Why ANZ, New Zealand’s largest bank, is changing the way it talks to customers

One of the single most important conversations a bank can have with a customer happens at the first-home buyer stage, research has revealed.

ANZ general manager of data and marketing Astrud Burgess says this moment can make or break the loyalty customers show to banks.

“When we have to say no to a first-time buyer, which we sometimes do, it’s either a conversation that makes the customer endlessly loyal to the bank because you’ve helped them or it becomes a really terrible experience,” says Burgess.

“When it’s a really positive experience, staff tend to say things like ‘not now but how.’ it might not be the desired outcome, but it doesn’t have to be a bad conversation.”

This insight has been reinforced by further ANZ research outlining some of the frustrations customers feel when they are communicating with their bank.

“Bank advertising often feels as though it’s telling people what to do, but it’s not our job to make you thrive in a way that we’ve defined,” Burgess said.

“There was a strong aversion from people to the idea of a bank asking why they wanted to achieve a certain objective.

“Customers have their own reasons for wanting to do things. And the role of the bank is really to help them get there.”

These insights have already impacted the bank’s one-on-one communications, but now they’re also being extended to the organisation’s advertising.

Over Anzac weekend, the company launched its biggest brand advertising revamp in years, along with a new tagline “We do how” in the process ditching its “Your world, your way” slogan.

In lieu of the increasingly cringe-worthy auction room scene of a young couple successfully securing the home of their dreams, ANZ’s latest brand ad from agency TBWA tells the story of a Kiwi family’s little financial struggles over the years.

Everything from saving for a second-hand car to raising funds for a child’s cricket tour are included in this story.

The creative device offers a more inclusive message that shows the bank has something for every customer, regardless of where they are on the journey.

It’s always easy to write off marketing as just another ad, but this is a multi-million dollar investment from not only the nation’s largest bank but has also been the biggest advertiser among financial services firms.

In 2020, ANZ spent a total $26.9m on advertising. And while that was less than the $40m spent in 2019 or the $33m the year before, it was still more than any other bank in the country.

Earlier figures from Nielsen show banking was the nation’s fastest-growing category in terms of money spent on advertising, surging from $69.2 million in 2017 to $117.2 million in 2019.

The bank’s revamp comes at a time when the topic of home ownership and mortgages has become arguably the biggest conversation in the country.

The bank is treading very carefully to ensure its messaging doesn’t fall into the trap of excluding all Kiwis not fortunate enough to get into their dream home.

Bank advertising has always had an aspirational aspect, with success rather than the struggle being the focus of every message.

Burgess, however, notes, that this is not the type of message that Kiwis want to see.

“We previously did some comparisons across our markets and what we saw was that here in New Zealand we don’t have that sort of American ‘the person with the money wins’ approach,” she said.

“There was instead a quieter ambition to do well with their family.”

Covid-19 has only driven these feelings home further, with a recent ANZ survey showing that New Zealanders feel a strong need to improve their financial wellbeing with almost 60 per cent of people wanting to save or invest more for their future and 77 per cent thinking they could be doing better with their money.

Burgess says the aim here was to bring together years of insight and research with some practical tools that customers can use.

The launch of the campaign coincides with the launch of a financial wellbeing programme, featuring a range of tips and tricks for people at various life stages, available to everyone, not just ANZ customers.

The bank has been very strategic in its delivery of its new messaging. In many ways, it steps on the toes of some of its major competitors. It shows how customers can get “one step ahead” (ASB) through a guide focusing on how to “be good with money” (BNZ). And it does it by telling a consummate Kiwi story (Kiwibank) about a young cricketer in an immigrant family.

However, the other banks aren’t likely to stand still. There have already been a few interesting moves made in recent weeks, with ASB putting out an RFP (request for proposal) for a new bank and Kiwibank finalising the appointment of a new agency.

The market is also keeping a close eye on progress at Westpac, after the bank’s recent announcement it was reviewing the future of its local arm.

Chances are we will see a few other banks also tweaking the way they communicate with their customers in the coming months.

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