Down with the kids – one bank’s youth marketing strategy

Finance, Interviews | Tue 18 Oct | Author – Business & Finance laura lynch
Laura Lynch, head of youth banking, Bank of Ireland

Laura Lynch tells Deanna O’Connor how social media is vital to shaping a bank’s youth marketing strategy.

New technologies have disrupted the way we do business, and even the most traditional of industries have embraced social media in ways that none of us could have predicted 10 years ago.

The social media du jour with ‘the kids’ is Snapchat, a mobile message app used to share photos, videos, text and drawings. Users can string together content in their ‘Snapchat story’, items remaining visible to their followers for 24 hours. It gives the user their own mini broadcast channel – great fun for your average pre-teen, but not to be dismissed as just something to keep bored kids amused.

What makes it golden to marketers is the ability for a brand to disseminate really engaging and creative content. Young people’s perceptions of a bank may be as a stuffy institution, but by connecting with them through social media that delivers them content that is genuinely interesting to them, a new perception is created.

While there are aspects of banking that don’t lend themselves to sharing – confidential information being at the heart of what they do – Bank of Ireland’s Laura Lynch, head of youth banking, explains the innovative ways they have used Snapchat to connect with their youth audiences.

“Social media has allowed consumers to have a look ‘under the hood’ of a brand,” says Lynch, “and get a real insight into the people, partnerships, culture of an organisation.

“As one of the fastest-growing social media channels, Snapchat has 300,000 users in Ireland and the majority are aged 16-24, which is an important age category for us,” Lynch continues. “As a team, we are always monitoring the market and emerging trends to find the most appropriate, meaningful way to connect. We decided to use Snapchat as part of our engagement strategy because so many of our younger audience are moving away from social media into closed-loop communications (Snapchat and WhatsApp).”

SHAPED AROUND CUSTOMERS

Bank of Ireland’s youth banking business encompasses all their existing and potential customers aged 0-30. Within this there are five different categories: primary, post primary, third level, graduate and gen Y. For Lynch, shaping the way they worked around the lives of their target customers was crucial in growing their social media strategy. “These customers are less likely to visit a branch to conduct day‑to-day banking, as they are used to managing everything online. They are on their mobile phones 24/7 and social and online media is how they connect with one another and the outside world, so we are very conscious of engaging with these customers in a way that works for them,” she explains.

They are on their phones 24/7 and social and online media is how they connect

Research has been important to them to understand the market. Lynch details the methods. “We use customer advocacy, net promoter score (NPS), as a key measure. Knowing whether customers that we currently serve and those who we wish to serve in the future are willing to recommend us to their friends, based on either their actual experience or perception of our brand, is crucial,” she reveals. “We also use detailed ethnographic in-life research on an ongoing basis. This involves a lot of time and yields insights you can never get from traditional focus group structures.”

Keeping abreast of trends in the market is key to capture the attention of digital natives and early adapters. Social media has officially been part of Bank of Ireland’s marketing strategy since 2012. “We were the first bank in Ireland to launch on social media in Ireland,” Lynch reveals, “starting with a customer service forum on Boards.ie (April) followed by Facebook and Twitter (July).”

UNDERSTANDING THE AUDIENCE

But just what does a bank fill their Snapchat story with, if not a tour of the vaults and pictures of wads of cash? Understanding the interests of their youth audience is key to thinking outside the box; getting into their minds and their interests and getting involved with the right people led to content that would appeal, Lynch explains.

“We have developed strong partnerships that allow us to connect in an authentic way by covering diverse areas of interest for young people. These include areas such as fashion (Junk Kouture), sport (Leinster, Munster rugby, FAI sponsorships), technology (CoderDojo), enterprise (BizWorld) and many others.” Events connected to these partnerships then provide content: “We have the most extensive branch network in Ireland with a presence in over 250 communities countrywide, so the sank is involved in events and initiatives across the country. The visual nature of Snapchat lends itself well to showcasing these activities to the younger audience,” says Lynch.

As a marketing tool it creates a fresh, youthful perception and a connection with young people

“We aim to keep our content unique and fresh. It can include interviews with sporting ambassadors from Leinster and Munster rugby and informal chats with X Factor Judge Louis Walsh and former Saturdays singer Una Healy, who are part of this year’s Bank of Ireland Junk Kouture judging panel, as well as exclusive behind-the-scenes activity at our events such as CoderDojo, sports camps, BizWorld, Junk Kouture etc.”

None of this is directly associated with the day‑to-day business of the bank, but as a marketing tool it creates a fresh, youthful perception and a connection with young people through celebrities and influencers. The key to their strategy is authentic communication and to ‘keep it real’, as the kids say, it means not pushing product or advertising through the channel – a difficult temptation to resist, but an important issue for a brand wishing to create a credible voice.

“Regular contact across social media is important for maintaining a connection with our youth audience, but only if we can do so in a meaningful way,” underlines Lynch. “We would never just push content for the sake of it. We prefer to keep our content relevant and of a high quality to maximise engagement and cut-through with our audience. This helps with brand affinity.”