We interviewed the bank that used transparency to drive business

“Trust random people on the internet with all your savings”. You can’t get more honest than that. That’s the goal of Nordnet, a bank that wants to break out of their stereotype. You might remember Nordnet as the guys who went viral last year with these hilarious ads.

We were really excited to get the opportunity to chat with Johanna Snickars, Nordnet’s Public Relations Manager. So much about Nordnet’s campaign aligned with what we love at Blender—creating original marketing content, being pioneers of innovation, and filming awesome company videos. Read below as Johanna talks to us about the Nordnet transparency campaign, about creating the first bank podcast in Sweden, and about what it was like to see Nordnet’s videos go viral.

What gave you the idea to use transparency as the focus for this marketing campaign?

A lot of people talk about [being transparent] but it’s hard to find cases of people providing it and actually living it. We’re not that big of a bank, but we compete with the other major banks. We don’t have the same finances, so we had to think ‘what’s the most cost-efficient way of reaching a broad spectrum of clients?’ Our customers want a transparent bank with all that it entitles; transparent communication, pricing, services, etc. and we want to be that too.

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Your move toward transparency was a bold one–especially in the banking world. Have there been any challenges or pushback that you’ve seen?

A big [challenge] was not choosing to brand ourselves as transparent or get our employees on board, but to actually walk the talk. This means changing how we work, what we communicate, how public we are about certain numbers. It also means find[ing] the time to create content in order to communicate transparency with customers, shareholders, the media, and the public in all these new channels: blogs, videos, social media, podcasts, etc.

Quote 1Can you speak more about the importance Nordnet places on user-generated content in order to communicate transparency? What benefits have you seen as a result of your blog/podcast/etc? 

We launched a transparent blog in all countries, where we let our co-workers explain any questions our customers might have about our business. We turned it around from [thinking] what should we tell our customers to what do they want to know about…the blog is written by around 50 customers and ‘brand ambassadors’ for Nordnet. It was important for us to not make the blog about [Nordnet], but about savings and investment advice.

We were also the first bank in Sweden to create a podcast. All our brand ambassadors and customers really push[ed] the podcast and rall[ied] for Nordnet. We wanted to have user generated content, [so we] asked on social media ‘What would you want us to talk about in the podcast?’ We haven’t really spent a dollar in marketing in this way. We’ve really gotten popular, and usually are in the Top 10 or Top 20 biggest podcasts on iTunes in Sweden. [Also] the day or day after the podcast we see a big inflow of new customers.

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What were your main goals in this transparent-banking campaign? Did you feel that you accomplished them?

Our goals were primarily brand awareness, higher customer satisfaction, and to reach all our customers and potential customers to communicate our new brand strategy of transparency…our sales in all countries have increased, but it’s hard to see if this is all due to the campaign. Brand awareness…is easier to correlate, and there we reached our goal. Three things that also came with this successful campaign were an increase in media publicity, nominations for awards within communication and branding, and a [stronger] employer branding. We [measured success] through a combination of ad views, conversions, sales, awards, PR/publicity, and visits to the Transparent Blog.

One of the really exciting things was when we looked at the amount of mentions on social media for our brand and for transparent banking. [Before the campaign] transparent banking was mentioned about 10 times a month, but when [the campaign] was going on it was happening 150 times a day, and most mentioned Nordnet in correlation. This was the best proof that our vision of transparent banking had hit home…it seems like we’ve established that, when people talk about transparent banking, it’s usually in line with our name. Even in the last couple of months that conferences and seminars started using the phrase ‘transparent banking’. It seems like [before] no one was talking about it.

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Tell us about what it was like to see your campaign videos ‘go viral’ across the world. Did your campaign strategy change at all once you saw the success?

