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What’s up with DBS’ quirky marketing choices?

Earlier this month, DBS Bank brought its content marketing push to life commissioning a musical based on its 10-episode web mini-series, SPARKS. In SPARKS: The Musical, local actor Adrian Pang reprises his role as Chester Teo, a no-nonsense DBS banker who cares deeply about his clients, as he reminisces about his experiences – personal and professional.

The two-hour long entertainment was not DBS’ first move into experimenting with live content creation and execution. In February this year, it created its very own branded comedy called “THE FUNNY IN MONEY” to push for further adoption of its PayLah! app with three comedy greats – Hossan Leong, Pam Oei and Fakkah Fuzz.

Clearly, as the brand turns 50, it is getting bolder and quirkier in its marketing stunts. According to Karen Ngui (pictured), head of group strategic marketing and communications at DBS, what triggered the change in direction, was the fact that brands and marketers now have a diminishing ability to have full control of communication. Consumers can now “switch messages off” easily. She said,

It’s no longer about interruption marketing, but immersive marketing.

“Recognising this, we moved towards a new model of marketing where we produce content that creates conversations and experiences for our consumers, with the aim of winning hearts and minds, at scale,” she added. This involves innovative storytelling and engaging consumers on social platforms with bite-sized pieces of shareable, authentic content.

Elaborating further on SPARKS, Ngui said over the past two years, the episodes have garnered more than 150 million views across the region. The series has over the years been amplified over social channels such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, along with both static and dynamic display ads across numerous networks and publishers and VIU.

“The series resonated with many of our colleagues. Consumer reaction has also been great,” she said. Moreover, the series also translated to business impact, as evidenced by data DBS gathered from attribution modelling, Ngui explained.

Given how close to home the series hit for DBS, in February, the brand created and distributed a special DBS Sparks jewellery collection to its employees. The collection was modelled after the spark found in DBS’ logo, consisting of a pair of an 18K gold-plated cufflinks for the men and a necklace for the women. All of its employees in all 18 of its markets were said to receive these gifts. According to Ngui, this was done as the bank believes that is staff embody the DBS spark, which represents the “spirit of imagination, that sense of possibility, and the courage to make things happen”.

Ngui added that initiatives such as SPARKS materially communicates what the bank stands for. “This, we feel, creates a more enduring sense of competitive advantage,” she said.

Without going into numbers, Ngui said the production cost of the SPARKS mini-series is said to be similar to that of producing a TVC. However, the distribution cost is a fraction of broadcast. She added that today, traditional marketing has rapidly evolved from one-way communications to two-way, quality engagements that are catalysed by compelling content.

As such, the brand will “certainly continue to up the ante on digital brand storytelling”, exploring different formats to bring the DBS story to our target audience in the most relatable, and compelling manner.

“Digital presents the opportunity to do more targeted marketing to specific audience segments. SPARKS is primarily a digital product and campaign, and distribution has been much more cost-effective than traditional media like TVC,” she said.

Read also:
Mad wo(men) of marketing: Meet DBS’ Karen Ngui
DBS Bank drops ‘Living, Breathing Asia’ tagline in SG$30m rebrand

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