Brand Slam Award winner: City National Bank campaign stays nimble

‘This campaign taught us a lot about the importance of agility. We had to adapt our processes to expedite changes. Pretty much faster than we have ever before.’

By Craig Colgan

City National Bank’s What even is a HELOC anyway? campaign found success by focusing on multiple real world examples of popular uses of home equity lines of credit and “by sparking imagination about what is possible.”

“Our media dollars efficiently drove marketing qualified leads while our creative strategy did the educational heavy lifting,” reads CNB’s ABA Brand Slam Award-winning entry in the social media category, announced at the 2023 ABA Bank Marketing Conference. (The 2024 winners will be announced at the conference in Chicago in October.)

“We discovered through research that home renovations are the most popular use for HELOCs, which created a great creative opportunity. We explored using contextual creative to stand out above the noise, in the right channels and at the right time to get in front of the target audience and ensure quality leads. We optimized content for social platforms, capturing latent demand and converting form fills into actual leads through Facebook and Instagram.”

The campaign stayed responsive to a rapidly changing market, refreshing creative to keep up with rate adjustments. Patrick McCarthy, senior VP and head of marketing and MarTech at City National Bank, answered our questions:

What is the key to this campaign’s design and success?

The key to success for this HELOC campaign was understanding the demand and the marketplace, while also being as efficient as possible with our media plan. We recognized the opportunity to speak to audiences by continuing to offer HELOCs in the face of increasing interest rates, while our competitors chose not to, thereby taking advantage of that newly developed white space. Additionally, our dedicated research into consumers’ understanding of HELOCs meant we knew what they most often used them for, which was reflected in the creative.

How have you adjusted this campaign as interest rates fluctuated?

From a creative standpoint, our philosophy remained the same: Lead with the rate, and showcase all the ways a HELOC could be used to not only increase the value of a client’s home but make it their dream home given how much more time people were spending at home.

We worked closely with our sales and product teams to ensure that the entire organization was aligned and ready to deliver on the marketing. We are very proud of the partnership we had in place with sales, product, and legal and fair lending teams to remain nimble while being compliant.

From a production standpoint, it was essential to have a process in place to update interest rates as soon as they increased to ensure our creative remained accurate and relevant. It was important to us to be as nimble as possible given how quickly rates change and given the demand for HELOCs as the value of homes continued to increase. Each time the rate increased during the duration of this campaign, we were able to update and deliver new creative within three business days. This was repeated several times throughout the campaign as rates continued to increase.

Your entry noted: “Overall, the campaign design created a feedback loop that continued to refine targeting capabilities to deliver increasingly more qualified consumers down the funnel, beginning with engaging imagery on social.” Can you add some details?

The campaign was organized to accommodate shifts mid-flight that meant more of the target audience would see our creative. We reviewed our creative and media performance weekly and made optimizations based on real-time findings:

Media optimizations: Once a partner was in-market for minimum of two weeks, optimizations were made to maximize results. If a partner fell below benchmarks, spend was shifted towards partners driving the most efficient cost-per-form-fill.

Creative optimizations: We structured carousel creative for sequence flexibility, so platforms could optimize the order of frames based on performance. We also animated static assets once we discovered video assets outperformed stills.

By making these changes based on data, we were able to increasingly place our messaging at the right time, to the right audiences.

What did you learn from this campaign?

This campaign taught us a lot about the importance and effectiveness of agility. We were focused on delivering the latest rates and incorporating new learnings mid-flight based on audience behavior, which meant we had to adapt our processes to expedite changes, pretty much faster than we have ever before.

We also learned that simple was best for representing the concept of a HELOC. Basic imagery like a paint roller or a blueprint conveyed the idea of a HELOC, proving that less is more when it came to discussing what most likely was a new concept to some consumers.

Anything at all tactically or budget-wise or anything else that you wish to add?

Efficiency was key both tactically and budget-wise, and we did this by applying learnings from our previous year’s campaign and leaning into channels that were the biggest drivers of results like paid social and search engine marketing.

Our focus budget-wise was to keep within a target cost per form fill, which we were able to do while also exceeding our predicted number of form fills.


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