Game-changing brand transformation
How SBAB Bank was transformed from a funny marketer into a serious societal actor thus forcing an entire industry to follow.
Back in 2010 SBAB Bank was heavily weighted towards, and hence well known, for its marketing campaigns. They were fun and talkative and attracted customers to a certain extent. Medially the bank had one voice, its macroeconomist, generating high qualitative but fairly modest impact. Direct customer dialogue was performed through broker collaborations and customer service. The overall picture of SBAB Bank was of a somewhat dull and sluggish state-owned company, ”Statens Bostadsfinansieringsaktiebolag” or ”The National Housing Financing Company”, the ”real” banks ”cousin from the countryside”.
Also SBAB Bank was used extensively as a political weapon in the Swedish public debate over private individuals’ indebtedness and mortgage terms. Operating in a competitive market, SBAB could not use its state ownership to put pressure on other banks. That would have been a state-subsidized rollback of the free market’s playing conditions. At the same time, dissatisfaction began to grow. A world wide bank uprising was on the cusp of the US crisis through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as the recently discovered dishonesty among major US banks and rating institutes.
Transform SBAB Banks communication mix to a greater proportion of earned publicity through people-educational activities and straight on challenging the traditional Swedish ”banking oligopoly”. Fuel for this already was in place in the form of internal know-how and public private economic statistics.
Creating a challenger position in a traditionally weighted and almost oligopoly-like market requires innovative and creative thinking as well as courage and dare to test. The transformation of SBAB Bank required a strategy and cooperation across the traditional borders with shared messages and goals for PR, marketing and internal communication. With tactical activities through own earned channels and with the use of own internal expertise, a whole was created that attracted considerable attention in the outside world. As a culture bearer, a very popular internal weekly blog was created where all the bank’s leaders gave their views on the bank’s development and ambition.
Sweden’s first financial live video app.
The idea behind SBAB Play came through the notion of always being the first to comment on important events of a personal financial nature. By using a cell phone film camera, production time was reduced to a minimum at the same time as the independence of a studio significantly increased the flexibility. SBAB Play allerted journalists through their cell phones and provided them with initiated expert analyzes within minutes from important private economic decisions. At one point SBAB Banks chief economist Tor Borg commented on Sweden’s central banks interest rate message directly from a ski slope where he was on vacation with his family. Journalists who had previously called their contacts to get comments were now first met by SBAB, which quickly gained place as a preferred knowledge partner. Shortly after the launch of SBAB Play, Handelsbanken started a news studio EFN, to meet the competition but at a significantly higher price.
The housing psychologist
Unique digital radio show to ease home buying anxiety
Every week 1,4 million swedes browse the real estate website Hemnet to look for new homes. But Hemnet is a happy place to gaze at look tourist bathrooms, stunning views and working tile stoves. So when SBAB started to talk interest rates, loan terms and amortizations, they became a real party pooper. Through the housing psychologist, a digital radio show that was broadcasted live, SBAB could ease the anxiety surrounding these topics. The user could interact and get an answer live. Participating on the show was mortgage experts, financial advisors and psychologists answering questions, discussing and discoursing in order to make buying a home less frightening. After the broadcast every subject discussed was kept easily accessible in a podcast library. In this way, SBAB was able to show consideration for the customers’ real situation when buying a home and The housing psychologist quickly became a well-visited go to place for both customers and journalists.
The Loss Generator
Making the Swedish people aware of por savings accounts interest rates.
The idea for the loss generator grew with the fact that SBAB Bank’s chief economist, via public statistics, was able to find that the Swedish people’s savings were stuck on savings accounts with very low interest rates. This was a fertilizer for the four major Swedish banks while the savers lost billions each year. The Loss Generator, a real time counter showing how much money people loose on low interest rates, was published on the SBAB web site with added presence in social media, dailies, bus shelters, out door, underground and online. After the initial campaign period, it was noted that the awerage weekly deposits at SBAB Bank increased with a staggering 663 percent, cataputing SBAB to the number one in market share for ”new money” among all Swedish banks.
Tor and Maria
Sweden’s 5th and 7th most influential economists.
