NEW MEDIA: Spotlight On: Egg - Grown-up Egg appeals to the mainstream with rebranding - Egg prefers to deal directly with online media owners, as Camilla Palmer reports

Back in 1998, when the online bank Egg was launched, it was a shock that such a concept could have been spawned by the suits at Prudential.

Egg branded itself as everything conventional banks were not and set the pace for the internet banking sector. Now with two million UK customers, it jostles for space with its rival online banks Cahoot! and Smile. It floated in June 2000, raising £150 million and then bought the French online bank Zebank.

However popular, Egg recognised there was work to be done to ensure its position in the market. It ditched its launch agency HHCL & Partners in November 2001 and has relaunched with an integrated campaign designed to expand consumers' understanding of the Egg brand, to take it to a mainstream audience and prepare it for future international expansion.

Egg's re-evaluation began when it appointed Mother to handle its creative account. Wolff Olins, the branding agency, also began work on Egg's four-year-old branding and logo.

Nick Cross, the chief marketing officer, says the bank has "grown up

by launching new products and services and its marketing and online strategy needed to reflect this. He says: "For a company that has only been around for three years, Egg is perhaps one of the most dynamic businesses in the market today. Now, we're moving to the next stage of development.

We have always aimed to be on the customer's side, and we've consistently offered good value products - our next step is to improve our accessibility, simplicity and the ease with which our customers interact with us."

Mother's work demonstrates the benefits for Egg customers with a series of ads for products invented by Brilliant Industries. The "La la la, I'm not listening Musical Fingers

and "Fake Identity Kit

are for people who can't face their growing debts. Alternatively, they could get an Egg Card. "Magnetic Money Boots

offer customers a way to walk their way to wealth - or they could take out an Egg savings account. Other executions, including one featuring "remote controlled goats", will be rolled out throughout the campaign.

"The rebranding is fresh,

Egg's UK marketing director, Patrick Muir, says. "The 'what's in it for me?' positioning clearly reminds consumers what our benefits are - and in a sense that's no massive repositioning, as we've always sought to do this."

"It's about making Egg more mainstream, and making sure consumers know it is ahead of its game and of the other players in the marketplace," Stef Calcraft, one of the Mother founders, says. "It almost doesn't matter that it's an online brand in terms of above-, below-, through-the-line and new-media activity. It's the products themselves that are important and the fact that being a digital organisation, Egg can price itself keenly versus everyone else. The ads break through the horrors of money management in an engaging and knowing way. The prominence of the products themselves is a core part of the strategy but they need to be presented in a way people will respond to.

No-one actively enjoys sorting their finances out - the ads inject humour and understanding into it."

Following a high-profile rebrand and above-the-line campaign, it might be natural to assume that Egg's online branding is due for a rethink, especially when its banner ads and pop-ups are still showing the old logo and branding.

The site has lost its pale green wash, which has been replaced with a riot of colours. Both the navigation and functionality have also been improved, Muir says. He adds that the limited amount of text on the page means that the time the page takes to load has been significantly reduced.

"Gradually, the old branding will disappear. We didn't want to shock consumers with a complete change of look. We think the campaign will have more impact and efficacy over a longer period. A gradual roll-out will keep it fresh and keep the attention of consumers,

Muir says. All the online creative work is handled by Poke, the new-media agency in which Mother has a stake.

"Our use of media won't change dramatically. We've refined our online strategy over a number of years, and it doesn't automatically get superseded by new creative thinking,

Muir says. He adds, "Our strategy lies with portals. That's mainly because, as an online company, we're expected to appear in certain places where our existing and potential customers are.

They expect to see Egg, and we make sure we are found in places were consumers have a relationship with the internet."

Muir claims relationships with MSN, signed in July 2001, Ask Jeeves and AOL enable Egg to plan and negotiate its exposure direct from media owners, keeping its tactics in-house and under wraps.

"We don't buy ads from them, we have strategic relationships with them which are mutually beneficial. In the past we've shared each other's business plans. That's why the figures we spend online don't register that often on Adwatch - it's because we prefer to deal in direct relationships with the media owners - if only it worked the same with print and television."

Egg has launched a fund "supermarket

through MSN, with plans to launch other products and services on the site. Above-the-line brand and direct response media is handled by MediaCom, which won the £20 million account in November 2001.

Cross is convinced the overhaul is key to Egg's expansion in the UK and overseas. Calcraft adds: "Over time, Egg has the opportunity to become the UK's most-loved bank brand. Its personality and understanding of consumers can be reflected across each and every consumer channel."

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