I came into my office one day and looked at the campaign, and I saw we had half a million views overnight! We were surprised and just watched [the videos] spread organically all over the world on social media…Eventually they were even aired on American TV channel ABC News and won prestigious Adweek’s ‘Best ad of the week’. All in all we got over 2 million views on YouTube. We did have to make some adjustments we weren’t prepared for, [like the] language gap. A lot of [attention] came from the USA. We didn’t have much information in English before, and so much traffic started coming to our webpage and our blog that we [altered] things. A lot of people were Googling us, we thought ‘do we have search engine marketing in other languages?

Has the campaign affected how current and potential clients view Nordnet?

Absolutely. We’re being approached by people both as customers and potential employees because they like our transparent communication and innovative products. We received a lot more job applications, because who doesn’t want to work for a transparent bank? Many of [these applications] mentioned the blog and the podcast. If they apply for the job because they [already] like the strategy, so much work is already done; we don’t have to teach or preach to them about our principles.

Quote 4What are two lessons you learned from this campaign?

Get the customers involved, in what kind of product they want, what services do they need, and what questions do they need answered. [Nordnet’s] customers have good lessons for other savers, I think that creates the whole transparency [point]. We’re not just transparent about our bank and who works there, we’re also transparent about the customers, what troubles they have, and how we can work to satisfy them.

Sometimes you don’t need a really worked out strategy. Start by creating content and be prepared to take that wherever. If the podcast works, take it there. If you do a video and see it’s a success, put your efforts there.

You just launched two new ads with the same concept. What are your goals for phase two of this campaign? 

As the last campaign was so successful, we wanted to build on that concept that seemed to appeal to a broad audience and differentiate us. We’re cost efficient and transparent, so this time we didn’t fly over a film team but filmed [the ads] via Skype. We [plan to] publish it in all our own channels as well as [buy] ads in our four countries.

 

Thanks again to Johanna Snickars and the Nordnet team! See Nordnet’s two new ads below:

Who is Nordnet?

Nordnet is a Nordic online bank that started in 1996 with a vision to democratize savings and investments and make them available for people via the internet. They have local offices in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland and a total of 450,000 customers. They’re also on a mission to be known as the world’s most transparent and honest bank.

Companies move towards brand authenticity in their marketing tactics

“It’s all about being authentic and unapologetic.”

These were the words of Arby’s fast food chain CMO and brand president Rob Lynch after Arby’s launched this very unexpected end-of-the-year ad. According to The Wall Street Journal online, ‘In early October, Pepsi reached out to Arby’s with a friendly reminder: You need to include us in one more ad this year. The problem was that Arby’s already had its end-of-the-year creative ready to go-and it didn’t include Pepsi”. Arby’s admitted that they just plain forgot.

Public company transparency is mandated, we know, but it’s important to remember to not only be transparent with your investors, but also authentic. Take a cue from the three videos below when thinking about being authentic to the interested parties in your company.

 

 

Arby’s creative partners (after a “directive from [the CMO] to ‘make him uncomfortable'”) decided that honesty was the best policy on the air as well as off. And people are loving it. The ad only premiered in Minneapolis, New York, and Los Angeles markets, but since then it has both gone viral online and done wonders for the chain’s digital marketing success.

Adweek calls Arby’s upfront and apologetic ad, ‘another gem from a growing vein of meta ads that poke fun at the marketing process, peeling back the curtain and inviting savvy consumers to take part in the joke’. The most successful of these gems is the infamous 2014 Superbowl ad that never was from Newcastle Brown Ale. Adweek writes that Newcastle knew they could never air a Superbowl ad, since they had ‘ a media budget for the whole year equal to about half the $4 million price tag for 30 seconds of airtime on the broadcast.” So they decided to be honest about their status.  Newcastle created an online marketing and ad campaign called “If We Made It” that ended up “crash[ing] the biggest advertising showcase of the year with refreshingly honest and hilarious online content”.
Watch actress Anna Kendrick rip into Newcastle and tell them to ‘suck it’ in the most popular ad of the campaign:

MediaPost online gives possible reasons as to why more companies are now ‘getting meta’ with their advertising and marketing process (and getting big successes from it too.) “It’s based on the understanding among marketers that social media has atomized marketing–everyone is a marketer now, really, at least to some extent, even if that medium is one’s Facebook page”.

