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How to market a bank? Cuddly toys of course!

It’s always intriguing to see what banks and insurers are doing for marketing purposes.

Take current accounts.

HSBC offer a whole range of current accounts, but with no obvious gifts or special offers shown on the website.




Barclays offer a simple current account plus, which immediately stood out for its free mobile phone insurance offer.




Santander is offering a nice 1-2-3 current account: “Save when you spend, with cashback: 1% on water and council tax bills; 2% on gas and electricity bills; 3% on communications bills; + save when you don't with interest on your balance.”




Lloyds give you a little extra interest, but within a tight band of balances between £3,000 to £5,000.




Whilst NatWest make it clear that they have a strong pedigree with awards for mobile and online banking, although still no freebies or special offers obvious.




Having said that, they do highlight their NatWest pigs.


Natwest piggies


The NatWest pigs are one of the best UK bank marketing campaigns from olden days of caring banking, and have been around since 1981 as a marketing tool.

The idea is a simple one: a collector’s range of ceramic piggy banks.

The family of five characters were given to children holding accounts with the Bank, depending on the balance achieve, and the family were comprised of:

  • Sir Nathaniel Westminster the father,
  • Lady Hillary the mother,
  • Maxwell the boy,
  • Annabel the girl and
  • Woody the baby.

NatWest stopped promoting the pigs in 1988 and since then they have become collectors pieces, regularly sold on internet auction sites, and with many fakes around.

Interestingly, they revived the pigs in 2006 as part of a free prize draw contest, where savings customers were given the chance to win up to £10,000 and a limited edition Golden NatWest pig.

It amazes me that such a simple marketing campaign has not been repeated.

Oh … it has!

The amazingly successful campaign for comparethemarket.com, which uses a meerkat to advertise their website saying: “don’t get confused between comparethemeerkat and comparethemarket, simples!” has picked up on the idea.

The campaign has been running for three years, and has spawned books, wallpapers, ringtones, text alerts, voicemail messages and more.

So, why not offer a meerkat range of cuddly toys?

And that’s just what comparethemarket has done: produced the family of meerkats as plush toys.

From July 2011, any customer who purchased car, home or pet insurance via the website received one out of six meerkat characters: Aleksandr, Sergei, Vassily, Maiya, Yakov and Bogdan.


The rules are quite strict for the toys however.

First you have to buy an insurance from the website and then, second, you have to keep it.

The toy is sent after 30 days and can be claimed up to 90 days from the start of the insurance.

Not simples!

But, as a result, these suckers have also started to appear on auction websites as collectibles too.    

Aren’t the simplest ideas the best ones?



About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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