Westpac siteseer

On The Cusp: Westpac’s great millennial hunt

In Examples by Peter Gearin

Westpac’s content marketing play helps 18–35s manage their finances. It also helps the bank reach those “hard to get” young Australians.

A fair bit of recent commentary about content marketing has concentrated on one thing: its imminent demise. Much of the chatter has been about how difficult it is to rise above the stinking slew of pungent content pumped out of every channel at all times of the day.

The failure of King Content, an Australian agency that introduced content marketing to many businesses around the world, was the clarion call for the death riders. It confirmed what they already knew: that the practice itself was a road that leads to a dark, expensive black hole. A place where CMOs can’t possibly survive.

Someone should tell Westpac, Australia’s oldest bank. It’s leapt into this content marketing game with both feet, with content platforms that reach all of its key audience segments.

It has Westpac Wire – a news and opinion site that covers financial and economic topics. It has Ruby Connection, for women interested in money issues. It co-created Year 13 Money, which helps school-leavers get their heads around finances. It’s also involved in Starts at 60, a site for those coming to grips with living in a post-work world.

That’s an impressive portfolio of educational, inspirational and aspirational content being pumped out every day. And it’s not from a custom publisher – this is one of Australia’s top-four banks.

One of Westpac’s key goals and measures in its 2018-2020 Sustainability Strategy is to “help more people better understand their financial position, improving their financial confidence”. How does it want to do this? By delivering “enhanced financial communication”. Defying the naysayers, Westpac has found that highly targeted content marketing is a great way to do this.

But wait – there’s more! Westpac is involved in a website that probably does a better job getting young people interested in money issues than any other. It’s called The Cusp – a collaboration between Westpac and millennials publisher Junkee Media – which was launched in December 2015.

The Cusp is more than just a site playing the role of parent for adolescents making their way in the world, offering only sobering, prudent (read boring) financial advice. “We have this joke that The Cusp is ‘how to adult’,” said Junkee Media’s Tim Duggan at the 2016 Mumbrella Finance Marketing Summit. “It’s the stuff you wish you learned at school. Instead of learning about algebra and calculus, we teach them about tax, how to ask your boss for a pay raise and all that kind of fun stuff.”

The Cusp says its goal is to make 18-35s “that tiny bit better” when it comes to their job, money and health. It wants hedonistic millennials to focus a little more on what’s really important. It’s a worthy ambition and, on the whole, it succeeds.

The site features very likeable stories on a wide range of stories, including “Three ways to save money this weekend”, “I used to be a retail addict. This is how I kicked the habit” and “How to stay motivated at work when you’d rather do anything else”. It also has the inevitable cascade of listicles from “10 pro tips to take your Instagram to the next level” and “5 healthy dessert recipes that make you believe there is a God” to “10 (avoidable) money regrets you’ll probably have by 25”.

It is direct, clever, a little bit loose and definitely unbanky.

The Cusp claims to publish 600 original pieces of content every year for what it says is an increasingly loyal audience. And what’s interesting is that these returning millennials are hungry for advice about money, The Cusp says. Of the three key content verticals, money is the most popular (43 per cent), followed by wellbeing (36 per cent) and career (17 per cent).

A key measure of success is how The Cusp readers now see Westpac. It has research that claims its audience is 30 per cent more likely to think Westpac is “becoming cool”, which isn’t a term generally associated with a business with a timeline stretching to 1817. Significantly, 30 per cent of The Cusp’s audience is more likely to choose a Westpac product and 43 per cent more likely to recommend the bank to a friend.

Like every business on the planet, Westpac is trying to unlock the secret of reaching millennials – that much-maligned category of humans that behaves like every group of young people who have come before them.

All the same, “how do we get young people interested in us?” is clearly one of the things occupying the sharpest company executives’ minds everywhere. KPMG research from 2016 found that 79 per cent of Australian CEOs were concerned about how millennials’ “differing” behaviour was going to affect their business in the future.

This goes double for banks. Westpac’s Ash Gray told the Mumbrella summit audience that young people don’t head to a bank’s homepage to find information about how to manage their finances. But that doesn’t mean they’re not interested in money; Westpac research shows nine in 10 Australian university students say managing their finances is a priority.

“If a brand is working to stay up with millennials, by default, they’re putting themselves in a really good position to be perpetually relevant and around for a long time,” said Gray, whose official title is “head of youth and millennials”. “They’re really hungry for content that’s going to help them get from A to B faster, but the content needs to be helpful, relevant and accessible.”

That’s why Westpac teamed with Junkee Media, which has a track record of successfully reaching millennials through titles such as AWOL (with Qantas), Junkee and Punkee.

The key to brands reaching younger Australians, according to Duggan, is resolving some of their biggest fears. “We looked a lot at fears, and FOMO [fear of missing out] and FONK [fear of not knowing] are two big fears that came through. We thought Westpac had a place in helping alleviate some of that fear.”

Given The Cusp’s apparent success in reaching those “lazy, entitled narcissists” of the “Me Me Me” generation, it sounds like content marketing might have little to fear, too.

Links & references

WARC’s article on how Westpac is using content to attract young Aussies

Brand Tales’ Siteseer article about AWOL

Slideshare presentation of The Cusp’s impact on millennials

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