The pandemic accelerated ANZ Australia’s digital momentum, taking the banking brand closer to a zero-touch offering. CMO Sweta Mehra speaks to WARC about keeping brand consistency across all channels to ensure trust, and leveraging personalisation to help consumers move forward in their financial well-being journey

Key insights

  • Bringing the brand experience to life cannot be done by marketing alone, but the marketing function can serve as the ‘executional glue’.
  • Ensuring a consistent experience across all channels is not about brand consistency alone. It is also about ensuring customers feel confident, especially in this world of fake sites and phishing.
  • Digital brand and experience will always flow well following a sharp brand strategy.

This article is part of a Spotlight series on how brands in Australia can craft better digital experiences for consumers. Read more

COVID-19 forced brands to shift towards their online channels. How did the team at ANZ navigate this?

We approached it with a high sense of urgency. It’s not that we weren’t always focussing on digital but COVID really accelerated the momentum for all of us. Our digital sales were growing fast pre-COVID-19 and are now around the 50% mark. We are also working to ensure that one could join the bank with completely zero-touch from any of our physical distribution channels and have made strong progress.

Frankly, COVID-19 has allowed big banks, governments and regulators to work closer together to figure out how we can best meet the needs of the consumer and this has allowed us to get past hurdles like digital signatures much better than before – a win for customers and the industry.

Like everyone else, we’ve improvised and moved faster. We have big ambitions as we move ahead in terms of keeping consumers engaged on the new platforms with new habits.

What’s the overarching philosophy or strategy that drives the design of ANZ’s digital experience?

We went on this journey a couple of years ago. We stepped back as we looked at different teams working agile and working on slightly different parameters or design experiences. We asked: who did we want to attract and what do we want to be famous for?

We went back to our purpose, which is about shaping a world where people and communities thrive. Our CEO has gone public saying that financial well-being is a core part of our strategy. Therefore, as part of the digital experience, we are focussing on helping improve Australians’ financial well-being. This means how we keep banking surprisingly easy, to help them get on top of their money and at the same time provide a lot of more personalised insights, tools, solutions, and be a trusted coach in their journey to financial well-being.

It’s been a long journey, and all these could be just words, but we are focussed on converting them into design principles, into the choice of features and ensuring there is consistency in how ANZ comes across as a brand.

Sweta Mehra, CMO, ANZ Australia

Along this two-year journey, are there any memorable moments or lessons learnt that you would like to highlight?

There are lots of lessons. One of the biggest ones is that we cannot do it alone as a marketing function. We are not there in every room, we are not there in every squad or team that is building the experiences and bringing the brand experience to life. It requires the whole organisation to come together and marketing needs to act as the executional glue building the brand and designing the experiences.

In service of driving financial wellbeing for our customers, we have provided the framework, measures, criteria etc. – and then we have gotten out of the way so that the team can do it all and move forward.

We have done this with the support of our senior leaders and in partnership with our product and distribution leaders across the organisation.

Personalisation remains a Holy Grail for many brands and the core of enabling all of that is having that actionable data and to be able to do something with it in a compliant way. How has ANZ tackled this?

This is part of the reason why I joined this industry. The banking industry has a lot of data and it is amazing how much of a difference you can make for the customers and for the business. I’ll give you an example of what we have done.

We have leveraged personalisation to apply behavioural economics and help the consumer move forward in their financial well-being journey. We help the customers set their goals and then with personalised nudges, we guide them towards achieving it.

In the more than 12 months since we started the programme, we are helping people save at twice the rate than what they were doing before. This is fantastic because savings is the fundamental pillar of financial well-being.

A lot of our effort on personalisation is focussed on how we inform you, how do we show that we care about what is happening and help you improve your financial well-being over a period of time.

How do you ensure brand consistency across both online and offline spheres? How do you make sure everything connects?

By being disciplined and relying heavily on data to guide us. We are clear about what our iconic assets are and every few months, we review everything that is out there and constantly figure out how our brand looks from our customer perspective. Over the last three years this has ensured that our assets look and feel like ANZ more often than not and our brand recognition remains high.

We are also working with the designers and engineers to ensure that the brand consistency is there not just in our marketing assets but also in the design our app, sites etc. and this will come to life in a brand and design system in the coming months. It’s been a long journey, but the new system will be big step forward!

How difficult has balancing the need for brand consistency across all experiences with the bespoke requirements of different channels for optimal impact been?

To be honest, this is why it has taken us a long time. The first six months were spent with designers and engineers in every channel trying to understand what they work on and how they translate brand guidelines into actionable content for their channel. We realised there were big gaps in our guidelines.

For example, we may have certain guidelines for imagery but when you use the imagery in the app, it slows down the reaction time for the app and therefore the engineers and UX experts were coming up with their own solutions and inadvertently causing consistency issues.

It has taken the team six months to debate and discuss. Now we are going format by format, pattern by pattern to say, this is what it looks ANZ brand should look like.

Ultimately, it is not about brand consistency alone. It is about customers feeling confident especially in this world of fake sites and phishing. On the flip side of it, it really is simplifying the lives of our engineers. You don’t need to worry about a green button or this shape versus that. Just pick the components from the library and move on.

As a consumer yourself, do you have a favourite brand, whose digital experiences you really like and how has that kind of impacted the work or thinking that you do at ANZ?

Personally speaking, I love Netflix! And not just because of COVID-19. They have completely disrupted the way we watch content. More importantly, they’ve stayed away from some of the things like reviews and ratings and been focussed on what is right for the consumer and providing that enough information. They keep you hooked by how well they understand you and what you may actually like. So, I really like the simplicity and the focus of what they are doing plus the kind of innovation they do as a brand in terms of the kind of shows and content they produce. Hats off to them!

Within the financial services sector itself, as a DBS customer, I do think they have moved leaps and bounds in terms of what they do. I do track them and see what they are doing. I have a lot of respect for the organisation and the consistent progress over the years.

What’s your advice to fellow marketers in Australia when it comes developing digital brand experiences?

As a marketer, the tools that we play around with keep changing but the core of brand-building doesn’t change at all. The clarity of WHY you exist, WHO you want to delight and WHAT you stand for is fundamental. Once you are clear about that, then translating it into digital experience, media planning or channel strategies is an executional choice.

I would really urge all marketers to be extremely sharp about brand strategy before they get excited about all things digital as this will help ensure that they are always customer-centric and always rooted in core of the brand. Digital brand and experience will always flow well following a sharp brand strategy.