Standard Chartered UAE Launches ‘Go The Distance’ to Capture Emotional Stories

On 12th December, I received a DM from @StanChartUAE (Standard Chartered UAE’s twitter account) to inform me of their latest social media initiative, Go The Distance, falling under brand this time. SCUAE-Stories-HP I covered Standard Chartered many times on Visible Banking, both in Singapore and in UAE. Aman Narain, Global Head of Online and Mobile, is a friend of mine and he contributed to my 5th social media & finance workshop (Singapore, 1st Nov). If his Singapore based Breeze team have been more active on twitter with the extremely successful ‘the World’s Coolest Intern’ contest‘, Standard Chartered UAE was focused on facebook: in the last year or so, they successfully delivered the ‘get rich with a click’ campaign which aimed to drive online banking adoption and increase their follower base. Please note that we have to assume they drove a high quality of fans too, a significant proportion being banking customers. Their twitter presence is limited to a bit less than 100 followers since they launched the account back in October 2009.

Go The Distance: Connecting with Passionate Marathon Runners Now with this initiative, SC UAE’s approach has shifted a bit. This is a brand campaign, not a digital / online banking initiative. Here, they decided to give more exposure to their existing involvement in marathons, which makes perfect sense from a social media perspective. Too often banks ask about ROI and struggle to understand the value of social media.

The ROI of Social Media
First of all, they are so many ways to experience the impact of social media on your organization from recruitment on linkedin to customer support on twitter. Let’s step back for a second: your financial institution has been investing millions of dollars of your marketing budget to sponsor sporting events or charities. What if you: * could increase the impact and the visibility of those activities? * multiply your audience or traffic? * build Long Term relationships and real engagement with your target audience instead of generating activity for an event once a year? * effectively increase share of voice, improve natural search, and change brand perception? * achieve all of the previous for a fraction of your overall budget? You’ve already made a significant investment, it would be a mistake not to fully maximize its value if you could, don’t you think? Social media will help you do that. So would you really argue with me if I say this is a great example of the tremendous ROI social media has to offer?

Making Emotional Connections, far from Financial Products SC UAE has made another smart move. They are still experimenting, yet they’ve already achieved a lot on facebook and developed a good understand of the rules of engagement on the popular social network.
SCUAE-Facebook-9MarathonsDubai’s Marathon is the event the bank is targeting as part of this initiative, but SC as a company is sponsoring 8 other marathons so you imagine the potential if successfully rolled out. Here, we are not talking about financial services at all, but emotions and (brand) values. Capturing stories in CSR, sport sponsorship or charity work is an excellent, virtually “risk free”, way for financial institutions to improve brand perception and get to better understand user generated content and social media. People are usually passionate and proud to be running a marathon whether it is a one-off to prove something or raise money for a good cause, or part of your life like the professionals or semi pros whose aim is to get as close as possible to the mythical 3h mark. Runners are vocal too, they share tips and they invite their friends and contacts to support them. So if you give them the ability to express themselves and add some kind of reward to it, they will surely participate!

How does it work? Forget Facebook, Go to the Microsite SCUAE-GoTheDistance-HowItWorks
Basically, the initiative relies solely ona dedicated micro-site which is simple, yet eye catching. SC UAE also created a dedicated tab on their popular facebook page, but you will be systematically redirected to the microsite. Even though the initiative is positionned as ‘a collaboration’, in essence it is still a competition and the bank will reward the most shared and most liked stories at the end of January 2011. You can find a few calls to action on the homepage:
* 1st: contribute / submit your story which is clearly the main call to action.
* 2nd: stay updated / like Standard Chartered UAE’s page on facebook
* 3rd: check the stories / the pictures are very inviting and urge you to click
* 4th: register to run the marathon next January To be able to submit a story, you must sign up and give your email address. The whole process only takes a couple of minutes. Once registered, again it takes only a couple of minutes to upload a picture or a video and write a short caption.
Your story doesn’t go live straight away. As you would expect, the bank has implemented some kind of moderation process.
How Big is the Reward?
Again we are talking about emotions here. Entering ‘Go The Distance‘ is a great way for the Dubai Marathon runners to give more exposure to the causes they are supporting. But to urge more people to contribute, the bank has decided to also give away some iPhones 4, the bank’s favourite prize. Indeed almost every time the bank organized a competition in the last six months, one of the key prizes was an iphone 4. By now the bank must surely have access to wholesale prices due to the volume of phones they are giving away! 😉

