Varying Ad Copy Could Change the Fortunes of Student Bank Account Marketing

Lorna Gill Posted by Lorna Gill

woman smiling in graduation cap and gown

As students flock to university in the next month or two, we take a look at how the high street banks are marketing their student accounts to help the happy grads manage their money without the help of mum and dad.

Thousands of students receive their A-Level results today (August 13th) and will find out whether they’ve been accepted by their dream universities or if they’ll have to seek shelter in a safety school.

But what will life hold for them when they head up and down the country to experience the best three years (or four or five, depending on the course they’re taking) of their lives?

If the media is to be believed, at least part of the answer to that question is a whole load of debt – between £35,000 and £40,000 to be precise according to Which?. Luckily, choosing the right bank account can do a lot to protect students from much of the financial burden they’ll take on after they graduate.

I’m going to dig a little deeper into the student accounts on offer to see which bank is advertising its deals at the right time and with the right messaging, ensuring that an influx of grads will sign on the dotted line.

I’ll be specifically looking at the tactics used by HSBC, Santander, Natwest, and TSB to see which institution gained the most traction last year and which bank will look to replicate its successes in 2015.

Overall Performance

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It would seem there hasn’t been one clear winner over the last 12 months, with each player strategically focussing their PPC activity on a certain time in the educational year.

HSBC is clearly targeting the summer holidays, when students are trying to earn and save as much money as they possibly can before heading to university. These campaigns could appeal to both new students and older students looking to switch bank accounts.

Santander’s strategy is a little more linear, capturing a decent market share over almost the whole term and stepping back only after Easter (March), while TSB’s strategy follows the holidays, targeting Christmas and Easter more aggressively.

By contrast, NatWest is using its student bank account budget in only the first university term, starting its campaign in July and lessening spend during Christmas time.

Although each of the four banks managed to get a hold on the market at some point during the academic year, not one competitor was able to hold their lead for very long. Let’s look into why they each took a seasonal or staggered approach.

Following the Search Trend?

The top keywords in our group were student bank account, student accounts, student bank accounts, student account, and student banking, with all getting a significant amount of traction.

Tracking these five terms against Google trends, we can see where the peaks and troughs were over the last 12 months and whether the marketers took notice of the hotspots.

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What’s clear is that the majority of searches happen in the period during which students are waiting to hear from admissions (or even earlier, when they finish the previous term in June or July) and leading up to October, the point at which students at some universities start the next academic year.

So why aren’t all the competitors only bidding on this time? Because opportunity still exists elsewhere – the messaging just needs to be changed if the campaign is going to effectively target students at different times of the year.

How Ad Copy Changes

While all four banks are using different messaging, only HSBC is changing its wording throughout the year. This could give us a good indication of why it achieved the highest overall share of clicks.

Over the last 12 months, HSBC promoted its £3,000 fee-free overdraft, something that would be very attractive for any student wanting a stronger buffer against bankruptcy.

However, the bank’s best performing advert over the last 30 days (July – August 2015) was an offer that included a £60 Amazon voucher along with the account. In fact, this offer seems to have done particularly well across all the keywords, consistently ranking at number one.

Compare this to Santander’s very generic ad copy, which advertised its 123 account without offering any extras or even shouting about the cashback that the account makes available.

Similarly, NatWest’s plain ad copy doesn’t do much to attract students looking for freebies or extras – it just implores people to open an account today. NatWest also throws in unnecessary words like ‘undergraduate’ rather than the more generic student, which may not be as appealing to students as a whole.

Making Student Finance Better

Although the banks are all trying to target the times during the academic year when they think students will be most in need of extra funds or bonuses, it’s important they take notice of what they’re offering during different periods and seasons.

It may be that it’s towards the end of terms, when students have used up their student loans, that they want extra goodies like a fee-free overdraft.

At the beginning of term and over the summer holidays, they may want a bank account that offers extra interest or cash back on expenditure, like the Santander 123 account offers.

If they’re going to be travelling over summer, they may want to be able to check their balance on the fly, so any ads that advertise mobile capabilities will hold an advantage.

Changing the messaging can have a big impact when it comes to reaching the right people at the right time. Adthena’s competitive intelligence for search allows marketers to research what a company’s competitors are doing and when, giving them the insight they need to make their campaign bigger and better than their rivals.

(Main image credit: Will Folsom/flickr)

About the author

Lorna Gill
Lorna Gill
Lorna is responsible for acquisition marketing at Adthena, communicating their award-winning product and generating demand. She has developed her career in fast-paced, start-up environments, including two tech track 100 companies and is passionate about translating technical information into stories that excite and delight.