I have to say I really like this new interactive microsite by First Direct as it fully embraces the principles of social media, crowdsourcing and participation marketing, whilst hosting all the UGC in real time.
The campaign focuses on consumer perceptions towards the bank and its customer service, soliciting responses on the website as well as aggregating brand mentions – good and bad – from more than 5 million social media sites. The results are presented in engaging ways such as a sentiment barometer, reminiscent of Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar’s ‘we feel fine‘ experiment. The way it presents all the content in real time is also noteworthy as it keeps the website constantly fresh and up-to-date. In fact, it’s not too dissimilar to the intriguing online widget by the US telecoms brand Sprint which I reviewed a few months ago.
It’s a bold move for any brand to host such an open and frank conversation in such a public fashion, none more so than for a brand within a sector which has received such negative publicity of late. But at the same time, if any bank can do this it’s First Direct, renown for its customer service and its enthusiastic fanbase. Whilst there are some negative comments, particularly about its atrocious savings rates, First Direct knows it has enough evangelists to keep the balance of the conversation in their favour.
In effect, what they’ve done is harness the largely positive feedback and present it back to the general public in an engaging and interactive way in order to convince new prospects to switch. At the same time, I imagine they will garner useful feedback as well as uncover new areas for improvement. In fact, in 2007 a French bank called Credit Mutuel did something similar when they ran an advertising campaign directing customers to a website where they could give feedback to the bank. Once there, customers were invited to answer the question “If I were a banker…”. This early attempt at crowdsourcing proved to be immensely popular and provided some invaluable insights to help them improve their service offering.
Both approaches are non-conventional within the banking sector and for that they should be applauded. But above all else, by embracing social media so wholeheartedly and actively encouraging consumer participation First Direct have succeeded to differentiate themselves from its competitors, reinforcing their brand values of openness, honesty, transparency and their unparalleled commitment to customer service – a brand territory which few other banks can honestly own.