3 Buzzworthy Ways Hello Bank Built a Breakthrough Brand

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Rarely do you see a new bank brand launched. Rarer still is a bank that does it right. Here are 3 micro case studies in bank marketing brilliance.

French Bank BNP Paribas has been busy this year. They launched a new arm dubbed Hello Bank, what they describe as “the first 100% digital mobile bank” in continental Europe. First Hello Bank debuted in Belgium and Germany, then France — three countries, at least two different languages, and all in the span of just a few months.

The new bank brand is notable for a number of reasons. First, big established banks can see the writing on the wall: the future is mobile. And yet big banks are saddled with a legacy image — that of being stuffy, conservative, brick-and-mortar institutions, not a tech-savvy image they need for tomorrow’s consumers. What to do? Like many big banks, PNB Paribas realizes that it’s easier to invent a new brand than it is to try and radically reshape an existing one. Big banks are rolling out these internet-centric divisions with the plan that someday the new brand will eventually take over for the old brand (which will quietly slip into retirement).

Second, Hello Bank’s brand position is perfectly defined. It’s all about making banking easier. As they put it, “the bank for people on the go, for the clued-up consumer.” They use adjectives like “clear,” “straightforward,” “simple” and “easy” to guide everything they do. There’s much hullabaloo in the financial sector about “innovation,” but the truth is that if you aren’t making banking easier, faster or more intuitive, consumers don’t care.

And don’t forget: the name itself is noteworthy. Using the English spelling of “Hello” as the name for a French-Belgian-German (and soon to be Italian) bank is both differentiated and courageous. It’s a savvy marketing decision in itself.

Take a look at the three examples below, and you’ll have to agree: Hello Bank is definitely a banking brand financial marketers will want to keep an eye on.

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1. Conception Through Co-Creation

When you start a new bank brand from scratch, you can define the organization any way you want. Or you can let customers define it for you, as Hello Bank chose to do.

They hired two companies, USEEDS° and Design Thinking, to mediate innovation sessions with consumers. These so-called “co-creation workshop” involving brainstorming and ideation sessions with participants online and off.

Prior to the workshop, the team gathered general ideas and questions about banking services from consumers on a special website, where they received over 1,400 different pieces of input. Using that information, a group of experts from various professional fields interacted with a group of six consumers to explore innovative banking solutions (e.g., crowdfunding).

The bank’s broader online community was invited to participate via an interactive, multimedia website. Live video streams and a real-time ticker allowed anyone anywhere in the world to feel like they were part of the workshop. Ideas were summarized and presented to online users for feedback. A real person sat in with the live brainstorming panel, equipped with a tablet computer and a head camera. He represented the voice of the online community in the workshop, adding questions and reactions from the live chat into the group’s discussions.

This went on for five full days.

At the end of each day the online community voted on the ideas they wanted to be polished for the final presentation at the end of the week. The best idea wove their way into the Hello Bank product lineup.

If you speak German, you might really enjoy taking a look at some of the new ideas the group came up with — they’ve memorialized everything on a special website loaded with videos. But it doesn’t really matter what the outcomes were; it’s the process that financial marketers should find noteworthy. For all the chatter about themes like “transparency” and “voice of the customer” programs in the banking sector, there are very few who actually walk the talk. The truth is: Most financial institutions don’t have the backbone to hear what customers have to say (bank: “Who wants to listen to consumers complain for hours on end?”), and are scared stiff by the thought of any transparent process (bank: “Consumers would skewer us if they knew how our sausage was made”).

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The co-creation workshop Hello Bank held with experts in the financial industry and a half dozen consumers.

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This guy wore a GoPro camera that broadcast the entire workshop to online participants — anyone who wanted to watch. He facilitated an online chat, and posed users’ questions in the live workshop. He was, in a sense, the offline avatar for the bank’s online community.

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2. Launch Video of an Amazing Mobile Symphony Goes Viral

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When Hello Bank was finally ready for its public debut, they hired ad agency Publicis Conseil and production company B-Roll to wire up 60 musicians from the Czech National Symphony Orchestra with smartphones and tablets for a wild performance of “Carmen” by Georges Bizet. They filmed the performance, then turned it into a TV spot used to launch the Hello Bank brand.


Hello Bank – Symphonic Mobile Devices

This TV spot has been viewed over 4 million times on YouTube. Another “making of” video revealed that the effort required hooking up 227 different interfaces to a wifi network.

If you study the video, you’ll quickly realize that what you are watching is an illusion — a magic trick. The musicians don’t appear to actually be using mobile devices as instruments. (Can you really play the “iViolin” simply by waving one phone in front of another? And can you really simulate playing a wind instrument by blowing in the side of an iPhone?) But that doesn’t really diminish the spot’s charm. It truly is a fantastic commercial, crafted to convey the notion that mobile devices can — and likely will — completely transform every part of our lives. The orchestra is used as a sophisticated metaphor for banking: if you struggle seeing how mobile devices can revolutionize banking, look at what it can do for a symphony. It’s effective reasoning, but perhaps a too cerebral for some consumers.

As one critic wrote in The Atlantic, “It blends commercialism and artistry to great effect.” Amen to that: an ad that’s actually worth watching, and on message — a rare combination these days.

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3. User Generated Launch Posters

Very much in the spirit of the bank’s “co-creation” roots, PNB Paribas asked the general public to design its launch posters. The resulting concepts are a triumph of design and a testament to the potential of user-generated content (UGC) in bank marketing. Selected illustrations were posted to the bank’s Tumblr page (Also of note: Hello Bank is one of the very few financial institutions to use Tumblr.)

It’s unclear exactly how Hello Bank used the posters. But they could have been utilized as outdoor ads, direct mail pieces, branch merchandising, Facebook artwork — all the above, and more.

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Hello Bank’s Brand Identity

PNB Paribas worked with design firm Seenk to develop the new Hello Bank brand, including naming, positioning and visual identity.

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