The Canadian telecommunications company Telus has tapped into this ‘honest social media vein.’ They knew that a scathing Facebook review or angry Tweet against their company may very well be seen by hundreds. Instead of ignoring the inevitable complaints, Telus brought the angry tweets to the people in a new online segment on their YouTube channel. The company smartly turns the complaints into a strength at the end of the spot, showing that they don’t hide criticisms, but they’re doing better and now have less complaints against them.

Companies that have discovered a healthy sense of self-deprecation and a ‘joke’s on us’ attitude are getting people listening. MediaPost writes, “meta-ads…work by commenting on themselves, on how they target the target by playing on stereotypes about the target; by being exhibitionist about their social-media strategy…in some cases affecting an ironic, jaded tone is effective”.

Bloomberg Businessweek also applauds the Arby’s ‘Oops, we’re sorry Pepsi’ commercial for their “no bullshit approach”. The man behind the refreshing Arby’s ad talks about what he calls “brand authenticity” and how more and more companies are “slowly catching on.”

This tactic won’t work for everyone, as Bloomberg also states. If every company tried this meta, brand-authentic approach, “shoe companies would have to tell you that wearing their sneakers won’t make you an athlete, and most beauty products would be out of luck entirely…but as long as most companies still pretend that their products will make you happier…a straightforward pitch for drinking Pepsi at Arby’s will grab your attention.”

This internet bank turns customer concern into a marketing tool

Nordnet wants to be your new internet banking buddy. Last week the online banking company, operating out of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland, cleverly addressed in a series of comedic ads a big concern of today’s banking customers: the lack of bank transparency and the hesitation (as Nordnet shrewdly puts it) ‘to trust complete strangers on the internet with all your savings.’ Their new ‘transparent banking’ ads blend meta-humor with a brilliant ‘anti-marketing marketing tactic’ that’s getting a lot of attention. Agbeat writes how, ‘transparency is an abused buzzword in the public and private sector, and we barely even pay attention to the promise anymore, but Nordnet wanted to stand out and prove themselves’.

When it comes to public companies, transparent is less of a cutsey marketing tactic and more of a mandated element. But Nordnet can still teach pubcos a lesson here. The bank knew that their target market’s main concern when it came to banking was selecting a bank that would be honest with them and work with them when it came to effectively managing their money. To poke fun at this worry and to stand out from the crowd, Nordnet focused their commercials directly at the customer concern. As a public company, whether in times of crisis or trying to win new investors, addressing the public’s concerns head on and without being asked can really be an effective investor marketing tool.

 

Check out this actor in the Nordnet commercial ‘hav[ing] a cup of coffee with another actor’ he’s ‘never met before’.

 

This next one is aptly titled, ‘Trust random people on the internet with all of your savings.

They’ve released four commercials in total, and all are getting great responses online. In addressing consumer concerns head-on, Nordnet establishes an immediate connection and trust with potential clients. While the actor on-screen jokes about transparency, Nordnet’s really saying, ‘Don’t worry, we get it. And we’re different.’ Though the buddy system seems a smart move, AGbeat takes a look at the downside of such promises: “The anti-marketing marketing tactic can work well, but of course, it does set the expectation that a company be completely transparent from head to toe, which is a tall order for a financial institution”.

Nordnet’s ‘transparent banking’ campaign comments on an important element for public and private companies alike. Transparency in marketing and IR communications could win more votes in the long run, and it’s important to ask the question of whether or not it’s more beneficial to immediately address a widespread concern within a company or industry before it causes harm. In Nordnet’s case, they took banking’s lack of transparency and made their ads so transparent that the actor reads straight from scripts and talks about the teleprompter. This clever way to spin an issue into their own expertise is what causes the campaign to stick in the brain.