Australian banks had long dominated New Zealand’s financial industry, sucking as much as $3 billion annually in profits from its smaller neighbor. But in 2002, that changed with the launch of Kiwibank. In only eight years, Kiwibank has grown to over $10 billion in assets, 700,000 customers and 300 branches, more than any other bank in New Zealand.
Thanks to a partnership with New Zealand’s postal system many PostShops (“post offices”) also double as a Kiwibank branch, giving the bank a number of advantages: lower overhead, massive savings in capital expenditures, and extended hours including weekends. Thanks to this unique partnership, Kiwibank is the only New Zealand based financial institution with national reach.
Kiwis have friendly-but-palpably competitive feelings towards their Aussie cousins. There’s a strong sense of national pride in New Zealand, and these passions have become the cornerstone of Kiwibank’s brand.
“Yes, there is gentle rivalry between the countries, but quite strong feelings about bank profits being repatriated to Australia,” notes Bruce Thompson, a spokesperson with Kiwibank.
The bank is playing the “local” card heavily in its brand, encouraging Kiwis to keep their money in their own country, starting with the slogan, “It’s ours.”
In one promotion, Kiwibank made a Flash-based game where native New Zealanders could throw pies at Aussie bankers.
In late February 2010, Kiwibank launched a new branding initiative called “Kiwi Thinking. What is Kiwi Thinking?
According to a brand strategy document provided to The Financial Brand by Kiwibank, Kiwi Thinking is:
- Finding simple solutions to complex problems.
- Thinking around problems. If Kiwibank can’t solve a problem directly, we will look for other ways to get around it.
- Not accepting the status quo.
- Loving a challenge.
- Taking a pragmatic approach. We just get on and do it.
- Coming up with stuff that is useful, not just clever.
- Having a straightforward, common sense way of approaching things. We start with where we want to get to, then find the most direct route.
Sounds like a brand that’s big into innovation. Indeed, the bank welcomes new ideas, and is inviting people to submit their suggestions — not just about banking — at its website.
Kiwibank believes that — because it is newer — it isn’t tied up with the red tape and infrastructure that other banks are, and thus can be more responsive.
“We are flatter, nimbler and more flexible,” the bank says. “This frees Kiwibank up to question why banking is done the way it’s done today, and why banking can’t be more like other aspects of modern life.”
Inasmuch, Kiwibank is able to relate- and respond to the contemporary environment, whereas other banks are still either catching up or trying to undo their ways of the past. It’s harder for other banks to change. When they say “no” or “it can’t be done,” it’s partly because they don’t want to and partly because they can’t.
Reality Check: It’s a lot easier to build a differentiated bank brand that resonates with today’s consumers when you’re starting from scratch than it is to try and steer a 100-year old financial institution in a new direction.
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The Kiwibank Brand Identity
The bank’s ad agency, a part of the world-renowned Ogilvy network, helped develop the brand strategy and executed many of the materials Kiwibank uses today, including the latest Kiwi Thinking campaign. The bank also has an 18-person internal marketing department.
Kiwibank has recruited actor Sam Neill (of Jurassic Park fame) to serve as spokesman. He has an 18-month contract.
“He’s Kiwi like us,” “very credible, and he’s done New Zealander’s proud.”
KIWI THINKING TV
You can watch a :60 TV spot on Kiwi Thinking staring actor Sam Neill (of “Jurassic Park” fame) here at the bank’s website.
Raymond, the Little Green Smart Car
Cleverly, the bank has tied a Smart Car — branded in Kiwibank’s signature lime green — into its Kiwi Thinking concept. They call the car “Raymond.”
“Raymond evolved from an idea that Ogilvy presented for an advertising campaign,” Blake recalls. “The first campaign starring Raymond debuted in April 2006. It was a ‘vehicle’ (pun intended) to represent the bank.”
“Raymond is small and nimble, taking on the world of banking,” Blake observes. “In our advertising we try to make it seem like the car drives itself around, kind of like KITT from the TV show Knight Rider.”
The super huge speakers on top of the car were a prop specially built for Kiwibank, but they do work.
“We have taken the car on the road before,” “In parades we play our theme song — the national anthem — through them.”
Kiwibank really wanted to reflect its unique brand through its website – something a bit different, quirky and friendly.
Kiwibank uses recognizable scenes from around the island country to give the site a distinctly New Zealand feel. A large part of the website’s interface is built around lifestages embedded in an intricately beautiful illustration, something they call the “Kiwibank World.”
The bank frequently uses this branded, make believe world in its advertising. For instance, in the bank’s “Go Fly” credit card campaign, a little plan flew around the Kiwibank World towing a promotional banner.
The online Kiwibank World also gets fun treatments for holidays and special events such as Easter, Christmas and ANZAC Day.
Wellington-based web agency Springload designed the site. It took 6-7 months to completely redevelop. Kiwibank has one of the best-looking, better-branded websites in the financial industry and worth exploring.
GoFly Credit Card Campaign
When you live on an island, air travel is a constant reality. There isn’t anything particularly novel about a bank with an airline rewards program…except for the way Kiwibank executed this one.