Given the success of ING Direct, described by the Mail on Sunday as the ‘fastest growing bank in UK banking history’, one could be forgiven for thinking it was an easy ride; just a case of a great product that sold itself.
But in truth, some very substantial obstacles stood in the way of success.
1. The UK savings market was over-crowded.
2. Savers were apathetic and rarely switched banks.
3. The mainstream saver did not choose Direct Banks.
4. A competitive rate was not enough. Research showed the primary drivers of consideration were brand stature and awareness, of which ING Direct had zero.
5. There had already been several high-profile failures of direct savings banks and even the more successful Direct Banks had only gained niche appeal .
There was thus a big task ahead.
But ING Direct’s ambitions did not stop here. It wanted to use its savings product as the platform for building not just another Direct Savings Bank, but a powerful financial services brand. Without a High Street presence, communication was the key tool at its disposal.
By the end of 2005, ING Direct had over one million customers, £24.5bn of funds under management, the highest savings market share growth and the highest spontaneous brand awareness of any Direct Bank. ING Direct is on the verge of launching other products and had broken even, all in under three years.
The key to success lay in three areas:
· Identifying a viable gap in an over-crowded market.
· A communications campaign which cleverly integrated the simple, for everyone nature of the product with signals about the reliability of the provider.
· A media strategy which continually sought to maximise “the bang for every buck”.
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