Online bank draws on powerful motives to market a new kind of savings

The motives: Save more money by getting a bigger return on your savings, do good in or out of your community, and get your bank to give its own money to your favorite charity.


Claire Bean, Heather Campion, and Richard Wayne planned to retire from banking and spend subsequent years helping nonprofits. Instead, they invented a scheme that allowed an online savings bank to benefit good causes while it reinvigorated the venerable savings bank idea. They named their online-only savings institution “ableBanking.”

They hired Cramer, a Boston PR and advertising agency, to draw up a campaign that appealed to women. Cramer’s digital marketing plan was the decisive winner in the Best Digital Marketing Campaign category in PR Daily’s Digital PR & Social Media Awards.

PR Daily’s 2012 Digital PR and Social Media Awards were presented by Synaptic Digital. Learn more about Synaptic Digital here (pdf).

The Cramer media plan won, first of all, because it met a solid business need. Cramer combined an irresistible appeal to the self-interest of customers—”You’ll earn more interest on your savings at ableBanking than at your present bank”—with an imaginative appeal to the philanthropic passions of professional women.

AbleBanking wooed an intelligent, educated, upscale audience of civic-minded women with these potent lures in its teaser website:

• It promised to give away $25 of the bank’s money to each new member’s favorite charity simply for signing up as an ableBanking customer.
• It promised to donate $25 more to a customer’s favorite charity if the customer referred a friend to ableBanking.
• It guaranteed to pay out of the bank’s pocket 0.25 percent of a member’s total average annual savings balance to any charity she chose. Savers were pleased to see favorite charities benefit simply from the way they banked.
• It made short videos about the work of six worthy local causes to help customers decide how to give away the bank’s money, and showed what these charities could do with $25.
• It showed that the annual returns on its money market accounts and its CDs were substantially greater than the returns promised by the physical, all-service banks. How was this possible? AbleBanking was online only; it had no branches, and no traditional advertising. Therefore, it had very little overhead, and no banking fees. It said up front, “We’re NOT a full-service bank. We can’t replace your everyday bank. We’re an online savings bank. And because we don’t have branches or multiple services, we pay you higher interest.”
• The teaser site combined a persuasive “hero video” (“I am able”) with a call to action (sign up for launch alerts) and a memorable offer (get an exclusive invitation to join).
• Cramer’s marketing deftly made new sign-ups feel not just like customers, but like privileged members of a benevolent club or association, as indeed they were.

The results were, predictably, remarkable:

• 8,000 leads (persons who completed registration pages in order to be notified when ableBanking officially launched)
• More than 7,000 Facebook likes
• 900 leads captured at the Massachusetts Conference for Women (13 percent of the 7,000 attendees)
• 5,000 blog visits
• 20,000 visits to the website
• 40 percent of emails opened, and a 15 percent click-through rate (both well above national averages)

Cramer team members wrote and designed a beautifully simple website outlining these unusual incentives. They had the good sense to recognize that the scheme would sell itself. And their transparent, sober, plain English for ableBanking’s website is a pleasure to read.

It is possible to read the website to get the whole picture of ableBanking’s ingenious offer in about 90 seconds. The website is online minimalism at its very best.

Darren Ross explains why this campaign is so successful:

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Topics: PR

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