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First Direct Direct Promotional Strategy

Effective direct promotional strategy ensured success and uplifted sales for first direct


By The Drum Team, Editorial

September 9, 2011 | 7 min read

The January campaign period is the most important marketing initiative of the year for

first direct. It kick-starts sales of products and services and provides a springboard for the year ahead. After the traditional Christmas spending spree most of us will be assessing the state of our seriously dented finances, and many of us will feel the need to economise, consolidate our debt and find ways to replenish our depleted bank accounts.

For the last three years, (like other retail banks), first direct had a range of special offers on financial products in January. For 2010 these included 10% cash back on personal loans, 0% for 15 months on credit card balance transfers, 3 months free home insurance, £100 cash back on life insurance policies, and other offers on car insurance, tax free savings and first directory, the bank’s packaged account proposition (which includes annual travel insurance and mobile phone cover, plus other benefits).

Dialogue 141’s task was to create an umbrella creative approach that was both seasonally and brand appropriate and which worked to promote this bundle of products across multiple channels including online, direct and press to customers and non-customers (for the mortgage only).

2010’s ‘re:solutions’ campaign targeted both current and potential customers across on and offline media with a range of financial products – from mortgages and insurance to loans and credit cards. It also aimed to motivate the call centre staff on whom sales performance ultimately plays a key role. The campaign generated a ROI of 16:1 on a spend of just £126,000, accounting for over £2 million in incremental income for the bank.

Sales effectiveness was measured relative to a control segment of the bank database to whom online banners were not served and emails/DM were not mailed. There was a clear uplift in product sales in the group exposed to the campaign versus those that were not.

The campaign was taken up internally and executed on everything from in-house banners to seating, confectionary and toilet door signage. In addition, a post-campaign staff satisfaction survey showed 89% of the call centre staff believed re:solutions was a powerful aid to selling, positively engaging and attractive to customers.

The target audience

first direct customers are not like the customers of other High Street banks, partly because it’s not a high street bank. They tend to be more mature, more affluent and more sophisticated. Experience has shown that they respond best to laconic, witty communications that contain an obvious benefit. Being a first direct customer is like being in a highly recommended club (and the bank does demand a certain criteria level to maintain the ‘quality’ of its customer base). We like to characterise them as Innocent-drinking, Economist-reading Waitrose shoppers.

Just as important as the customer facing communications was the internal communication of the campaign. first direct was Britain’s first branchless bank and to this day remains entirely telephone and internet based. It has two large call centres in Hamilton and Leeds staffed 24/7 with highly trained, motivated and enthusiastic people. Financial products such as loans and credit cards are low interest categories, so they are sold just as much as they are bought. Therefore engaging with the call centre team, ensuring they understood and were enthused by the campaign would also be key to its success.

Fit with the overall strategy

first direct remains committed to reinforcing its brand values of transparency, straightforwardness, clarity and plain speaking in all of its communications. As well as selling products and services the bank sees all of its communications as brand building; all of them support the long term brand values and all of them should leave customers – whether they buy in to a specific offer or not – feeling reassured and warm towards their bank.

The creative solution Dialogue 141 developed neatly combined a cultural seasonal obsession with turning over a new leaf, the witty first direct tone of voice and a portfolio of financial products in one powerful, simple idea.

The creative solution

Called ‘re:solutions – offers you’ll want to stick with’, the campaign takes ‘re:’ and combines it with a host of different suffixes (each being a different financial solution) that promote different products and services. Amongst these:

  • ‘re:fuel’ offered to beat an existing car insurance quote by 10%
  • ‘re:assure’ offered £100 cash back on new life insurance policies
  • ‘re:move’ offered a fee-free tracker mortgage.

The offer is a simple one; the double entendre an engaging one – make a financial resolution and/or lets talk about financial solutions (re:solutions/re:mortgages etc.).

In its established brand colours of black and white the re:solutions campaign was executed on as an animated generic campaign banner, product specific static banners, product landing pages, offsite mortgage acquisition banners, generic and product specific emails, statement inserts, press and DM packs.

For staff in the call centres the creative work was used in ceiling banners and briefing leaflets but also as toilet door signage (re:lief), on beanbags (re:lax) and on water fountains (re:hydrate) amongst others.


Overall the campaign generated an ROI of 16:1. This is a little over £2 million in incremental income on a spend of just £126,000.

To evaluate the specific impact of the ‘re:solutions’ campaign in terms of product sales, first direct were able to use a control segment of the customer database to whom banners were not served and email/DM were not posted.

Looking at the product sales for this control group versus the contacted group – so where the only variable is the exposure to ‘re:solutions’ communications - shows a clear uplift in product sales amongst the exposed segment. This incremental uplift is evident even in time-sensitive products like motor and home insurance which very few people ‘buy on a whim’ but instead only ever consider when they fall due for renewal.

The effectiveness of the campaign was also evident in responses to specific media. In 2009 the average opening rate for all first direct emails was 24.2%. Of the 14 separate emails the bank mailed out as part of the ‘re:solutions’ campaign, half bettered this 2009 average. The best performing of the emails (re:assure, for life insurance) delivered an opening rate of 36% and was the highest performing life insurance email of the previous 12 months.

Even taken as a whole, (including those 7 emails that did not beat the 2009 measure), the average opening rate for all of the campaign’s outbound emails was 25.1%, still above the 2009 average.

Internally too the campaign enjoyed widespread positive feedback. Several of the internal executions (such as re:lief, re:hydrate and re:play in the staff recreation room) were suggested by call centre staff themselves.

And in a staff satisfaction survey conducted in early January 2010 89% of the call centre staff concluded that they believed the re:solutions campaign was engaging and attractive to their customers.


Client Testimonials

‘Engagement of our people lies at the heart of any successful customer or prospective customer campaign at first direct. Our re:solutions campaign is yet another example of how as a business we look to ensure both the customer and internal promotion is aligned in one seamless journey which allows for a vastly improved customer experience’.

Jason Sharpe, Head of Customer Services, first direct

‘The re:solutions campaign was a great testament to our thorough understanding of customer needs. Combined with product offers that deliver on their promises, we produced an effective customer campaign that is fully aligned with the first direct brand credentials - as well as delivering a strong ROI.’

Paul Say, Head of Marketing, first direct

This case study was awarded a Commendation in the category of Direct Promotional Strategy at The Drum Marketing Awards

First Direct Direct Promotional Strategy

Content created with:

Dialogue 141

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