I’m not sure how many winners the bank is planning to reward. Currently, the site says ‘the most shared and the most liked stories will win’, but how many? Also, most of the top stories will surely be both highly liked and shared… Moreover, the bank currently gives higher visibility to the top 3 shared and top 3 liked stories. And the more visible, the more liked. I am a bit concerned that in a couple of weeks, any new story would really struggle to catch up.

Promotion: High Visibility on Website, Facebook and Twitter
You know how big I am on the promotion front. Indeed, it is good to launch a social media initiative but don’t expect everybody to be aware of it straight away. Don’t rely only on word of mouth.
Let me refine: rely mainly on word of mouth, but first make sure to promote your initiative and give it maximum exposure on your own online assets (website, intranet, online banking, social media – twitter, blog, facebook, youtube -)! In this case, Standard Chartered is currently giving a huge amount of exposure on its website’s homepage. Call to action: you are redirected to the microsite.
Again, Go the Distance is the key focus on SC UAE’s facebook page. The social media team updated their profile picture and, as stated before, created a dedicated tab. They do a great job promoting on their wall some of the best stories submitted so far. They also use twitter to amplify those wall posts.
SCUAE-Stories-Facebook-PromoStory SCUAE-Stories-Twitter
My Key Remarks
I think it is a great initiative which could easily be scaled up and rolled out all over the world. I am eager to find out how many stories the bank will collect and how many positive conversations the initiative will generate.

Content & Contact Collection
I wonder which kind of content collection mechanism SC UAE did implement: they may have designed an email campaign to reach out to their clients, the previous Dubai Marathon runners, the aspiring Dubai Marathon 2011 runners, or the local running groups? By experience, the email response rate for stories is significantly higher than the industry average for email marketing.

Today, 44 stories were live on the microsite. I appreciate SC UAE has just launched the campaign, but considering the great visibility given by the bank on its online assets, and how simple and fast it is to register and submit a story, I was expecting more entries by now. Please note that a) I may be a bit too enthusiastic here, b) for what we know the bank may have received hundreds of entries awaiting moderation. The registration process gives SC UAE an excellent opportunity to gather email addresses.

My key question to the bank is how they do plan to leverage those email addresses and those contacts after the marathon? Where will they display the key stories?

I’m not sure why but so far I’ve never been able to display the story captions, which is a bit disappointing considering a few words bring context to a picture, and stories are about words right? This issue plus the way stories are currently displayed may minimize the impact on SEO and natural search.

Contributors & Reward
Great to see that SC UAE made it easy to register, submit a story, and participate. But as usual, I can’t help to wonder how slim the less social media savvy runners’ chances are to win an iphone. We experienced that during the highly visible ‘Chase Community Giving’ campaign on facebook which attracted this year over 2.5 million facebook users. The more online / offline promotion the charity did, the more mobilized their fans, the more visible online, hence the more chances of making the Top 200. To increase the chances of the newest entries, I would give more exposure to three random stories and improve the browsing experience by introducing categories.

Social Media Integration: Facebook and Twitter
Now, let’s talk about social media and in particular facebook and twitter! Sorry to disappoint you (I know I was), but there is no proper facebook integration or application available. The dedicated tab on SC UAE’s main corporate page only redirects to the microsite. To stay in touch, you are invited to like the page, which means that the bank will surely increase its follower base but it will impact its quality.

