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Identify the right problem

NAB is one of the big four banks in Australia.

Over two years they tried everything to separate themselves off from the other three banks, in the public’s mind.

They tried to make consumers’ lives easier.

They increased their numbers of ATMs.

They abolished the limit for going overdrawn.

They offered SMS payment reminders.

They abolished monthly fees.

They made opening hours longer.

They offered the lowest home loan rates.

Everything to give customers a reason to switch to their bank.

But hardly anyone noticed.

Why was that, why wasn’t it working?

Obviously they’d identified the wrong problem.

The bank was on broadcast not receive.

Telling everyone why they needed to switch, without checking whether anyone was listening.

Why wasn’t all this good news working?

The answer was simple.

The consumers didn’t believe it.

They believed all four banks were in league with each other: setting rates, doubling-up on services, making sure they all offered the same thing.

So pretty much whatever you offered wouldn’t make any difference.

No one was listening.

But at last the bank had identified the real problem.

They needed to make it clear to consumers that NAB wasn’t in bed with the other 3 banks.

And they needed to do it in a way that ordinary people could understand and believe.

So they decided to very publicly break up with the other banks.

First they ran a whole page “Dear John” letter everywhere.

Starting “Dear CommBank, ANZ, and Westpac…” and explaining that their affair was over, finished.

The same day they ran sixty films online of NAB employees breaking it off with the other big three banks’ employees.

On the tube, in the street, in bars, over breakfast.

Then the same day they went around the other banks’ offices.

During their internal meetings window washers’ cradles would be hanging outside with messages about the breakup.

At lunch on their balcony, planes would fly past trailing breakup messages on banners.

Alongside competitor’s yachts over drinks with clients, a NAB yacht would sail past with the message on its sail.
Outside the competitors’ HQs, a truck would park.

Laden with flowers and a grand piano, with a man singing a sad breakup song to the banks.

And of course, all this was filmed and circulated to the media, where it ran on all the evening news broadcasts across Australia.

Meanwhile NAB even ran a breakup blog online, offering advice on how to dump your bank and transfer to NAB.

So, after two years of broadcasting what the bank wanted to say and getting nowhere, how did it work saying what consumers wanted to hear?

Well, first off they generated $5 million of free media in one day.

The NAB breakup was number one on twitter across all Australia.

And in just one day they generated 100,000 visits to their blog.

But do those numbers mean anything?

Well home loan enquiries were up 79%, credit card applications were up 51%, and new accounts were up 20%.

Even shareholder value was up 15%.

That’s what happens when you stop thinking about what you want to say, and start thinking about what people want to hear.

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