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The Drum looks at how UnionBank, the bank brand that has the vision of becoming one of the top three universal banks in the Philippines, is creating its marketing strategy differently - by being humorous, brave and non-traditional.   

Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’, one of the most well-known creative narratives to have come out of Italian literature, makes a comeback of sorts. This time in a reworked interpretation to tell the story of a bank brand in the Philippines establishing its credentials as a new age banker. That is UnionBank's story in a nutshell.

Building a bank brand is a tough task amid all the loops of regulations. Conventional wisdom and traditional marketing say that there are few ways in which a bank brand can stand out among the plethora of similar brands. So how is the bank brand that has ambitions of being a formidable new-age bank in the Philippines, relooking at the way banking is done?

Creating a differentiated bank playbook

“One of the things we always remind ourselves of is to forget that we're a bank”, says Christine V. Siapno, vice president and digital marketing head of UnionBank, the leading digital bank of the Philippines. 

The leading Filipino bank has thus decided to do things differently and applied this thinking to everything at the bank, not just with marketing. Says Siapno, “Just because something had been done the same way for the past couple of years, doesn't mean it's right for the needs of the new-age customers.”

She adds UnionBank's way of challenging the norms is by asking questions, “Why does it need to be done that way? Who said banking ads have to be a collection of stock photos stitched together? Who said a bank cannot be funny? Or even mock themselves for being wrong?”

Challenges of a new-age bank’s narrative

The challenge was to get our message across in the best possible way, without the baggage of traditional bank ads, Siapno says. The USP of the brand campaign had to be something that throws light on the suffering Filipinos and what they should not experience with banking.  

Creative storytelling to show what ails banking and the solutions  

UnionBank’s journey as a new-age bank started recently. Last year’s brand campaign was around the bank’s ambitious repositioning that started with showing “how traditional banking sucks”, she shares. Last year’s campaign included an apology video to everyone for bad banking, including the admittance of how it took UnionBank quite a while to provide a solution. The main film focused on the ‘freeing feeling’ that you get when you're no longer encumbered by bad banking, shares Siapno.

This year’s campaign ‘Heaven’ takes the narrative a step further, by taking consumers on a tour to showcase the sorrows of those who still choose to suffer from the slow ways of traditional banking. The core of the messaging: ‘why suffer from bad banking and bad apps if you can experience heaven with UnionBank’. The campaign has been kept purely digital, since it is talking about solving the problems faced by the new age consumer by deploying new-age solutions. 

Heaven campaign: (2021)

 

 

Applause campaign: (2020)

 

 

 

 

Apology video: (2020)

 

 

 

 

The tough part of making a bank-brand brief 'quirky' and 'edgy' 

Given the success of the last year's campaign in making Filipinos realize that there's a different and better way to the bank, the brand wanted to continue the narrative and talk about how can we now convince the rest of the Filipinos to jump to UnionBank, says Jake Tesoro, CCO/Co-COO of FCB Manila, the agency behind the creative work.

The toughest part, as per Tesoro, was “coming up with a brave, bold, non-traditional idea and have it approved by advertising regulators in the country since the rules are quite strict and can be limiting.”  

Walking the tightrope of 'non-mass humour' in banking

Even though the campaign has tongue-in-cheek, parodic humour, deciphering the classic Dante world can be a formidable task that may intimidate many of the viewers. Agrees Tesoro, “Creating work for the modern audience based on a book written hundreds of years ago is quite risky but we believe that Filipinos are smart, discerning, and can appreciate good storytelling.”

Reiterating the Filipino consumer nuance, the agency’s chief creative officer feels that regardless of the category, Filipinos don't want to be just entertained and instead they want their minds to be provoked, stimulated, and challenged too.

Building a future-ready bank for a post-pandemic world

Traditional banking versus new-age banking. What works and what does not, especially as nations across the globe are going through a changed consumer profile. “The post-pandemic world is a non-traditional world where nothing in life is the way it was, and so we decided that banking also need not be the same old traditional form of banking”, says Tesoro. Thus, it was decided to let go of the old ways, the self-inflicted punishments, and move on to faster, easier, safer ways to do banking.