Everything consumers consider when they think about banks was tossed to the side when Warren, PA-based Northwest Bank evolved its brand recently. In partnership with creative agency Mower, its campaign went straight to the emotion that surrounds life's important financial decisions.
"I've always believed that if you can make your audience feel something, they'll do something," said Mike Baron (pictured below), Senior Vice President, Group Creative Director, Mower.
When Northwest approached Mower, it had already defined its internal culture, so Mower had a good idea where to start with the brand. Baron explained that early on, Devin Cygnar, Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer for Northwest Bank, said, "'I want to be the bank that sees around the corner for consumers.'
"I referenced that with the creative team throughout our process," Baron continued. "A lot of times banks are coming to you with a product in the moment, not anticipating your future needs. There's a banking life cycle -- you open a checking account, get a mortgage, finance college, save for retirement and so on. Those stages are similar for everyone. So, looking around the corner stuck with me as both a writer and a creative director."
From that standpoint, Mower ultimately recommended the line, "For what's next." Internally, it aligned with Northwest's progressive and forward-thinking mindset in terms of growth and digitization. But more importantly, the line and subsequent campaign would position Northwest as the bank that helps customers proactively recognize opportunities and reach their financial goals.
Baron's career as an advertising executive and director spans more than 30 years. That allowed him to take on Northwest's campaign with a trained eye.
"We wanted to recognize the moments that are made possible by the products. It's not about the mortgage; it's about the house," Baron said. When executing the television portion of the campaign, "the director part of me was about creating authentic moments that resonated with the broadest group of viewers."
To do that, Mower set about producing four distinct situations: thinking about saving for a child's education, moving into a new house, growing a small business and a night out with friends. "We have four distinct vignettes in our 30-second brand spot. We're always looking at diversity and how we best represent real customers today. We want to create moments that our customers can see themselves in."
It was also important to show these moments in ways that viewers had not seen before. For example, showing a young child's face reflected in a diploma's glass versus a teenager driving off to college, or seeing the pride the tailor takes in fitting a customer instead of ringing up a sale.
To bring further authenticity to the moments, Baron and longtime creative partner Jeff Hopper cast several non-actors for the vignettes, including the staff of the tailoring location, Bureau-Made, and a real customer.
While casting one of the young women in the friends vignette, Baron asked her to describe her real best friend. Instead of describing him, she Zoomed him into the audition. Baron cast them both.
"I never want casting to feel forced," Baron noted. "People should feel like they belong together -- like they're not playing a role."
Buffalo, NY was chosen for the production as it's one of the markets where Northwest Bank seeks to expand. "It was important to Northwest that we shot in Buffalo -- to give back to the community and show that they are part of it," said Art Director Hopper, who also creative directed the photo shoot alongside the television production. "We felt like the casting and locations were authentic to the Northwest customer and brand."
Once all the footage and stills were gathered, Mower set about producing a fully integrated campaign, including 30-second broadcast television to air in Buffalo, multiple 15-second over-the-top and connected TV spots to air in Buffalo and other relevant markets, out-of-home, digital, in-branch marketing and more. Mower also relied on newly created assets to evolve Northwest's social media platforms.
"Within a few weeks of the brand launch, we were seeing upwards of a 20% lift in brand awareness," Baron said. "We also received feedback from Northwest that credit card applications were up 100% and that home equity were twice as many as expected."
Mower built the campaign to last and to grow and evolve with Northwest.
"That's something you always want to take into account," Baron concluded. "You don't want to rebrand every two to three years. I think we landed on a position that Northwest can own for some time. We don't have to think about a rebrand any time soon."
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