BMO Harris Bank Cashes In on Social and Mobile Games


Getting customers to consider switching banks is, well, hard.

Admiration, positive sentiment, and trust don’t come easy with finance customers. In fact, banks and financial services were rock-bottom on a list of 16 industries in the 2013 American Banker/Reputation Institute Survey of Bank Reputations. In 2014 banks moved up slightly while financial services remained at the floor.

But there’s one interesting twist in the data.

On a 100-point scale customers gave their own banks a score of 69—compared to the less impressive 56 points among consumers in general. And that 13-point customer-versus-noncustomer gap is about twice that of other industries.

“It’s very difficult to get someone to switch their bank because it’s not the most seamless process. It’s a major decision; it’s a major change,” says Jennifer Larson, VP, senior manager of U.S. advertising and brand management at BMO Financial Group. “But I think once you have that affinity—once you have a consumer who is loyal to your brand—there’s a long-term relationship there that can give banks quite a bit of opportunity.”

Marketers for BMO Harris Bank say they wanted to tap into that opportunity. Although it’s the 16th largest bank in the United States and the largest in the Midwest, BMO Harris Bank continues to be challenged with brand awareness.

Marketers realized they needed a strategy that engaged potential customers, added value to their financial lives, was cross-channel, and simply fun.

The answer, they say, was digital games.

“Games offer a custom engagement opportunity that can be really relevant to your brand,” Larson says. “Gamification helps you to create unique experiences that will follow you across devices.” And although BMO Harris Bank has an integrated marketing campaign with several moving parts, including TV and radio spots along with field marketing, it was looking for more engagement with the brand. And social, Larson says, was the ideal way to boost brand awareness and engage customers with games.

So with tools from ad platform Sizmek, marketers created a five-week sweepstakes that asked people on social media to play a weekly, interactive game based in money tips and typical financial challenges.

“It was a sort of three-dimensional journey through life,” Larson explains. “Each week featured a different life moment, say buying a house or having a baby. Through unveiling tips, taking quizzes, and answering questions, you picked up digital coins along the way. At the end, you were offered to enter sweepstakes.”

Optimized for mobile and social, the Scavenger Hunt Sweepstakes educated, entertained, and sparked conversation around the brand. And, most important, it boosted brand awareness and engagement.

“This was about more than just capturing info,” Larson says. “This was about engagement.”

The campaign didn’t disappoint. Fueled by influential bloggers and promoted posts, the sweepstakes had a Facebook CTR of about .75%—or more than 3,000 clicks. Marketers say mentions shot up 41%; there were more than 100,000 engagements (e.g. posts, likes, shares, retweets) and 9,000 sweepstakes entries. “That’s the one result that we are most proud of: the fact that our engagement rate was so high—5.67%.”

“So from this campaign we learned several things,” Larson says on a final note. “Mobile is a strong opportunity that needs to be optimized. Sweepstakes are good but not the only [strategy]. Use influencer marketing and build custom interactions. We’ll continue to look toward this in the future so that we offer this type of unique experience in all of our campaigns.”

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