NAB (the National Australia Bank) made a profit of more than $4 billion last year, so they’ve been spending some of their cash experimenting with blogs. They know that blogs are important social media outlets and that the powerful ones have as much (if not more) influence and audience reach as traditional media. They are the modern equivalent of the newspaper opinion column (except they’re widely read). They know that if you can get people to blog about your product it’s a really cheap and effective form of promotion. NAB has been trying to figure out how to use blogs as a marketing tool.
Bludgeoning their way through the back door and spamming unsuspecting football forums with promotional messages backfired on them fantastically and earned the bank the wrath of the very people they were trying to get on side. They were hardly apologetic, but at least they admitted in an interview that they’d learned some lessons. Social networking blogger Julian Cole showed them that simply turning up, uninvited, on someone’s doorstep is not an effective way of getting your message across.
So, if espionage is out, how then, exactly, DO you get people to blog about your product? Actually, you might be surprised to learn that it’s relatively simple. In fact, I’m about to do it now.
I’m a NAB customer. I was preparing my tax return last night the way I usually do, that is, by going through piles of paper and manually entering data into a spreadsheet. It’s time-consuming and annoying. I had all my bank and credit card statements in front of me (the ones I had remembered to keep at least) and Excel fired up on the screen. It was taking ages. I remembered that last year I had tried to export data from NAB’s online banking system but it would only let me spit out the last couple of months worth of transactions, which wasn’t particularly handy. I went back in to have a poke around and saw a link that said ‘View Statements’. It turns out that there’s now an option to sign up for electronic statements, which means I can see the last seven years worth of transactions online and they won’t send me paper letters anymore. This was going to save me hours and hours of work, not to mention a couple of trees: brilliant! But why hadn’t they told me about this? They knew it was tax time and that people would find that feature useful, couldn’t they have popped a little message up in their system with a little tip saying something along the lines of “Access your statements online at the click of a button’. Click here to find out how.”
Well, *cough*, oops, it turns out that’s exactly what they’d been doing. I just hadn’t been paying attention. Right there, before my eyes, above my account balance in the online banking system was an inoffensive, appropriately-placed, subtle and concise message saying exactly that.
Why hadn’t I seen it?
Because it looked like an ad.
Research shows that people ignore online banner ads.
Whilst that’s still relevant and interesting, it’s a whole other point to the one I’m making. What I’m getting at is that I was so overjoyed with NAB’s efforts to help me view my statements and generally make my life easier, my first reaction was ‘I’m going to blog about that’. If NAB spent more time making my life easier, and found more effective ways of telling me about it, I’d be happy to broadcast their brilliance here at Zakazukha Zoo.
If they were really smart, they’d be paying attention to people who are blogging about them and they’d dive right in and start a direct dialogue. Just like The Body Shop and Vodafone UK are doing (read the comments sections of those blogs). Smart corporations have PR people who know the importance of cultivating relationships with journalists, if they want to get the blogosphere on side, smart corporations should spend more time on the right side of the coal face. We know you’re listening NAB. Come and join us…