CommBank reveals its new position: ‘Can’



CommBank has ditched its “determined to be different” positioning in favour of the one word proposition “Can” in a rebranding led by chief marketing officer Andy Lark and the bank’s new creative agency M&C Saatchi.

The five month relaunch project – labelled internally as “Project Northstar” – follows a week long teaser campaign around the word “Can’t”. It launches today with an execution in News Limited’s metro Sunday papers which sees them enhanced with an augmented reality app integrated with content throughout various sections.

It will be followed tonight with a 60 second TV ad fronted by actress Toni Collette reciting a poem “An ode to Can” penned by M&C Saatchi around the word “Can”. There is also a heavy outdoor component. CommBank’s media agency is Ikon.

The bank has also ditched its helvetica typeface in favour of Aachen. And it has added blue to its yellow and black colour palette. Lark said: “We discovered women don’t respond to black and yellow very well.”

Collette will only feature in the initial ad, which will quickly be supplanted by a series of messages around the word “Can”, including lifestage stories being told through Facebook updates.

Lark said: “During our research, the message we got was that all through these life events the bank helps me move forward. We said how do we really stand for something in people’s lives and articulate our role in helping them move forward in life’s journey?”

Four ads are ready to start running almost immediately with the bank’s digital payment app Kaching featuring prominently in marketing to the under-35 market on shows such as The Voice, along with messaging around staff offering a warmer welcome than the rest of the world in an ad called “Concierge”.

In this interview, Mumbrella editor Tim Burrowes, talks to Lark and M&C Saatchi’s executive creative director Tom McFarlane about the rebrand; along with News Australia Sales boss Tony Kendall, Explore Engage’s Scott O’Brien and Sunday Telegraph editor Neil Breen about the augmented reality app:

The CommBank relaunch campaign – to be followed by a further big push to tie in with its Olympic broadcast sponsorship will have one of the biggest media budgets of the year. Lark said it would be “many many millions”.

The move is one of the most significant pieces of bank marketing activity since NAB launched its award winning, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne masterminded Breakup campaign last year, in which the bank distanced itself from its rivals.

Lark signalled that he intended not to take on his big four rivals directly. He said: “We are a leadership brand. We are not a challenger brand. We’re not a Virgin or a NAB. Our customers said to us ‘don’t do the highly competitive stuff’.”

He added: “We have no interest in winning awards. The only goal that matters is the balance sheet.”

Although Lark is known as one of the most digitally engaged marketers in Australia, he underlined his commitment to print as an advertising medium. Speaking of the augmented reality execution – which he credited News Limited for proposing – he said: “I think it’s the future of newspapers. It’s a really interesting way of creating an attachment between physical and virtual. We believe in print. Its death has been wildly overstated.”

Lark went out of his way to avoid any criticism of his predecessor Mark Buckman (now at Telstra), despite having now reversed the two key element’s of Buckman’s tenure – the switch from US ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners to M&C, and the move away from the “determined to be different” line.

He said: “My predecessors have done an amazing job of creating a great brand. One of the options was: do we stick with ‘determined to be different’. We even looked at (going back to) ‘Which Bank’. We tested a lot of ideas. What we heard resoundingly was that the quality of this idea was so strong.

“Four years ago we laid out a journey of getting to number one in customer service. having got close to that, you ask, how do you pivot off that?”

Winning CommBank came as a lifeline for M&C Saatchi which lost ANZ bank just months earlier. Speaking of Goodbys being based in San Francisco, Lark said: “The geographic stuff was always a problem for me although they were always committed to opening a big Sydney office if they won.”


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