Why a “Happy Banking” Campaign Isn’t Such a Bad Thing

Singing kittens. An interview with a talking flower. Make believe statistics. Surely the “Happy Banking” campaign from Australia’s BankWest seems a little strange at first.

That’s because it is a little strange. But that’s a good thing.

The multicomponent campaign takes aim squarely at Australia’s big banks – specifically their lack of style and innovation. The campaign includes banner ads (example shown at right), TV ads, and a microwebsite.

At the microsite (shown below, left), BankWest asks, “Can a bank make people happy?” The ultrasimple site goes on to explain that the bank has discovered that “kittens can make people happy by reducing stress levels.”

Bank Happy website Happy Banking graph

To test their kitten theory, visitors are asked to type in their name and pick their gender, launching a video that features a singing trio of kittens, followed by a graph (shown above, right) bearing “proof” to the efficacy of kittens.

BankWest’s campaign is more than just offbeat advertising. The bank is actually backing up the campaign with some different ideas – some real substance – things their big bank rivals can’t or won’t do.

A talking flower with an intriguing accent (shown left) says she makes more friends when she’s open, a narrative device used to introduce the bank’s new 7-day schedule. Another spot (shown right) has a talking sun that promises home loan rates 0.75% lower than Australia’s big four banks.

Happy Banking ‘Flower’ Happy Banking ‘Sun’

Reality Check: Most financial advertising is exceptionally dull and fails miserably at cutting through today’s advertising noise.

“Happy Banking” will resonate with those seeking an antidote to lifeless financial institutions, similar to WaMu’s “Whoohoo!” campaign.

One thing is for sure: It is a significantly better way to differentiate than the Mad Max/Crocodile Dundee spoof produced by Commonwealth Bank, also in Australia. Commonwealth’s spot was widely derided as a cheap and gimmicky stunt.

Key Questions:

  • Who is BankWest’s target audience?
    Are they targeting a younger market (perhaps Gen-Y)?
  • What is BankWest’s brand strategy?
  • What cultural and advertising realities specific to Australia might influence this campaign?

Bottom Line:

  • Branding is all about differentiation.
  • BankWest’s campaign has a refreshing, distinct, unstuffy style supported by real competitive differences.
  • The campaign will get noticed, yielding a higher return for each marketing dollar.

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