What Your Bank Can Learn about Youth Marketing from Ireland

Besides the currency and the accent, banking in Ireland isn’t very different from banking in the U.S. Like us, Ireland has a strong economy and a large, digitally native generation that’s entering the marketplace for the first time. In Ireland, one bank is blazing a trail with its resonant youth marketing campaigns, offering unique value and delivering it organically through the one platform that most 13- to 34-year-olds use daily—Snapchat. Here we take a closer look at Bank of Ireland (BOI), one of Ireland’s traditional “Big Four” banks, whose marketing efforts are anything but traditional.

Add BankofIreland and Win Surf Lessons

The Bank of Ireland’s 2017 FeelFree campaign is a perfect example of a marketing campaign reimagined for success among bank customers just entering college. This campaign, conducted solely via Snapchat, made headlines in publications from The Irish Times to American Banker.

Here’s how it worked: It was targeted at “third-level account holders,” which is the Irish equivalent of a student account for college kids. The campaign ran between October and May 2017 and was promoted via Snapchat. Young Irish celebrities, including “Snapchat celebrity” James Kavanagh (yes, that’s a thing) and Thalia Heffernan, a model/“Dancing with the Stars” contestant, were featured in Snapchat stories that promoted six months of giveaways. Each month, student account holders were challenged to make a specific amount of mobile and online banking transactions in order to win perfectly college-appropriate prizes that included pizzas, movie tickets, beauty treatments, adventure days and surf lessons.

As your bank looks ahead to plan for the new school year and considers how to talk to an emerging generation of college-aged, first-time bank account holders, take a few lessons from Bank of Ireland.

Happy snapping! Snapchat is the fastest growing social network, with at least 60 million daily users in the U.S. and 150 million daily users globally. Among American high school and college students, it’s the most popular social platform. If you want to speak to this generation on their terms, then Snapchat is where you need to be.

For banks, using Snapchat can get tricky. First, there are the regulatory issues that arise with content that disappears in 24 hours. That means you’ll need to keep it simple and stay away from selling specific banking products. Next, you have to get past your reputation. In other words, you don’t want your young audience to see you on Snapchat and feel like their grandma is on Facebook all over again.

Getting an “add” on Snapchat is notoriously difficult, so make it worth their while. Take a cue from the Bank of Ireland’s FeelFree campaign and keep your efforts fresh and engaging by delivering a healthy mix of stories and giveaways. American banks are using Snapchat with some success, too. Most notably, Bank of America sponsored an app that turned users into llamas and promoted its mobile banking app.

Find a storyteller. Sponsoring a lens like BOI did is a straightforward way to wet your toes with Snapchat. What Bank of Ireland did, however, goes deeper. That’s because they told a story and used celebrities who already had mass followings on Snapchat as their storytellers. James Kavanagh has more than 20,000 followers. Can’t find a celebrity? Try one of your young customers instead. In 2016, Bank of Ireland launched their presence on Snapchat with the BOIMyFirst giveaway, including three stories told by young customers: My First Business, My First Place and My First Adventure.

Go organic. Generation Z is still just being defined, but it’s safe to say that this group of emerging consumers is big (they make up about a quarter of the U.S. population and will represent 40% of consumers by 2020) and shrewd. According to a study conducted by The Financial Brand, this generation has a low tolerance for being “sold to” and seeks intuitive and relevant content that’s personal.

In its FeelFree campaign, the Bank of Ireland provided educational videos starring Snapchat celeb Kavanagh that focused on content that students told the bank they wanted to see. This included things like behind-the-scenes footage at sponsored sporting events and, according to Kavanagh, videos to “teach you how to take the perfect selfie, about your money, maybe apply for a loan, who knows.”

Provide solid advice. Not quite ready to go off script like Bank of Ireland did? That’s okay. You can still keep your content relevant and personal by focusing on banking advice and products that really matter for college-aged students. Some of these topics include: how to avoid ATM and overdraft fees, how to get money back from a friend through your phone, and money management advice geared for college kids, such as where to find student discounts and buy used textbooks.

Learn a lesson Bank of Ireland learned the hard way: Be responsible with your advice. The envelope-pushing bank is not without its foibles, having most recently received criticism for a marketing campaign around “FOMO Loans” (FOMO is slang for Fear of Missing Out). This encouraged students to apply via text message for £100 loans to attend social events. A good rule of thumb? If you don’t want your own teenager doing it, don’t promote it on Snapchat.

Combine new with traditional marketing efforts. Don’t forget to post your videos and efforts somewhere permanent, too. Snapchat is fleeting, but YouTube lasts forever. As always, link everything with an easy-to-spell-and-remember hashtag to help content travel across platforms.

Just because you’re focusing on mobile campaigns that target the youngest generation of account holders doesn’t mean you should do away with the tried and true student marketing tools that have always worked. Show up on campuses. Bring your storytellers and useful freebies to help drive the message home. Bank of Ireland gave away phone chargers at college campuses during its FeelFree campaign to keep a newly engaged young consumer base charged and following the story. That’s a lesson in continuity.

Don’t take it from us, take it from Bank of Ireland instead. In an interview with an Irish magazine, Laura Lynch, who heads youth banking at the bank, explained their use of social media this way: “Social media has allowed consumers to have a look ‘under the hood’ of a brand and get a real insight into the people, partnerships, culture of an organization.”

Making that mindset shift might be tough, especially for those of us who weren’t born with an iPhone in our hands, but once it’s made the pressure’s off and the connections come easy.