CAMPAIGNS: MS&L brings women on to bank Cahoot - Financial Services PR

Abbey National-owned online bank Cahoot aims to appeal to different customers from its parent company. The bank's first set of customers was mostly male, so Cahoot wanted Manning Selvage & Lee to target the next generation, focusing on high-earning 22 to 44-year-old women. The campaign aimed to marry the brand values of Cahoot with the characteristics of its existing and potential customers.


To drive consumers to Cahoot's website, highlighting Cahoot's distinction from other banks by targeting coverage at the consumer media, and focusing on lifestyle issues.

Strategy and Plan

Extensive research was used at all stages of the campaign.

To establish what the core strategy for the PR campaign should be, research agency Ideas in Action was hired to manage focus groups consisting of potential Cahoot customers.

It established that to communicate Cahoot's proposition - that it provides a 'more interesting way to bank' - the communications strategy should focus on the scale of difference between Cahoot and other banks.

MS&L recruited 20 existing Cahoot customers to provide diaries of their typical day. The picture that emerged helped MS&L to craft a campaign that would appeal to new customers.

Using BMRB Research's Target Group Index (which comprises a panel of 26,000 consumers) the agency profiled the lifestyle characteristics of Cahoot's target market.

Key insights were that the target market was cash-rich, spending a lot of money shopping and on home improvement; put personal health before wealth; was living a hedonistic lifestyle; had anxieties about finances, especially making online transactions; and had a preference for consumer media, with little interest in the financial media.

The first campaign phase launched in April 2001 and aimed to communicate the benefits of online banking, with an emphasis on humour. MS&L provided media with research and case studies on customers who used the service after boozy evenings and on public holidays - highlighting the 24/7 credentials of online banking. A contact centre was used to enable the agency to compile case studies of customers who had performed late-night online transactions after drinking that they regretted when sober.

In May, the campaign looked at personal finance by focusing on the money wasted on unworn clothing. Researched was conducted into how many billions of pounds are wasted in unworn clothes in people's wardrobes - and how much could be earned if that money was placed in a Cahoot account instead.

MS&L compiled case studies of clothing mistakes and The Daily Telegraph's fashion writer Trinny Woodall (now a co-presenter on BBC2's What Not to Wear) acted as a broadcast spokesperson. A 'wardrobe amnesty' was held in January, in Imperial Cancer Research Fund shops, encouraging consumers to donate unwanted clothes.

In November, MS&L aimed to link Cahoot's new flexible loan to female fitness and DIY. Research revealed that women worry about their finances and that it has an impact on their health and well-being. MS&L and gym-chain LA Fitness, which has similar client demographics to cahoot, developed a 'flexibility test' with top trainer Jax Lyscia, to be taken in gyms from November to February. Details of the test appeared on the LA Fitness website, in leaflets, in its members' magazine and on posters.

To support this element of the campaign flexibility, roadshows were held at four major rail stations. The shows featured yoga demonstrations, massages and the opportunity for the public to attempt the 'flexibility test'.

Data on participants was captured through the competition.

Media were also targeted with research on the number of unfinished DIY jobs in the UK and the concept of PSE (pay someone else), which linked back to the loan scheme. Case studies and comments from an interior designer were sold into the media.

Finally, in the lead-up to Christmas, the next phase of the campaign focused on online shopping, on the basis that people who bank online are likely to shop online. The concept of online Christmas shopping was used as a topical hook for media.

Research regarding online fraud was targeted at the press. Statistics and case studies concerning online credit and debit card fraud were used to promote Cahoot's own credit and debit cards, which have a device that eliminates online shopping fraud.

Measurement and Evaluation

National and regional print, TV and radio media all covered the campaign extensively. MS&L commissioned Metrica to analyse the campaign.

Overall there were 152 pieces of coverage in the consumer media, with 95 per cent of them were favourable to Cahoot.

MS&L's in-house measurement tool, i-to-i tracker, was used in collaboration with Cahoot's brand tracking research. The resulting research claims that those who saw the coverage generated by the PR campaign were twice as likely to have visited the site than those who hadn't.


The multi-faceted campaign used PR to effectively target potential customers through the consumer press. The focus on the consume media and the use of humour seems to have appealed to the client's target market. The client says the campaign has so far attracted 117,000 new customers to visit the site.

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