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DBS pushes regional brand campaign to continue defying what being a bank means

DBS pushes regional brand campaign to continue defying what being a bank means

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Financial services group DBS is making a big splash with its latest regional campaign that reflects its belief that, by behaving more like a startup, more like a techie, more like an eco-warrior, and less like a "traditional bank, it can be a bank for the times – because a post-COVID world demands for a different kind of bank. The brand campaign which comes four years after its “Live more, Bank less” positioning, builds on what DBS wants to stand for and aims to defy the status quo of what being a bank means.

The campaign, which will be rolling out across six markets in Asia, namely Singapore, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia and Taiwan over the next two months, showcases DBS' commitment to becoming more like a forward looking tech company offering financial services. Done together with Tribal Worldwide Singapore, the campaign will run largely on digital, social and OOH platforms. 

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In an interview with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE Karen Ngui, managing director and DBS' head of group strategic marketing and communications shared that DBS has always been a purpose-led company, and now with the campaign, it hopes to position itself “more like a startup, more like a techie, more like an eco-warrior, and less like a traditional bank”.

She explained that the positioning was built on the insight that today, a different kind of bank is needed – one that is more innovative, technology and sustainability-focused. As such, the key focus areas for the campaign will be:

  • Committing to continuous innovation: DBS embarked on its digital transformation journey in 2014 so customers can “live more, bank less”, and have more time to spend on the people and things they care about. Whether it is in leveraging artificial intelligence/ machine learning and data, blockchain technology, or tying up ecosystem partnerships, the bank seeks to ensure that banking is simple, fast and effortless, increasingly personalised, and seamlessly woven into everyday life.

  • Inculcating a startup culture: Emerging technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence/ machine learning continue to mature and will likely reshape the world of finance in the coming decade. By imbuing a startup culture in the organisation and equipping employees with important digital skills, a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship will continue to flourish.

  • Advancing the sustainability agenda: From banking underserved communities and supporting social enterprises to prioritising action on climate change, DBS is guided by a sense of responsibility to society and planet. The bank also champions financial inclusion and zero food waste. In 2021, DBS was the first Singapore bank to join the United Nations-convened, industry-led Net-Zero Banking Alliance, pledging to align its lending and investment portfolios with net-zero emissions by 2050. Earlier this year, it also committed an additional SGD 100 million to grow DBS Foundation’s existing ‘Business for Impact Chapter’ and to set up a new ‘Community Impact Chapter’. The increased funding will also support other philanthropic and relief efforts.

Ngui added that as early as 2015, DBS had embarked on a new vision to become “the best bank for a better world” which required a reimagining of what banking stood for and putting the customer at the heart of all of its efforts. This also meant that the marketing team under Ngui had to reimagine branding, strategic marketing and communications.

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“Marketing today requires us to think differently be it in media or content strategies. It's no longer just about getting the press release out, or developing yet another ad or an event. We have to now think like content strategists and data analysts,” she shared.  

This led to the bank creating several content executions such as Sparks which is currently wrapping up its second season, garnering more than 400 million views and over 20 million digital engagements across Asia. Through the series, DBS wanted to address some of the most pressing social and environmental issues of the day. During the pandemic, DBS also launched Portraits of Purpose, which depicted real stories of hope, courage, perseverance and generosity among individuals, businesses and communities in the face of adversity. DBS affirmed that it garnered over 32 million views and two million digital engagements to date.

“While we believe in the power of storytelling, what is even more important to us is ‘story-doing’ and being authentic to the causes and purpose we believe in,” she added.

Moreover, DBS has also invested heavily on the content marketing front, creating an in-house studio and hiring industry experts to now create a well-oiled content marketing machine. “From early on we’ve always questioned what sort of skill sets do we need to build internally. We have questioned the type of teams we need to reimagine how we do marketing communications,” she explained.

Another key aspect the brand is highly focused on is in user and customer experience. “In the bank, we labour over whether it took the customer three clicks or swipes to reach their end goal and if that can be cut down. Sometimes it takes a whole lot of effort on our part to go from three clicks to two, but we will do it if we can because it is all about the convenience of the customer. At the end of the day, we want banking to be less of a chore and hassle, and more seamlessly integrated in life,” she added. And while DBS has always prided itself in being a tech-enabled institution, and the latest campaign definitely showcases that, what is even more vital is to have internal employee buy-in on the matter.

“We can always go out there, and say whatever we want to say, but if internally, we're still doing same old, same old, then what's the point?” she said. “Our CEO Piyush Gupta has always said that the bank operates like a 33,000-person start-up and this culture has been embedded within the company to question the status quo and create innovative solutions,” she added.

Ending the interview on a personal note, Ngui added that throughout her career she has always believed in building a brand inside out.

“I think that internal alignment is absolutely critical. So whether you speak to me or to any of my colleagues, they will tell you what our vision is, they will tell you what our brand promise is, they will also tell you key facets of our strategy. And you know, I think that's really important,” she shared.

“It is not putting lipstick on a gorilla to say like, ‘Oh this looks nice’. So I think marketing and branding and communications these days is about showing what we stand for and showing what our values are, and showing a strong sense of purpose,” she added.

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