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Building society turns to Seinfeld to boost their brand

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Can the star from the show about nothing mean something in the battle against the Big Four?

David may have defeated Goliath, but can smaller non-bank lenders take on the Big Four? To have a fighting chance, marketing and advertising gurus will say smaller lenders need a point of difference to take on the bigger players, to be a purple cow in a field of ordinary jerseys. But there is a big difference from the farmyard to the world of finance, especially in the current economic climate.

So, what does a humble building society have that the Big Four don’t?

Peter Switzer asked Don Magin, CEO of Greater Building Society, this very question and was blown away by the answer – Jerry Seinfeld.

Brand building

The Greater is already a well-established brand, primarily operating in regional NSW and south-east Queensland. It was named by Business Review Weekly as one of the top 500 private companies, it takes care of around $4 billion in assets, and has the largest branch network of any building society in Australia. They have also boasted a 97 per cent customer satisfaction level for the last five years. So for Magin, the Seinfeld campaign was part of building their brand in the public eye.

“This was something part of a bigger, overall strategy for the Society,” says Magin. “We looked at how we could raise our brand profile … we think we’re a real alternative to the major banks. We see ourselves as a little terrier nipping at their heels. All of our advertising in the past has had an element of humour in it, been able to poke a little bit of fun at the banks. So we’ve tried to find someone that would deliver that same message across to that audience.”

From the inside

While it might read like something from the script of Seinfeld’s eponymous sitcom – US star backs regional building society – the idea didn’t come from an advertising executive in an agency. It came from the Greater’s head of marketing, John Dwyer.

“It was his idea to do something that was … going to be the purple cow, that was going to make us stand out and really be someone that people would sit up and take a little bit of notice of,” explains Magin.

The decision to use Seinfeld was based on research into what appealed to their customer base. Funnily enough, neither Dwyer nor Magin counted themselves among the funny man’s fans… until now.

The ad, in which Seinfeld constructs an ad-hoc set in front of a regional branch before delivering his stand-up material (enough, says Magin, for 30 more commercials), has done exceptionally well for the Greater – even before it was launched.

“We’ve been quite blown away by the amount of media coverage we’ve got before the campaign even started,” says Magin. “It’s quite possible we even got enough media coverage to even pay for the campaign before we put it to air.” 

Last word
  • When looking to promote your brand, focus on your point of difference.
  • Aim high – you never know what you can achieve.
  • Invest in promotional strategies that will pay for themselves.
  • Use your in-house resources to your best advantage.

For more from the best brains in property, shares, superannuation, the economy, financial markets and business, check out Peter Switzer’s SWITZER on Sky News Business Channel, Monday to Thursday from 7pm.


Published on: Wednesday, August 05, 2009

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