime relationships and cradle to grave solutions. But the overwhelming reaction from young connected people was:

‘Not for me … not now.’

In my view the Agency did the bank two great services in tackling this challenge.

Firstly they counseled the Bank against trying to be trendy. My goodness, how often do we see that in African bank advertising? Ads with young people and slang headlines; but a great big Bank logo bottom right. And the trouble with trends is, they change faster than Banks can.

‘Don’t be trendy,’ they said, ‘be a Bank.’ ‘Don’t be the embarrassing Dad at the disco, be the kind of Dad (or Mum) everyone hopes for … a life coach.’ Make the focus life stage, and not your product offering.

The second service they did was to create a truly capable Internet platform for the Bank. One that thought ahead, and was capable of being adhesive. By which I mean sticking to a young person as they develop their life path. Take a look at:

As you do, understand that the breakthrough thought behind the site was ‘Utilitainment’, which I think is very clever indeed. Utilitainment being defined as something intrinsically very useful, while being extrinsically very entertaining.

Basically the site is a Youth Channel, which offers content, coaching and utilities that permit young people to create a roadmap for their life goals. Technologically it combines Social Media, Web, and Mobile seamlessly. And perhaps most importantly it has a CRM capability. Basically this means that it collects data to enrich the Customer Relationship. A feature that is rare in African websites, but standard on many global ones.

So, is it working? First results indicate that it is. With 12000 registered ‘members’ in the first six weeks, and a lead delivery of over 100 customer prospects per day.

What are you waiting for?

Chairman Young & Rubicam Group Africa

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Copyright Christopher James Harrison. PO Box 41036 Nairobi 00100 Kenya


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