I’m curious to find out how the bank plans to communicate to those new fans which are essentially interested in running? They are not likely to be thrilled with updates about the bank or their future contests. On the other hand, I really like their wall updates and their tweets mentioning the reason for running the marathon: they are catchy and make me want to click and see the picture. Well done. Shame the bank in UAE hasn’t created a dedicated hashtag to cover the campaign, like @StanChartBreeze’s #wci used in Singapore to cover their ‘the World’s Coolest Intern‘ campaign on twitter.

Impact, Goals & Challenges
It’s great for the bank to experiment and get used to such an initiative. They’ll gather some excellent insights and they’ll be able to confidently focus on customers next. The bank will also face the key challenges of such a programme: content collection and moderation are two critical components. I wonder who is helping SC UAE with moderation, which is the most demanding and riguorous process in a social media programme.

By experience, even the digital agencies are reluctant to provide this critical bit. Indeed, it is time consuming and it requires a sizable, highly trained, sometime multilingual, workforce. If executed well, the campaign should:
* deliver for the brand (awareness and perception),
* impact the size (and the quality) of their fan base on facebook,
* help the bank to fully maximize its investment in the Dubai Marathon (and in the future the 8 other marathons). With the current setup the bank is unlikely to experience a big surge in SEO though.

The Enormous Potential of Stories in Financial Services
In the next 12-18 months, capturing customer stories is going to be one of the biggest areas of social in financial services. Let your customers do the talking, and invite them not to talk about products like a loan or a credit card, but what they did with the money and how it changed their lives one dollar at a time. Smartypig is one great example of goal oriented savings. People are not especially good at saving money, but we all have life events we must finance. People who set up specific goals and communicated them to their family and friends are more focused and committed. You asked for contribution so you can’t really give up, could you? 😉

If implemented well, a social media programme including customer reviews or stories gives a financial institution a fantastic opportunity to improve brand perception, improve natural search and various conversion rates, increase share of voice, and last but not least build new business relationships. At last, it is social media with a measurable ROI. But it is not as easy as it seems. You have to design and implement a data capture strategy, a robust moderation process, and distribute the stories in as many relevant channels as possible such as your website, your facebook page, your twitter account, even your offline marketing. There is a truly holistic impact beyond online. Standard Chartered is not the first bank to launch a campaign about stories. Please find below four other initiatives from the banking industry:
* Citi (2010): I invite you to visit the Citibank US page on facebook and check their current ‘toy story’ campaign. So far, they’ve collected 160+ stories.
* Frost Bank (2010): a couple of months ago, Frost Bank in Texas started to collect stories and display them on the ‘What Frost Believes’ microsite. Frost regrouped their customer contribution in 11 “principles” (categories).
* USAA (2010): the most innovative financial institution in the US has started to capture member stories. They are already displaying over 240 stories on their public website.
* Wells Fargo (2008): between May-July 2008, WF launched a social media campaign, Someday Stories, to urge their clients to describe their “true, aspirational story about you, your family members or your friends that identifies a financial need that Wells Fargo has the ability to help meet”. Again, it makes sense, we are not talking about financial products, but how they impacted our clients lives. We are not even talking, but we give our customers a platform to express themselves.

It is important to have a highly trained moderation team and how implementing stories as part of your social media programme can have a massive impact on your business. Basically, stories:
1. associate your brand with themes customers are excited and passionate about,
2. add a human dimension to your products,
3. engage fans in the conversational context of social networks.
And integrating reviews and stories in facebook is a great way to really leverage your page and engage with your fans, at last!

What do you think?

Written by Christophe Langlois

Based in London for almost a decade, Christophe is an entertaining fintech marketing keynote speaker and a trusted advisor to the global financial services industry on the topics of digital marketing, innovation and B2B social media.

Christophe has contributed to over 140 events in 18 countries.

Currently, Christophe is advising a number of fintech startups on marketing and growth hacking and he is the Chief Marketing Officer of The Fintech Power 50, an exclusive annual programme helping fintech scale-ups to accelerate their growth globally.

Christophe's views on are his own.

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