Egg may be the world's largest purely online bank, but it is facing increased competition from high-street rivals, most of which now have their own web services. In July, for example, according to the Nielsen/ Net ratings, Lloyds/TSB was the number one internet banker in the UK.
A survey of customer satisfaction levels, carried out by Virtual Survey and reported in July, showed the extent of the competition Egg faces.
The online bank gained an 'average' rating, which was better than that of some competitors, including Barclays and Lloyds/ TSB, but behind, among others, HSBC, Smile and First Direct.
It is in this increasingly competitive market that in August Egg sought to promote one of its latest products, Egg Pay, which allows customers to email payment to anyone, including friends and family.
To promote Egg Pay and gain coverage in the mainstream online, print and broadcast media at a local and national level. To increase awareness of Egg Pay among existing customers and boost the profile of the bank among the general public.
Strategy and Plan
According to Egg brand PR manager Rachel Shirbon, PR was seen as the most cost-effective way to attract new customers and a small budget was made available. As one of the core objectives was to take the launch to the mainstream media, the plan was to use a survey to find out how much people owe their friends and family.
The results, based on a survey of 1,000 people by research firm Tick Box, and organised by MacLaurin, showed that £29bn is owed in outstanding IOUs. The results were broken down into regions and items. For example among the most popular items to be borrowed are money, snacks, alcohol, cigarettes and compact discs.
According to MacLaurin senior brand manager Nick Dudley-Williams, once these results were in, it was felt that there was no doubt this would interest both national and regional journalists. A press release was sent out with an embargo of 1 August, targeting both news desks and Egg's core contact group of personal finance specialists.
The strategy for online, broadcast and print media at a national level was simple: a press release and phone call to key contacts, plus the availability of graphics showing 'scrounge mountains'. Dudley-Williams said: 'I'd like to say there was some grand strategy, but there wasn't. We felt that the figures spoke for themselves.'
The results were tailored to each region. For example, the north of England has the UK's highest levels of 'scrounging', according to the survey.
Measurement and Evaluation
The results of the survey were picked up on 1 August at a national press level by the Daily Express, The Sun, the Financial Times and Metro.
Most other national press carried the story on their online versions.
Almost all stuck to the angle that Britons owe each other £29bn. However, while the Express and The Sun mentioned Egg Pay, Metro and the FT while naming Egg, did not. As late as 27 August, the Daily Mirror ran with the story, but on its personal finance pages rather than the mainstream pages.
None used the graphics made available, although some, including Metro, featured their own images on a similar theme, using piles of goods such as CDs to show how much was owed.
In terms of national TV and broadcast coverage, only Sky News and Radio Five Live carried it. It was at a regional level that the campaign did particularly well, according to Dudley-Williams, who said around 20 regional radio stations carried the item, after it was made available to the BBC and IRN. The story was also carried by most of the regional dailies, including London's Evening Standard. A bonus for Egg was that the coverage did not carry any mention of the previous week's quarterly results, which showed that the bank had made a pre-tax loss, compared with profits a year ago, mainly due to investments in France.
On 1 August Egg recorded a 15 per cent increase in those using Egg Pay.
It also found a five per cent increase in unique visitors to its website.
Daily Express consumer journalist Paul Crosbie said it was one of the best 'survey' stories he had covered. He added: 'It was a new twist on debt, something that everybody could associate with. Everybody has borrowed a CD and kept it, or bought a round of drinks without getting a round in return. It was also backed up with excellent figures and made good copy.'
Daily Mirror personal finance and showbusiness reporter Anna Day said: 'From a personal finance point of view, there are around ten set stories, for example mortgages. So it's good to get something like this that is a little bit different.' She added, however, that the story had been passed on to her from the news desk, which had rejected it earlier in the month.