Sunday, August 23, 2009

How to show you genuinely care about all 1 million customers

Many moons ago, in the years leading up to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, my then employer, AMP ran one of THE most successful financial services advertising campaigns of the decade.

Enter Vicki Williams, a customer service staff member from AMP in Perth. Vicki was the winner of competition conceived by the agency (Leo Burnett) and run among AMP staff to produce the star of the big budget TV ad.

And Vicki certainly became a star.

It helped that she really did care about AMP's clients. It also helped that Leos had her plus-sized frame in a bathing suit and cheery face in a frilly bathing cap. And of course the media spend was considerable.

One of the reasons the ad was so well remembered had to do with the context of the time. Banks had a lot of bad press for shutting down branches. The other insurance and funds management companies arguably lacked AMP's strong local representation of financial planners who were part of their towns and cities across the country.

People remembered the funny, warm smiling face of Vicki Williams because she was real. The genuine item. And it showed, even when she'd done that shot a million times.

Vicki gave out as many autographs as Olympians - she was LOVED. She may not have sold many policies or superanuation funds, but she was (briefly) adored by thousands.

Then there's "the AAMI girl" as she's known. I'm not sure if there's a picture in the attic of the woman in that long-running TV ad, or if they update her every 5 years. However she's probably been the best known and most liked face of general insurance in Australia for years.

The point?

People connect with people.

Especially when it comes to money (trust matters) and the really boring stuff they'd rather not have to think too much about.

Like insurance and super.

Ads used to be a good way to provide a human proxy for the personal touch.

As branches have closed down and technology has replaced people we've seen all sort of replacements for humans. Interactive voice systems, online banking, ATMs, online share trading.

We've also seen a far greater reliance on public relations or custom content to generate media coverage for financial services organisations. Both communication tools are far more credible ways to get people back in front of customers again, without the multi-million dollar spend or the big geographic footprint of a national staff.

So if you, just like many other financial services organisations with shrinking staff numbers who want to grow their retail presence, think about how you're going to get a credible, friendly and mass-produced human in front of the humans who matter most to your business.

Staff, customers, clients, channel partners, even business partners.

We're all looking for that person who really cares.

Does your brand have one?

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