Ads that generate word-of-mouth recommendations deliver the best results

The ‘member’ campaign of Equity Bank was a classic case of word-of-mouth marketing not only because the ad agency devised a creative message that touched the hearts and minds of the wananchi (citizens), but also because it generated active chatter and adoption into the everyday conversation.

But isn’t that what advertising is supposed to do? David Ogilvy said that ads without a big idea pass like a ship in the night — as if it never really was there in the first place. In this instance, Equity Bank’s big idea was based on a powerful insight generated from an intimate knowledge of the customer through comprehensive research and a genuine interest in them.

The insight was relatively simple, as it should be, and it focused on the desire for financial security that results in a need to belong to a group that offers protection from the big bad world. This insight has been demonstrated by the popularity of chamas (investment or savings clubs) as a means of furthering financial goals to meet basic obligations and fulfill complex dreams.

‘I am a member’ thematic advertising spoke directly to that deep desire and amplified the pride that one has in belonging to a group that successfully completes its objectives and addresses the needs of its subscribers. In doing so it also welcomed you into their fold, to join other Equity Bank family members who were determined to chart their own course, overcome barriers and bring home the trophy.

The commercials captured the imagination of the masses, and made them feel that this was a bank that truly understood them and their call to join the family was met with open arms. “I am a member,” one would say as he introduced himself at the savings society meeting, or at the neighborhood watch committee.

Even the regulars would walk into the bars for their evening dose of refreshment and declare that “I am a member!” In schools, the students and teachers alike would proclaim it in unison as if it were the National Pledge or the Apostle’s Creed.

Equity Bank’s ad campaign blitz resulted in word-of-mouth promotion that lasted well after the ads ceased and the numbers spoke for themselves. With all things remaining equal, their business doubled annual for at least 5 years, as ‘members’ run over themselves to open accounts and perform other transactions. This was despite the fact that Equity Bank did not offer member discounts or subsidized rates and they were regularly quoted to have higher than average fees.

Paul Rand, the chairman of Critical Mass and Zócalo, in his book Highly Recommended says that 92 percent of all consumer report that a word-of-mouth recommendation is the leading reason they buy a product or service. So, if your traditional or interactive advertising doesn’t generate positive face to face or social media recommendations, then what’s the point of running any ads at all?

That’s has to get you thinking, especially with your executive committee breathing down your neck and demanding a tangible demonstration of ROI from your advertising budget. Yet, you know that when your commercials are broadcast on the local TV stations, peoples eyes glaze over and their thoughts shift to other happier places in the recesses of their minds.



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