In a radical attempt to
differentiate itself in the competitive Australian market by
creating a stir, as well as highlighting a range of new products,
BankWest has launched Happy Banking, an integrated campaign
including animated ads, marketing stunts and a website dedicated to
understanding happiness.

Australia’s sixth-largest retail bank, BankWest, a wholly owned
subsidiary of the UK’s HBOS, has fired its latest salvo at
Australia’s traditional Big Four banks with the launch of Happy
Banking, a marketing campaign designed to ‘bring a smile to
customers’ and change their perception of banking.

It has also rolled out a new tracker mortgage – the first of a
planned series of products linked to the Happy Banking initiative –
which is the bank’s most important new product launch since its
2007 release of a direct savings account paying a headline-grabbing
8 percent, the BankWest Regular Saver Account.

The bank’s attempt to inject some humour into banking kicked off at
the end of February, when it launched a national operation to add
colourful sashes to 50 prominent statues located across

The first of a series of animated television commercials debuted in
February, driving traffic to a new website,,
designed to promote happiness by way of what the bank described as
“inventive and interactive experiments”.

In the first viral ad, visitors to the site are invited to type in
their name and gender and are then serenaded by a trio of singing
kittens that sing and spell out the visitor’s name.

“The Happy Banking campaign underpins BankWest’s brand proposition
to give customers a positive banking experience in everything we
do. We don’t believe banking has to be a negative experience and
BankWest has set out to show customers this through our Happy
Banking campaign,” said the bank’s head of marketing, David Morgan,
in an interview with RBI.

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“We are using a fully integrated channel strategy at the moment
with a strong focus on TV, print and outdoor to build initial
awareness. As the campaign progresses we will look to other media
such as online, events and sponsorships.”

The campaign is the first created for the bank by the Sydney-based
ad agency Host and creative group The Glue Society, following a
rigorous pitch process last year. “BankWest was looking for an
innovative agency that would create fresh and differentiated
advertising campaigns. Host’s approach to strategic planning and
campaign development impressed us” said Morgan.

“BankWest’s marketing has always been a little cheeky so we admire
organisations that have stepped outside the box like Virgin, Ikea
and Vodafone. We see ourselves as being more like a retailer than a
bank; in fact, we refer to our new branches as ‘stores’, which is a
reflection of how un-bank-like they are.”

A serious challenger to the Big Four

A series of announcements last year by BankWest made clear its
intention to mount a serious challenge to the long-standing
dominance of Australia’s Big Four – Commonwealth Bank of Australia,
NAB, ANZ and Westpac – which currently have a combined 70 percent
share of the market. In particular, BankWest said it plans to open
more than 160 new branches across key Australian markets by 2010
(see RBI 577).

According to Morgan, the bank’s first tranche of new retail store
openings is on track, and it plans to open approximately 40 new
stores across Australia’s east coast in 2008.

In addition to highlighting investment in BankWest’s expanding
branch network, the Happy Banking campaign will look to focus on
product innovation. The first new product to be rolled out under
the Happy Banking initiative is the BankWest Rate Tracker mortgage,
which offers customers an interest rate 0.75 percent lower than the
average standard variable rate of the Big Four banks for the first
two years of the loan.

“There will be other market-leading products linked to the Happy
Banking initiative but we won’t announce these yet. The campaign is
targeting the everyday Australian but we think the campaign will
particularly appeal to young professionals and families who have a
savvy approach to their finances,” said Morgan.

BankWest’s marketing spend for 2008 is set to rise to as much as
A$16 million ($15.1 million) compared to A$11.6 million in the year
to November 2007. “We have planned our media spend in line with our
growth objectives,” said Morgan.

While its UK parent HBOS reported a disappointing set of results
for fiscal year 2007 – underlying profit before tax increased by 3
percent to £5.7 billion ($11.6 billion) in a year when the group’s
shares lost 35 percent of their value – the Australian arm
registered an encouraging set of figures despite a 34 percent
increase in underlying operating expenses largely as a result of
its expansion plans.

Underlying profit before tax was up 11 percent to £308 million
while lending increased by 36 percent to £33.2 billion with
deposits up 41 percent to £16.2 billion (see table