In less than a year, chief economist Tor Borg and private economist Maria Landeborn advanced to become two of Sweden’s most influential private economics experts. Maria Landeborn, a young and smart woman, was recruited as a counterbalance to the traditional and old-fashioned bankers of the traditional banks. The content for Tor and Maria was developed taking into account the actual situation of bank customers and the development of society in general. The rapidly growing number of followers was built up through traditional press work in combination with the new video app SBAB Play, personal blogs and social media channels. The ability to generate universal publicity as well as the importance for SBAB Bank’s business of the interaction between macroeconomics through Tor Borg and personal finance through Maria Landeborn cannot be overemphasized.
Bank CEO on the barricade against unscrupulous banking conditions.
SBAB Bank’s new CEO, Carl-Viggo Östlund, had not been at his post long before he was involved as one of the bank’s foremost spokesperson against unfair banking conditions. The preamble to the debate article ”The mistrust against us is completely understandable” speaks its own language: ”Customers’ dissatisfaction with the banks is due to a system error that has existed for years. The latest figures on customer satisfaction have fallen in a frightening way. Now we banks have to take this discontent seriously and start listening to the customers”. Carl-Viggo’s position and commitment was just as unusual among bank CEOs as refreshing for customers and the media. Needless to say, the publicity created by Carl-Viggo was extensive.
Here’s the new SBAB
To signal simplicity, a new graphic profile was created and the word ”bank” was removed from the logotype.
The change was reinforced by a press release signed Carl-Viggo Östlund, CEO of SBAB: ”Our role as a challenger runs as a red thread throughout our history. Now we will challenge the common perception of what a bank should be and also let it be shown through our logotype by removing the extension ”Bank” and add an exclamation mark. Our new logotype, SBAB!, clearly reflects our values ”Simple”, ”Customer driven” and ”Always On”.
By activating earned channels, the picture SBAB Bank and its market position changed in just under a year. The bank was now perceived as innovative, forward-looking, responsible and customer-friendly, and sailed up as the bank in Sweden with the highest influx of new customers, both in mortages and savings.
At the same time the rest of the Swedish banking industry was completely taken by surprise and forced to actively participate in the public debate and to adopt an equally customer-friendly address in both marketing and PR.
The effect has been long-lasting as SBAB still has a popular position as the customers best friend and the media’s most sought after expert. SBAB enjoys a stable business situation, while many competitors, unable to live as they learn, have been forced to face more or less extensive brand challenges.
» Deposits increased by 663%
» Share of new savings customers 15% (largest intake of new customers among all banks in Sweden)
» Market share for savings 2.69% (+0.85%, the largest increase in market share of all banks in Sweden)
Media and PR
» Promotional value, total: + 37% (highest quoted value ever)
» Promotional value, proactive PR activities: + 20% (highest value ever)
» Positive publicity as share of total publicity: + 23%
Highest brand score (NordicBrand) among Swedish banks in:
» distinctive expression
» consistent message
» modern communication
» Chief economist Tor Borg was named Sweden’s 5th most influential economist (Dagens Samhälle)
» Private economist Maria Landeborn was named Swedens 7th most influential economist (Dagens Samhälle)
» The housing psychologist was awarded ”Guldbladet” for best web communication (Swedish Content Agencies)
» The loss generator was awarded gold at ”The effectiveness award” (Festival of Media Global)
» The loss generator was awarded bronze in the category Financial Products & Services (Cannes Lions)
» Awaken, inspire and use the internal knowledge of the business and offering that exists within the company from product development through customer service to company management.
» Seeing is believing – start on a small scale and let the knowledge of the success dissipate from department to department. Soon, more people want to follow the good example.
» It is not the size or the market share that determines who is preferred by the media, it is the one who can understand his or her surroundings and create a relevant place therein.
» Never work in silos nor try to get the outside world to align with the company’s internal order or hierarchy.
» Try to create an organization that is faster in action and more change-prone than its competitors
» Communication and marketing should be considered as a business-critical issue for the entire company, from product development to customer service and company management.
» One of the most important tasks of the communications department is to act as a catalyst and conversational partner to all the company’s departments. An important function is to open eyes and ears to what is possible (and less appropriate).
» Another important task for the communication department is daily coaching of spokes persons in subject choices, expressions, media contacts and presence in social media.
» For SBAB, working into a new position in the market became a prerequisite and a lever for renewing the brand.