How Santander in Scandinavia balances local knowledge with multinational might

Rikke Hagemann July 2019 Success Stories

Find out how independent marketing teams in four Nordic countries created a common language for collaboration through Labs and a single shared platform – and what we can learn from them.

Santander Consumer Bank AS delivers banking services for financial giant Banco Santander across four Nordic countries. Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark are all distinct markets, but they have a lot in common, which is why twice a year the company’s independent marketing teams come together to meet and share their experiences, discuss best practice and talk about digital marketing.

Over the course of those meetings, the teams recognised areas where they were working on the same things in conflicting ways. “It wasn’t just a challenge that we weren’t at the same level of progress,” says Lars Petersen, the company’s Nordic E-business Manager. “We weren’t working from the same foundation, either. What one marketer might call a lead, or a commercial, might mean something completely different to a colleague in another country, working with a different framework.”

Balancing local knowledge with global resources

Like many large organisations, Santander looks to balance local knowledge with global resources. But to do that, teams need to understand common goals, share systems, and have a common language for discussing challenges. “Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden may seem similar from a distance, but they are culturally very different,” says Lars. “At the same time, it's inefficient to work so independently that we ignore each other. Rather than reinventing the wheel four times, we need to encourage teams to share ideas and solutions.”

To do that, Santander standardised digital marketing tools and ran a series of Labs, helping marketing teams to understand what they have in common and build progress together.

Learning to speak the same language

“Data is the new oil,” says Lars. “Marketing has become a lot more technical in a very short period of time. Today, mapping the customer journey is one of our top priorities, so that we can understand what people really want, and how to personalize the way we approach them.”

The different teams used different tools to do that, however, which is why Santander Consumer Bank migrated all four national operations to Google Marketing Platform to create a shared, cost-effective approach to web analytics. Key players from each team were chosen to align on the new tools at a Google Programmatic Strategy Lab. A pilot team of five attended the first event, quickly followed by an exclusive session to bring international teams together to share best practice and create a common language.

Three strategic advantages of creating a common framework

For multinationals, dispersed organizations or any large businesses, Lars picks out three areas where aligning digital initiatives can deliver real strategic gains.

1. Make the most of low-hanging fruit

“When separate teams can communicate, and everyone is working on one platform, a little lateral thinking can make a big difference,” says Lars. “For example, we can use web analytics from different countries to create one segment of several million people who we identify as customers, then use that directly on our online advertising platform. That kind of low-hanging fruit becomes much more valuable and available now that we're using the same base.”

2. Leapfrog over challenges to make better use of resources

“A big part of my role in the company is to connect teams across borders, so they don’t replicate each others work” says Lars. “If we share just 25% of our findings with each other, then there are real advantages. But if we work entirely as one unit, we hinder efficiency, because one team would always be ahead. For example, our Norwegian department is currently ahead with its project to analyse data from Google Marketing Platform with cloud-based data analytics for real-time targeting. Now, when one country is leading in a specific area, it can share that knowledge with another country more easily, so we get a kind of leapfrog effect.”

3. Align on shared approaches and common goals

“We had not previously approached digital marketing in a real structured way,” says Lars. “Now, after the Google Labs, everyone is talking about the “See, Think, Do, Care” framework and how to implement it in their area. That’s added structure to the way we look at things, both as a region, and by country.”

More than an offsite – it’s built into the DNA

For Santander, taking the Lab was always about more than learning new skills. “Our whole way of working has become more aligned,” says Lars. “Our direction of travel is that bit more clear. Now when people share their processes, their learning, and their interests, colleagues from other countries can identify much more quickly than before.”

“The most valuable part of the experience was that the right people took part,” says Lars. “We chose people who would actually implement that knowledge in a hands-on way. Now, one year on, the same people are still putting that learning to work, as we ready for the next labs.”

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