How Westpac celebrated its 200th birthday

Party packs, baby bumps and old ads were all part of the formula for Westpac’s 200th birthday celebration this year as the bank sought to acknowledge customers and staff while showing it was still relevant as it enters its third century of doing business.

At the closing the Mumbrella Financial Marketing Summit yesterday, Adrian McCaffrey, head of brand and marketing at Westpac Group, walked through some of the initiatives the company carried out over the past year.

Adrian McCaffrey, head of brand and marketing at Westpac Group

“200 years as a brand is a special moment – as marketers developing some epic initiatives with the rest of the organisation is pretty special,” McCaffrey told the audience.

Guiding the initiatives were the basic principles of focusing on the customers, business outcomes and taking the opportunity to reposition the brand.

Researching attitudes towards the bank, the company found 63% of customers were aware of the birthday and most thought the milestone was worth celebrating.

One concern for McCaffrey’s team was many of the early ideas were focused internally rather than on customers and the community.

As a consequence, the bank split the celebrations into three groups – celebrations, customer appreciation and innovation– with everything feeding back into the marketing campaign.

To drive the celebrations, the bank carried out 25 branch events in every state showcasing the company’s history and a ‘bicentennial in a box’ party kit containing everything from balloons to memorabilia.

For the appreciation aspect of the anniversary, the bank awarded 200 bicentennial service honours to staff over the 18 months before the anniversary, making them internal brand ambassadors.

A cornerstone of the celebrations was the Bump campaign where the bank offered a $200 gift for new parents. To date the bank has given away 25,500 bump accounts, half to non-customers.

On the education front, the bank awarded 200 Westpac scholarships for students and 200 ‘businesses of tomorrow’ grants to small business with the top 20 going on a study tour of the US and China.

A broader initiative in showing the bank is relevant in today’s economy was Mathspace, a free online maths education tool for children which has seen 40,000 sign ups to date.

Channeling the community service aspect, Westpac showcased its 43-year relationship with the rescue helicopter service. “You don’t have to be a Westpac account holder to get rescued,” quipped McCaffrey.

McCaffrey was also proud of his Bronze Lion winning Rescue Rashie program which will see the life-saving swim outfits be distributed this summer.

Despite winning the awards, it turned out an old ad was the best-performing campaign which led McCaffrey to reflect on the nature of marketing.

“We’ve all been there as marketers, you put the blood, sweat and tears into these initiatives then you put an old ad on Facebook and you a million in reach and two thousand shares. Which leaves you thinking maybe we should just put the old ones up.”


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