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Financial Services

A Joint Account

1 Sep, 2008 By: Response Contributor Response

How ING Direct built an $80 billion direct response business by smart investments in traditional advertising.


The best return on investment may be in brand advertising, not in direct response," Jurie Pieterse, director of brand marketing, ING Direct, said in a keynote to the Philadelphia Direct Marketers Association in January 2008. "But both disciplines can, and do, work together. We use a more efficient investment mix in our direct response activities when it is tied to our brand-building activities."

John Owens, head of marketing (standing), Jackie Feinberg, advertising manager, (right), Darren Mahoney, director of online marketing (center), and Jurie Pieterse, director of brand marketing, enjoy a large orange beanbag chair representing ING Direct's  signature orange logo outside the company's headquarters in Wilmington, Del.
John Owens, head of marketing (standing), Jackie Feinberg, advertising manager, (right), Darren Mahoney, director of online marketing (center), and Jurie Pieterse, director of brand marketing, enjoy a large orange beanbag chair representing ING Direct's signature orange logo outside the company's headquarters in Wilmington, Del.

 

It's an audacious statement from a man with a long allegiance to the direct response industry. Pieterse was named South Africa's "Young Direct Marketer of the Year" before transplanting to the United States and earning a reputation here as one of the best in the business. But Pieterse is not afraid to cut against the grain. Traditional, and relatively un-measurable, brand awareness campaigns are his not-so-secret sauce at financial powerhouse ING Direct — that, and downright silly taglines. Honk if you like saving!

 ING Direct believes in creating advertising content that is "shockingly simple." The company s motto is short and sweet: Save your money.
ING Direct believes in creating advertising content that is "shockingly simple." The company s motto is short and sweet: Save your money.

 

Pieterse and his team have taken an unconventional approach to build the brand (and bottom line) of an even more unconventional business. One of the most notable differences between ING Direct and other financial institutions is that there are no bank branches. Saving, investing and customer interaction is all conducted online. The only brick-and-mortar representations of an ING Direct "branch" are hip, high-tech Peet's Coffee & Tea cafes where customers do their checking and balancing in private computer pods while sipping soy lattes.

The vividly orange site, ingdirect.com, garners more than 2 million unique monthly visitors, but the user demographic is surprisingly mature. The home page was designed to engage more than just tech-savvy millennials. It's an easy-to-navigate, action-based dashboard, in plain language, with prompts as simple as, "Sign up for an account."

"Our Web site is what I would call shockingly simple," says Pieterse. "If you go to our home page, I don't think any other major bank or credit union has the simplicity of our home page."

Humor plays a big role in the brand advertising of ING Direct. From outdoor signage to Web banners to orange cash cows passing out free hot dogs, the company carries the humorous tone and voice across all mediums in varied markets.
Humor plays a big role in the brand advertising of ING Direct. From outdoor signage to Web banners to orange cash cows passing out free hot dogs, the company carries the humorous tone and voice across all mediums in varied markets.

 

It also houses a trove of financial tips, tools and resources on how to save, how to invest and how to manage credit. Orangekids.com, a product of ING Direct, is a free financial education site for kids, parents and teachers to learn about money management in a fun and interactive way with games and quizzes.

"The key thing that everyone is focused on is how do we continue to build the brand, and extend the brand, and make it relevant so that people believe in the safe, saving-your-money message that we deliver," says Pieterse.

The financial institution spends 80 percent of its marketing budget on branding and 20 percent on direct response. However, leaders say that branding spend is actually an investment in DR, which can yield a 40-percent increase in response rates.
The financial institution spends 80 percent of its marketing budget on branding and 20 percent on direct response. However, leaders say that branding spend is actually an investment in DR, which can yield a 40-percent increase in response rates.

 

The company's motto is short and sweet: Save your money. Saving is for everyone, even kids, and ING Direct is making this easy to do and easy to achieve. The message is conveyed through its casual cafes, the plain language on its site, and most notably, the humor in its branded DR-advertising. This may all be highly uncharacteristic in a predominantly conservative industry, but Pieterse is helping to carve out a niche that's leaving a major impression.

"When you look at the whole banking marketplace, the biggest player is Bank of America, and they have approximately a 10-percent market share," says Pieterse. "So if you think of it that way, if you could appeal to 10 to 20 percent of the marketplace and offend the other 80 percent, you'd be bigger than Bank of America."

Local cable TV spots, along with regional direct mail and online advertising, is used to hit target demographics nationally. Primary markets include New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia and Seattle.
Local cable TV spots, along with regional direct mail and online advertising, is used to hit target demographics nationally. Primary markets include New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia and Seattle.

 

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