Santander adopts agile marketing approach as it looks to increase effectiveness

The bank brand will evaluate the performance of a new campaign for its Santander Cycles sponsorship every week, a much shorter period than normal, as it looks to move the industry away from long buying and production cycles.

Santander Cycle

Santander is adopting a new marketing approach inspired by Agile software development, most commonly used in IT as a collaborative way to find solutions, as it looks to boost the efficiency of spend and marketing effectiveness.

The strategy uses ‘sprints’ to constantly evaluate the performance of the advertising with the aim of ensuring the efficiency of creative and media. It means Santander will be adapting and tweaking the campaign on a weekly basis, a much shorter timescale than usually used hence the name sprints, in reaction to how well it performs based on feedback from consumers.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Santander’s CMO Keith Moor says the new approach is an “evolution” for the brand that came about as he learnt more about Agile methodologies. Moor has also visited businesses in Silicon Valley to look at how they work and what Santander can do to make its processes more agile without increasing pressure.

“We are talking about agile with a small a not a capital A. Agile project methodology is largely aligned to IT related projects, so a way of doing faster, better IT development. But the processes you learn from it you can apply to different sectors and parts of the business,” he explains.

“We use Agile a lot for our IT and we want to take the principles of Agile, turn them into a small a and be agile in marketing.”

The industry has, unfortunately, been constructed around things like long booking deadlines or production cycles and that is what we want to change.

Keith Moor, Santander

In practice what this means is that Santander will hold “huddles” every morning to work out the priorities for the day, and not commit creative and spend “so far in advance that you can’t change them”. Moor says while machine learning and programmatic can work in some areas, such as digital buying, there are many areas where “you can’t do that yet” but Santander wants to apply the same mindset that “nothing is ever 100% fixed”.

“The principle we have taken is that we can commit to a certain amount of activity then we’ll monitor it daily and change it the follow week,” he adds.

“We have champion and challenger approaches and we are testing, testing, testing with consumers and getting feedback all the time. It’s about changing the mindset. The industry has, unfortunately, been constructed around things like long booking deadlines or production cycles and that is what we want to change. It has to change because that is not the way the world works.”

Building on the success of Santander Cycles

Santander Cycle

The strategy is first being used in a campaign for its Santander Cycles sponsorship. The ‘Unlock you London’ campaign, led by creative agency WCRS working as part of an Engine team, aims to showcase the best the capital has to offer on two wheels.

Launching today (26 June) across digital outdoor, VoD and social, it features influencers such as AJ Odudu and Ellie Adams, as well as brand ambassadors Jessica Ennis-Hill and Jenson Button, creating their own bike routes to show the best spots across the capital for activities such as eating out or doing a workout.

The work is deliberately low cost, with Santander spending “a few thousand pounds” on creative at a time to allow it to adapt and tweak the activity based on feedback. “It is so straightforward, its not rocket science, it almost sounds like why isn’t everyone doing it,” says Moor.

The campaign aims to build on what Santander sees as the success of the sponsorship since it took over from Barclays in 2015. It had a record-breaking 2016 with 10.3 million bike hires and the first four months of this year also saw the highest monthly hires. The aim is to get people thinking about hiring the bikes for a wider range of uses, rather than just commuting or a similar specific reason.

READ MORE: Santander’s CMO on how its ‘Cycles’ sponsorship has boosted brand engagement

Moor says the brand is reaping the benefits of the sponsorship, with brand attributes such as trust and advocacy – both among people that use the scheme and those that are aware of it – increasing. And he believes it plays well into its wider brand purpose to ‘help people and businesses prosper’.

“People like organisations and brands that help facilitate things in their communities, and bikes are an example of that. It’s just about communities and helping them grow and prosper, helping feel healthy, have choice about what they do and having alternatives,” he says.

“The way the world will move is towards walking, cycling, and away from private cars. Hopefully they will use the range of infrastructure, not just bikes, and that is what is sustainable.”



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  1. Fiona Blades 29 Jun 2017

    How refreshing to see Keith Moor challenge the industry to be more agile. We have the tools to evaluate all marketing touchpoints in real time, yet many marketers are held back by the mindset that production cycles and booking deadlines prevent optimisation.
    In our current UK Retail Banking study we can see the importance of Santander sponsoring bikes, not only in creating awareness, but in building positive brand perception and buzz. Yet most marketers are not picking up sponsorship experiences and brand encounters in public places. Nor are they contextualising these with their branch, digital and traditional comms or benchmarking against all their competitors. Traditional retrospective research over-represents dominant touchpoints, like TV, and overshadows highly important brand encounters, like sponsored bikes and seeing ads on ATMs.

    Even with current structures and the right mindset there is plenty we can do. Working with Edgewell on the launch of Wilkinson Sword Hydro in Germany, numerous changes were successfully made, including re-purposing ads, resulting in a threefold improvement in advertising cost-effectiveness. The case study was written up in Harvard Business Review Real-time experience data is the perfect accompaniment to agile marketing.

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