SYDNEY: When Latitude Finance (previously GE Money) launched in Australia, the company tapped actor Alec Baldwin to position itself as a new challenger brand to banks, according to a senior marketer at the company.

In 2015, GE Capital’s Australian and New Zealand consumer finance business was acquired by a finance consortium and quickly underwent a rebrand to move away from the GE name. This meant the newly renamed Latitude Finance was starting from scratch with brand awareness.

“People knew nothing about Latitude, and we could no longer use the GE reference,” said Caroline Ruddick, general manager of marketing at Latitude Financial Services, at the Mumbrella Financial Marketing Summit in Sydney recently.

“We were out on our own and we needed to create our own identity. We wanted to be a challenger to the banks. We wanted to be different,” she said. But where existing banks had 77% brand awareness built up over decades, “we wanted to try and get there in six months to a year”.

Working with agency CHE Proximity, a raft of local celebrities were tested but the desire to poke fun at Australia – the first ad in the campaign draws attention to the limited number of traditional banking options available to Australian consumers – wasn’t a good fit for home-grown talent.

That’s where actor Alec Baldwin came in: research found 86% of people loved him and only 14% didn't, Ruddick revealed. (For more, read WARC’s report: How Alec Baldwin put Latitude Finance on the map.)

“Alec became a really big brand chief for us. In the first year that the campaign was out, he really cut through,” she said, adding that brands can be tempted by changing direction but that Latitude opted to keep Baldwin on as he has been so successful for the brand.

“Consumers don’t get tired of our work and our brand and our positioning as quickly as we do,” said Ruddick.

“When you look at brands through history, those that have chosen to stay the distance build much stronger equity. There could be a ‘too long’ point with Alec, there may not be. Those are the discussions we have and we constantly weigh up those pros and cons.

“I think back to the principles of marketing; it would make more sense to stay the distance and to build that equity in customer’s minds than to walk away.”

Sourced from WARC