Information-based success: Capital One’s Clinton Braganza

'Hands in my pocket, hands in my pocket, hands in my pocket.' Go ahead, sing along. You know you want to.

‘Hands in my pocket, hands in my pocket, hands in my pocket.’ Go ahead, sing along. You know you want to.

It’s not every day a jingle catches on and ingrains itself in Canadian culture. But, Capital One Canada has managed to do it. And while you may be thinking they just got lucky, think again. While luck certainly played a part, that’s not the whole story. There was a lot of research and testing involved, true to Capital One’s global hallmark of Information-Based Strategy (IBS), with director of marketing Clinton Braganza at the helm.

‘He’s got the rare ability to develop strong business strategies and translate them into executions,’ says boss Ian Cunningham, COO at Capital One Canada.

Since joining the company five years ago, Braganza has been working on raising his company’s profile in Canada. It had entered the market just three years before he started in 2001, and most Canadians still weren’t familiar with it. But instead of immediately launching a splashy ad campaign, Braganza opted for the slow and steady route and focused on building the customer base first with direct mail initiatives. ‘We wanted to make sure the business model was sound, and that we could self-fund the advertising,’ he explains.

It’s not surprising Braganza carefully plots each of his moves – he holds an economics degree from the University of Guelph. He says Capital One’s IBS is what attracted him to the company in the first place. IBS is a term coined by the company’s founder/chairman/CEO Rich D. Fairbank, defined as ‘combining the power of information, technology and testing to bring customized solutions to consumers.’

Braganza used the IBS principles to test his theory that having an internal creative services team could make the Canadian DM efforts more efficient – at the time, creative was done out of the U.S. office. So he developed a carefully researched proposal to get higher-ups on board. But instead of requesting a department, he asked for a test to prove his hypothesis. ‘In true IBS fashion, we did a test and hired a group of contractors for 12 months,’ he says. The test was successful – they found that the internal team better enabled them to create unique Canadian work in a cost-effective way. So last summer the contractors converted to full-time employees, and Braganza now has a five-person creative services team.

‘Clinton puts a ton of rigour into his proposals,’ says Cunningham. ‘Everything he says at meetings is well thought out.’

When it came to gaining support for a TV campaign, Braganza stayed true to the IBS principle and began testing U.S. and U.K. creative in 2005. Results indicated that homegrown Canadian creative would work best because our country’s high level of bank consolidation makes the market unique. He decided that Toronto-based shop Lowe Roche was the best-suited agency to help him. ‘They have an excellent track record of helping smaller challenger brands launch in Canada,’ he says.

Braganza faced the daunting task of staying in line with Capital One’s global brand positioning while resonating with Canadians at the same time. He looked to international work and found a common theme. ‘Capital One is known for a clever sense of humour,’ he says. ‘Humour resonates with Canadians.’ So, the key was to create a humorous spot that conveyed the company’s three main messages: great value, hassle-free and on your side.

Research also indicated music should play a big role, so Lowe Roche suggested commissioning Toronto-based singer-songwriter Jim Guthrie to write a jingle around the concept ‘hands in my pocket,’ which played on Canadians’ suspicious attitude towards the Big Five banks, and positioned Capital One as the company on your side. The result? By popular demand, Guthrie has since expanded the jingle into a full-length song.

Lowe Roche VP/CD Christina Yu credits Braganza with driving the strategy behind the spot, and rallying everyone at Capital One behind it. ‘He understands the importance of internal branding. He really motivates his people there, and that’s huge,’ she says, adding that she’s also impressed by his thorough understanding of the market. ‘He’s very inquisitive.’

It was his inquisitive nature that drew him away from the client side (he worked at American Express in Toronto for five years right out of university) for a three-year stint as an account exec at Grey Worldwide’s Toronto office in the late ’90s. ‘I thought it was a terrific opportunity to learn about advertising and be on the other side,’ Braganza recalls. ‘Even when I took the job at Grey, I always knew I’d be going back to the client side.’

And it’s on the client side that he achieved his career highlight to date. ‘The buzz created by our TV campaign is my proudest moment,’ he says. ‘When I started, there was not a lot of awareness…. [We were able to] create awareness in a relatively short amount of time.’

While it’s still too early to gauge its impact on sales, Braganza says early indications are very positive, and that research indicates that 70% of Canadians have seen the ad. There will be more where that came from, too. Braganza says we can expect to see another original campaign this summer.

FIVE QUESTIONS

Favourite movie of all time:

Star Wars. One of the first movies I saw (with my mom in fact). It’s timeless – my children enjoy it today as much as I did.

Favourite TV show of all time:

Magnum PI. It had everything for the senses – it was flashy, clever and funny.

Favourite magazine:

Men’s Health. To me it’s about a certain lifestyle – exercising, eating well and enjoying life with family and friends.

Greatest strength:

Inspiring excellence. I hire people with tremendous potential and challenge them to ensure that potential is realized through their work .

What’s the number-one thing you look for in an ad agency?

Passion. I want our agencies to deliver work that will enable our business to be successful.