Integrated campaign for first-time homebuyers

RBC Royal Bank is looking to demystify the home-buying process for first-time buyers with an integrated campaign designed to shepherd them through the process with services relevant to each buying stage.

RBC Royal Bank is looking to demystify the home-buying process for first-time buyers with an integrated campaign designed to shepherd them through the process with services relevant to each buying stage.

The products and services are all wrapped up under the umbrella of the First-Time Homebuyers Package. At the heart of the campaign is permission-based marketing resulting in ongoing personalized communications and, it is hoped, a lifelong relationship with these consumers.

The campaign, which includes newspaper, magazine, radio, direct mail, in-branch and Internet, features a call-to-action that directs consumers to www.rbcroyalbank.com/firsthome – or to an RBC 1-800 number or branch.

Online, customers are put into three categories – re-evaluator, switcher and first-time home buyer – and given a nine-digit PIN number that will determine which questionnaire version they are given.

Once they have filled out the online quiz, they’re bounced to Web sites appropriate to their buying stage, whether they’re two months or two years away from purchase. The incentive to complete the questionnaire is a contest for $10,000 to be applied to their down payment.

It’s at this point that the personalized messaging begins via e-mail or direct mail with information on topics ranging from mortgages to amortization.

The direct mail component of the campaign targets existing RBC customers who do not have a mortgage with the bank. Predictive modeling was used to select the prospects based on their demographic and product/service profile to determine the most likely to be first-time homebuyers.

The campaign illustrates RBC’s new lifestage approach to marketing that focuses on customer needs at various points in life rather than on products and services.

Because the first-time homebuyer could be anywhere from 20 years old to 50-plus, advertising vehicles range from the younger-skewed NOW magazine to mainstream newspapers. Banner ads appear not on financial sites but on those appealing to a younger demographic as well as general interest sites such as CANOE and Sympatico.

Shelagh Rutledge of the advertising group at RBC Financial says since the mortgage market is much hotter this year compared to last, mortgage applications are expected to be up as a matter of course.

‘It’s probably still a little bit early to predict anything, but I can tell you we are very pleased with the results to date – considering the campaign has only been in the market maybe three weeks,’ she says. ‘I suspect we will meet, if not surpass, our objectives based on these preliminary results.’

The national campaign is from Allard-Johnson Communications of Toronto. Continuing RBC’s ‘Helping you make the most of your dreams’ theme, the advertising uses headlines such as ‘Still sketchy on how to buy your first home?’

Bill Coristine, vice-president of direct marketing at Allard-Johnson, says that in a category where the point of difference has been low interest rates or cashbacks, this campaign was developed to differentiate on the basis of RBC being the bank that really understands first-time buyers.

There was a lot of research undertaken to help the agency get under the skin of the first-time homebuyer and understand their needs and separate RBC from the ‘sameness’ of the market, says Coristine. The use of the Web was chosen as the primary communications tool to convey the feeling to customers that their individual needs are unique and not just part of a mass campaign.

‘First-time buyers are going through a lot of anxiety. They have a lot of questions and are often intimidated about going to a bank. We wanted to break down that barrier and in essence say, there’s no such thing as a dumb question,’ Coristine says.

‘[In research], what they told us about mortgages is they need information, help, advice. What we’ve done is talk to them in a voice that we hope suggests someone approachable and understanding of their needs.’