How UnionBank uses old world humor to tell its new age banking story
The Drum examines how UnionBank, the banking brand with a vision of becoming one of the Philippines’ top three universal banks, creates its marketing strategy differently – by being humorous, courageous and non-traditional.
Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, one of the best-known creative tales in Italian literature, is making a comeback in a way. 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 the history of UnionBank in a nutshell.
Building a banking brand is a difficult task amid all the loops of regulations. Conventional wisdom and traditional marketing say that there are few ways a banking brand can stand out among the plethora of similar brands. So how is the banking brand that aspires to be a formidable new-age bank in the Philippines rethinking the way banking is done?
Create a differentiated bank playbook
“One of the things we always remember is forgetting that we are a bank,” says Christine V. Siapno, vice president and head of digital marketing for UnionBank, the Philippines’ leading digital bank.
So the first Philippine bank decided to do things differently and applied that thinking to everything in the bank, not just marketing. Siapno says: “Just because something has been done the same way over the past two years doesn’t mean it meets the needs of new-age customers.”
She adds that the way UnionBank challenges standards is by asking questions: “Why do we have to do it this way?” Who said bank ads have to be a collection of put together photos? Who said a bank can’t be funny? Or even make fun of themselves for being wrong?
The challenges of the story of a new age bank
The challenge was to get our message across in the best possible way, without the baggage of traditional bank advertising, says Siapno. The brand campaign USP was to be something that sheds light on suffering Filipinos and what they shouldn’t be experiencing with the bank.
A creative storytelling to show what is suffering in banking and the solutions
UnionBank’s journey as a new-age bank started recently. Last year’s branding campaign focused on the bank’s ambitious repositioning which began by showing “how bad the traditional bank is,” she shares. Last year’s campaign included a video of apologies to all for bad banks, including admission of how UnionBank took a while to deliver a solution. The main film focused on the “feeling of liberation” you get when you’re no longer encumbered with bad banking, Siapno shares.
This year’s “Heaven” campaign takes the narrative even further by taking consumers on tour to present the sorrows of those who still choose to suffer from the slowness of traditional banking methods. The heart of the message: “Why suffer from bad banks and bad applications if you can discover paradise with UnionBank”. The campaign has remained purely digital, as it talks about solving the problems faced by the new age consumer by deploying new age solutions.
Sky Campaign: (2021)
Applause campaign: (2020)
Apology video: (2020)
The hardest part of making a bank brand brief ‘quirky’ and ‘edgy’
Given the success of last year’s campaign to make Filipinos understand that there is a different and better way to access banking, the brand wanted to continue the story and explain how can we now convince the rest. of Filipinos to switch to UnionBank, says Jake. Tesoro, CCO / Co-COO of FCB Manila, the agency behind the creative work.
The hardest part, according to Tesoro, was “to come up with a brave, daring and non-traditional idea and get it approved by the advertising regulators in the country, because the rules are quite strict and can be restrictive.”
Walking the tightrope of “unpopular humor” in banking
Even though the campaign has ironic and parody humor, deciphering the classic world of Dante can be a formidable task that can intimidate many viewers. According to Tesoro, “Creating work for modern audiences based on a book written hundreds of years ago is quite risky, but we believe Filipinos are smart, insightful, and can appreciate good storytelling.”
Reiterating the nuance of Filipino consumers, the agency’s creative director believes that regardless of category, Filipinos don’t want to be just entertained and instead want their minds provoked, stimulated and challenged.
Building a bank ready for the future for a post-pandemic world
Traditional bank versus new-age bank. What works and what does not, especially as countries around the world are experiencing a shift in consumption patterns. “The post-pandemic world is a non-traditional world where nothing in life is as it was, and so we decided that banking shouldn’t be the same old, traditional form of banking either,” Tesoro says. So, it was decided to abandon the old ways, the self-inflicted punishments, and to switch to faster, easier and more secure banking methods.