Santander’s CMO on the role purpose plays in the brand's ‘Unlock Your London’ cycle campaign

As part of its ongoing sponsorship of London's self-service cycle hire scheme, Santander has unveiled a fresh ad encouraging people in the capital to ‘Unlock Your London’ as it also looks to show people that it is about more than just bank accounts.

The campaign features a range of influencers including fashion blogger Ellie Adams and ‘Foodbusker’ writer John Quilter, who are shown using the Santander Cycles to travel to their favourite spots in London to hammer home the idea that bikes aren’t just for commuters. Longtime brand ambassadors Jessica Ennis-Hill and Jenson Button also make an appearance. The push was led by WCRS as part of an Engine team including support from Deep Focus, Slice, and Partners Andrews Aldridge.

For Santander’s chief marketing officer Keith Moor, it’s important that the bank weaves itself into the lives of customers and potential customers by putting itself at the heart of their everyday experiences.

“It’s about conveying our purpose and helping people — and businesses — prosper,” he says. “Doing that isn’t just about helping them with their banking. It’s about looking at the communities they live in and then helping improve those and supporting initiatives that provide a more sustainable future for people in the UK; supporting cycling is one way of doing that.”

As part of the push, each influencer involved has curated their own route for riders to follow. These will sit on a bespoke landing page showcasing the best spots across the city for working out, eating, shopping and more.

Unlocking social

When The Drum caught up with Moor back in May he said that social media would play an integral role in driving customer loyalty. When pressed on how ‘Unlock Your London’ will aid the brand in this mission, he explains that the ads focus around experiences offer up a different way for Santander to speak to people online.

“It’s not just about banking, it’s about fitting into their lives. [The sponsorship deal] allows people to see that we’re a brand that’s got a wider perspective to offer, we’re not just about bank accounts.”

Moor says Santander’s trust and advocacy scores increase when people are aware of the brand’s involvement in the scheme, meaning “they believe in what [we’re] saying to them," which allows his team to use social media to build on those perceptions.

“It’s not all very dry, we know that people on social don’t engage with content that’s not engaging or useful — so it gives us another ability to have a different kind of conversation with people," he adds, saying, therefore, it would be "pointless" for Santander's core business to run an Instagram page.

Moor says the firm has used Snapchat as part of its wider initiatives and it will be “taking learnings” from those experiences into this one. For Santander Cycles, however, the main social output currently revolves around its aesthetically pleasing Instagram page. The profile was founded in 2015 after the brand realised that there was “shedloads of content” from people using the bikes all around the city that no one was curating.

Pedalling agility

As far as the approach to campaign creation, Moor notes that Santander follows a system of “agile with a 'small a',” borrowing some principles from the agile approach oft used by IT firms and developers and working in “sprints.”

In practice, this means that it books activity over “very short” time periods, using feedback and consumer data to inform the next steps in each campaign.

With a record breaking 10.3m bike hires in 2016, following similarly high figures in January, February, March and April in 2017, it looks like this strategy is paying off.

On the question of whether the bank uses the data gleaned for cyclists’ journeys to inform its marketing Moor says that kind of data is more useful for TfL which relies on it to inform logistics around where to situate bikes. He does concede that it also allows Santander to look at the kind of trips people are making and adapt its creative to fit, with the basis for ‘Unlock Your London’ being that many were using the bikes to commute rather than for leisure.

'Boris bikes'

When discussing the cycle scheme it's impossible not to touch on the fact that the bikes are widely known as 'Boris bikes' thanks to the former London mayor's initial involvement in their rollout. Despite having taken over sponsorship of the bikes from Barclays in 2015, Moor admits his "most asked question" is around the challenges in shaking this label off, but says it's not a big deal for Santander.

"As long as our association as a brand with the scheme is very high then that’s what matters to us, but I think it’ll change over time we see it being used less and less," he says saying that use of the official #SantanderCycles hashtag is has been steadily rising.

"What we want is people on bikes and using them, if we know that and we’re associated with that initiative, then we’re not overly bothered," he concludes.