How a Bank Used Social Data to Nail Its Millennial Strategy
Peter Panda

What if I told you the studio that has produced some of the most compelling movie trailers from the past couple of years was a bank? Honestly, that’s not too far from the truth.

The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) recently released a new movie trailer-style commercial aimed at first-time homebuyers that is as engaging and exciting as many actual sci-fi movie trailers I’ve seen lately.

It’s a follow-up to the romantic comedy, drama and horror trailers the bank created last year in their kick-off efforts. But why would a bank choose movie trailers to sell home loans?

“Every decision we make is based on irrefutable data,” explained Anthony Wolch, chief creative officer at Engagement Labs, the firm RBC partnered with for the videos. “And while every agency has access to reams of data, we consider ourselves the master distillers of data. We uncovered an interesting pattern of behavior in social conversations around first-time homebuyers. They categorized their experiences as either romantic, dramatic, horrible or even science fiction, as in, ‘In a million years, we might get a home.’”

That’s right! The research that produced the insights to recommend the campaign approach came from social listening and online conversational analysis.

“That insight helped us as we looked at how the demographic is consuming content and where they’re getting information online,” he said. “We followed that and executed the communications in that world.”

The first-time homebuyer these days is a millennial. Online video consumption, particularly through social media, is a sweet spot for reaching this audience.

Wolch explained they didn’t start with an idea to express things cinematically. They literally let the data tell them that a cinematic expression was appropriate for the audience.

“The data gives us the answers,” he explained. “The data gives the client permission, and us permission, to do the work they otherwise would not have given themselves permission to do.”

And selling the campaign to RBC wasn’t hard, though it still took the same kind of work and thinking that convincing customers does. The data pointed to the direction of a cinematic approach. Wolch and team then presented RBC with radio dramas — cost-effective voice recordings — of the scenarios.

“When we presented them to the client, they were like, ‘Holy Smokes!’” Wolch Said.

No, I didn’t prompt him to say that.

Blown away by the concept, the client asked, “Well, how do we bring this to life?” Wolch then hit play on a video from The Avengers director Jeremiah Chechik, who explained how to approach the scripts visually.

“The data sold the work, the creative director sold the creative and the director backed up the assertion that we could knock this out of the park,” Wolch explained.

When I asked specifically about the “Holy Smokes!” moment, Wolch offered a nice exclamation point on what I’ve been saying for years now:

Holy smokes is the currency of the relationship between a brand and a consumer. If I can’t put ‘Holy Smokes!’ on the tip of your tongue, there’s a very good chance that our relationship is going to be soured or never ignited.”

And amen.

But that’s not all. I had to ask if the trailers were moving the needle. How were they judging the success of the campaign?

“The true measure of success is, ‘Is our client making money off of it?’ And the answer is, ‘Yes!’” Wolch confirmed.

Larry Jacobs, the head of marketing for personal finance products at RBC and Wolch’s client on the project, concurred.

“Our ultimate measures of success come from the business they drive,” Jacobs agreed. “We have had a lot of success over the last couple of years.”

While Jacobs admitted there are several different metrics they look at and the trailers are just one part of a greater marketing plan that is measured as a whole, he confirmed that the trailers have delivered the intended outcomes.

“There’s not one specific measure. There are a number of things that say this is successful,” he said.

Jacobs said there is always hesitation when you’re trying something new, but because they were very clear on their target — first-time homebuyers who were squarely nestled in the millennial age demographic — they were confident the approach would be successful.

To recap the approach RBC and Engagement Labs took for this:

  1. Know your audience from the onset.
  2. Let the data — and even social media and conversational insights — guide you.
  3. Pitch the idea behind the data the way you would try to convince consumers. Make it make the client say, “Holy Smokes!”
  4. Execute with the same goal. Make it make the consumers say, “Holy Smokes!”

What do you think of the trailers? Have you seen other content marketing examples that are just as sound in planning and execution? Jump in the comments and share!

Peter Panda

Pioneering social media panda bear Tagawa “Peter” Panda was born on a Chinese game reserve in 1969. He emigrated to the United States in 1987 speaking no English, with only the fur on his back and $97 stored in a Jansport fanny-pack wrapped around his waist.

In 2003 while searching for food on the campus of Washington University, he discovered a computer lab where he would ultimately teach himself web development, graphic design, and immerse himself into the growing digital media evolution that was erupting at the time.

With his trademark surly demeanor developed during beatings on his boat ride from China to the U.S., as well as having a penchant for eating vast quantities of bamboo, and enjoying Scotch and cigars, Peter is broadly recognized for coining the phrase “social media” in 2004. He joined Elasticity in late 2009 as the agency’s director of social media strategy and wildlife relations. Friend him on Facebook here.

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