Breaking up is hard to do. However, that’s exactly what NAB did on Valentine’s Day 2011 when it publically called off its ‘relationship’ with the other major banks, thus acknowledging and rejecting Australians’ conspiracy theory that their four biggest banks, Commonwealth, ANZ, Westpac and NAB, worked together fixing fees and eliminating competition. The “Break Up” was front-page news for months. But, while the brand became synonymous with fair value in banking, it was through products that customers would judge if NAB had truly changed. Credit cards offered NAB its first test. Australians had been educated to expect complicated fees and conditions that would sting them in the end. The category was dominated by short-term customer incentives that yielded-long term benefits for the banks. It was clearly an unbalanced relationship.
NAB sought to rebuild customer trust by revamping their portfolio of credit cards – abolishing unfair fees, restructuring the way interest rates were calculated and creating simple contracts customers could understand – undertaking a physical product overhaul. A disruption this large required a communications plan of equal magnitude. While “Break Up” had created new expectations around NAB’s banking behavior by vilifying the other banks, likewise, credit cards needed to untangle itself from the offer/fee cycle and elevate the conversation above the category. The bank set out to prove what Australians believed about themselves and wanted from their credit cards: honesty. It tested the theory by filming live experiments that quickly sparked a national conversation around honesty and banks, two words rarely connected except through sarcasm. We documented unsuspecting people’s behavior as they encountered situations like finding lost wallets, receiving too much change and watching cash accidently fall out of someone’s pockets. It posted the ‘Honesty Experiments’ for all to see through TV and online videos, while print, radio and digital executions extended the conversation.
Not only did the target audience connect with the message, but also the media couldn’t stop talking about honest Australians. The campaign successfully broke the category rhythm, strengthened NAB’s fair value platform, significantly exceeded our goal of new credit card openings.