ING Direct Canada: advocating advocacy

Social media isn't known to be fertile ground for financial institutions, and that's what sets ING Direct Canada apart from its well-established and walled competitors. For the direct banker, the digital space is a good fit, especially given that it positions itself as a consumer advocacy brand against unfair banking fees.

Social media isn’t known to be fertile ground for financial institutions, and that’s what sets ING Direct Canada apart from its well-established and walled competitors. For the direct banker, the digital space is a good fit, especially given that it positions itself as a consumer advocacy brand against unfair banking fees.

‘We wanted to create a level of awareness, insert some facts to get Canadians to think more about the fees they pay, and make sure they understood what a fair fee is, so get the conversation going,’ says Peter Aceto, president and CEO of ING Direct Canada. ‘We thought of social media as the best place for that conversation to happen.’

So, working with Toronto-based GWP Brand Engineering, ING Direct launched a national social media campaign in May to educate and encourage Canadians to challenge unfair bank fees.

The effort included a full-page newspaper ad featuring a letter from Aceto that drove struggling money savers to Fairfees.ca, an interactive, online community where they watch a video message from Aceto, access information on bank fees, sign a petition addressed to the Minister of Finance, participate in a poll and voice their feelings about unfair banking fees.

‘The brand objective was to get people talking about this and ultimately mobilize consumers to try and make change for all institutions everywhere in the country,’ says Bruce Philp, president and managing partner at GWP Brand Engineering. ‘If this brand is going to position itself as an advocate it has a duty to stand up.’

ING Direct also used Facebook through its Save Your Money fan page, and it’s YouTube channel at Youtube.com/superstarsaver to call Canadians to the cause, but it relied much more heavily on Twitter as a means of mobilizing frugal foot soldiers.

On top of plugging Fairfees.ca through Twitter.com/superstarsaver, ING Direct introduced ‘Fee Tweeter,’ making it the first bank in Canada to launch a Twitter application that tracks fees. By tweeting, users can compare the bank fees they’ve accrued, and share their thoughts.

‘We’re learning that there’s tremendous [advantage to] being engaged in this space, because there is this small number of people [who have control] over the behaviour of entire marketplaces,’ says Philp.

Since launching, ING Direct’s fair fees movement has seen much success. From May to September, Fairfees.ca received more than 87,000 visits, with 15,000 visits to the video page and 4,400 petition signatures. The ‘Fee Tweeter’ app accumulated over 450 followers and over 500 fee tweets accounting for more than $21,000 in user bank fees. ING Direct Canada’s Twitter profile is up to 511 followers.

Aceto has also set about further personalizing the online conversation with customers with his own Twitter page, which has over 2,200 followers at Twitter.com/CEO_INGDirect, as well as his own blog. He’s been using both to further the fair fees cause and talk to Canadians about other issues and even his pastimes.

‘No one’s ever written a tweet for me. They really come from my experiences during the day, things that are of particular interest to me,’ says Aceto. ‘I enjoy being a part of the conversation.’

So much so that he helped bring the online conversation offline. Last month he hosted ING Direct Canada’s first ever ‘Meet and Tweet’ at the company’s Vancouver location known as a café.

Fiscally-minded community members and social media buffs gathered to talk about the use of social media in business, community building and traditional media, complete with Wi-Fi access and bar refreshments.

‘They’re talking about us, so I’d rather be there, or be a part of the conversation and set the record straight,’ says Aceto. ‘I think social media, how easy it is for people to speak and talk, will demand that corporations be more open, honest and transparent.’

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