Why a #TAG made me switch banks

There’s been a fair bit of buzz around the agency (and agency-land) about #unexpectedtweet …that totally irreverent campaign from First Direct that instantly struck a note with a lot of people. It really did and here’s the proof – It made me switch my bank account to First Direct after being with my current bank for 18 years.

I saw the abstract advert that didn’t even tell the viewer it was First Direct (The one above with the Beatboxing Bird – I didn’t even catch the Platypus one till almost a week later!) and hit rewind on the TiVo about 4 times trying to work out what the hell it was and who the hell it was for (The wife was going spare – “what the hell are you doing, I want to finish watching Kirsty & Phil you moron!“). Nada. Nothing. I went on Twitter and got stuck into the conversation… I shared the advert on Facebook with my friends; “check it out, it’s brilliant… no idea who it’s for”. When I finally found out it was for First Direct I literally went straight to the website and applied for a new bank account. No bribe, no bung, no special offer and promise of a killer app. They bought me with entertainment.


The debate raged at work for a while too; “Oh, it’s because it’s showing that First Direct is a better bank, more in tune with the populous because they do this kind of advertising!” and rhetoric along those lines in various flavors.

Well in reality it’s nothing of the sort – It’s a lot more basic than that… and here’s my thinking;

Banks all do the exact same thing. They always have and they always will; You give them your money, they put it into a big virtual, intangible vault (where they profit from you) and they keep it safe for you. It’s always been that way;

“BANK”: An institution for receiving, lending, exchanging, and safeguarding money and, in some cases, issuing notes and transacting other financial business.

Money goes in. Money goes out. Your money.

The toughest decision you have to make when you start earning money is where to dump your hard earned wages & that’s usually somewhat dictated somewhat by who your parents bank with. Most banks are all reasonably competitive on product & benefits package (excluding credit & investments products, I’m just talking EVERYDAY BANKING here) and they all have a very similar channel strategy (bank with us and you’ll get access to Mobile, Online and Branch etc). Some are ahead in some areas and behind in others, but they’re all heading in the same sort direction. Virtual wallet. Banking on the move. New ways of moving your hard-earned virtual currency from one person or company to the next blah blah blah. It’s just banking & long may it continue to be that basic!

Lets have a look at a really simple experience model called Prochaska;


At the moment most financial institutions (and in fact most companies) have 2, 3, 4 & 5 in the prochaska model reasonably sown up. They advertise to make you contemplate at point 2 or you might have had a bad experience and you’re hunting for something new and the bank gives you offers on aggregators; it pulls you into 3 which then converts you & locks you into the cycle 4, 5 & 6. That’s the easy bit (in theory). It’s banking (and marketing) 101.

So here’s the kicker. Most institutions have totally forgotten about steps 1 & 6 (or in reality 6 and 1 in that order). Most people are apathetically floating around in 5 doing all they’ve ever known. They get reasonable service & utility, it does what it says on the tin, when you were robbed it took a couple of days and you got reimbursed yada yada. It’s all very banky. You’ve no real need to switch banks and it’s the devil you don’t know that alludes most people.

That’s where First Direct (well JWT the advertising agency) got it bang-on. They never really talk about ‘Banking’ in the adverts and they don’t really need to talk about it, because nobody cares. To get into peoples Pre-Contemplation at point 1 you need something really disruptive that makes you think “oh that’s different, who the hell would do something like that?” (Think Different – Apple anybody?). It’s as crude as that. I’d never even contemplated First Direct before because I figured they were just like the norm & I know the norm. They’re not the norm… they’ve got my attention. I’ve switched to them because MAYBE, just MAYBE they have the chops to do things a bit differently and I’ll be on the edge of innovation the whole time (where-as in reality it’ll be the same stuff – Look after my money in the same way!).

They got into point 6 (relapse) by making me think the bank I was currently with hasn’t done anything to make me notice them for 18 years, then they made me notice them by showing me something that I’d never seen before. That was it. No extra utility value and no app that sends money using blinking or toe-wriggles… just straight forward, old school disruptive marketing. I didn’t even get the £100 for switching offer. The rest as they say is history… in I go and there I’ll stay until the next wave of marketing from an equally disruptive bank comes along (or maybe it won’t even be a bank who get to keep my money safe next!). But be warned… I’m fickle enough to have a love affair with good advertising… My old account stays open & I can turn on a penny & switch back in a heartbeat!

Let me end with the out-takes… #LOVETHISCAMPAIGN

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