How DBS reinvents brand campaigns through innovative storytelling and a full-funnel approach

Krishna Kota / April 2021

In a continually changing marketing landscape, digital-first strategies have enabled brands to rethink the roles of two traditionally siloed teams, brand marketing and performance marketing, and connect the dots between these two teams for better business outcomes.

According to BCG, digitally mature brands — ones that create strategic partnerships, invest in specialist skills, and build agile teams — report significant benefits from data-driven marketing, with an average incremental increase of 11% on revenue impact and 17% in cost efficiencies.

Fostering an agile, fail-fast culture of people who think differently, and choosing an experimental mindset over traditional ways of working, can often be the key differentiator of a successful marketing strategy.

To connect with today’s banking customers, DBS Bank chose to stay at the forefront of innovation, embraced a purpose-driven, digital-first strategy and built a culture of experimentation and innovation to continuously reimagine the way we operate and serve our customers.

Here, we explore how adopting a digital-first mindset led us to create an ongoing, industry-first creative campaign, Sparks, and how customer-centric, values-driven content can help us gain better insights into customers’ journeys, optimize marketing efforts, and allow for stronger connections with audiences.

New ways to connect: Creating a digital-first campaign around the way audiences consume content

With more and more audiences consuming video content online, DBS chose to create a mini-drama series on YouTube, with storytelling that would help to humanize banking.

The Sparks series kicked off in 2016 with 10 episodes in its first season. Inspired by true stories, we depict how DBS employees, empowered by the bank to make decisions that benefit our customers, are willing to go the extra mile to help them achieve their dreams.

The series proved to be an engaging and effective content marketing effort. With more than 250 million views, it was one of the top 10 ads watched on YouTube and has won a number of awards. The series also led to a 159% uplift in brand interest and a 46% recognition score in awareness and advocacy, which encouraged us to continue the momentum with a 10-episode second season in 2019.

Themed “Everyday Heroes for a Better World,” the second season focuses on sustainability — exploring social issues such as plastic pollution, food waste and social inequality. The whole purpose of season two is to heighten awareness and create a greater sense of urgency about the need to act.

While the long-form branding video series in itself was an industry-first, DBS continued to experiment with its performance marketing strategies with the help of Google and Infectious Media, which is a performance marketing agency.

To reach audiences where they are most present, we added connected TV advertising into the mix of our digital video ad buys, which drove 30% more completed views of Sparks ads.

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We also experimented with personalizing the way we reached audiences on YouTube with YouTube Instant Reserve campaigns that allowed us to match audience profiles with the theme of each episode. For example, people with an interest in cooking watched ads for an episode that focused on reducing food waste. This approach saw a 46% lower cost per click and 2X the number of impressions compared to regular open auction ad buys.

We took this one step further through a private marketplace deal with Unruly, which enabled us to reach audiences based on emotion- and personality-based criteria using its proprietary Unruly EQ tool. This resulted in a 50% increase in click-through rates and a 19% increase in video completion rates.

What the DBS Sparks campaign achieved

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Testing and learning: Using marketing tools to understand the customer journey

Following the initial success of Sparks across key brand metrics, we wanted to learn the impact of the campaign on business performance. We continued this experimentation approach by implementing new digital solutions that would give us a better understanding of our campaign efforts and how it impacted the business.

For the second season of Sparks, DBS partnered with Google, Infectious Media, and Kasatria, a Google Marketing Platform partner, to track the entire marketing funnel and evaluate the impact of the brand marketing initiatives on customers’ actions.

To help with measurement of Sparks video campaigns, we combined YouTube viewership data from Display and Video 360 with our first-party website data in Analytics 360 to understand the overlap between the two. With Campaign Manager, we could view the number of people who watched Sparks videos and went on to know more about a product or submit an application for a financial product on the DBS website.

This first-party data strategy enabled us to drive results for DBS by re-engaging customers and optimizing marketing efforts for digital-first banking customers. At the same time, we were able to respect user privacy as reports aggregated and anonymized data without relying on third-party cookies.

In Singapore, this led to more than 15% of new business-related loans and SME products, and 17% of wealth product inquiries coming from audiences who watched Sparks.

By finding synergies between branding and performance marketing efforts, we noticed an increase of 25% in submissions of online applications, especially for services related to SME and business banking, investments, loans, and insurance.

Armed with these insights, our team can now make data-driven decisions to optimize future brand campaigns.

Takeaways for marketers

Adopt an open culture of experimentation. It starts by taking a risk and trying something new. Build a marketing strategy around how today’s audiences are consuming and engaging with content. DBS experimented with an industry-first creative campaign, Sparks, to drive results.

Break down silos between teams. There is huge business growth potential when brands are able to connect the dots across the entire customer journey, enabling brands to design customer-centric marketing strategies. By building strategic partnerships between teams, DBS was able to execute and evaluate its brand campaigns in a more meaningful way.

Tell an authentic, values-driven story. Now that we no longer operate in a push-based marketing landscape, real-life stories that resonate with audiences humanize brands and create deeper, longer-term connections.

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