Case Study

How and why Santander Bank created a user-generated content campaign

Creating a campaign fuelled by user generated content is a move usually deemed too risky for bank brands.

For the past five years, Santander Bank's marketing communications has heavily relied on promoting the bank's hero product, the 1-2-3 Current Account. Unfortunately, what was a new and groundbreaking product in 2012 had been replicated across all banks by 2016, Rachel Baynes, head of marketing and communications for Santander UK shared at the Campaign Brand Exchange forum this morning. 

"Plus, the economic environment meant we had to make the product less attractive in terms of interest rates and fees, it just wasn't an option for us to continue with this marketing strategy," Baynes said. 

The idea

Santander's purpose is to help people and businesses prosper. But this was a purpose the bank talked about internally but hadn't promoted externally, Baynes said. 

"So we developed a new creative approach, part of it was introducing an online mortgage product that halved the time required to get a mortgage, and another part was sponsoring the Santander Cycles to help demonstrate how we help communities prosper," she explained.

But in terms of a marketing campaign, communicating the concept of "prosperity" is a difficult one for a bank. Particularly if the focus of your campaign is on a prosperous life in terms of happiness, family and fulfilment rather than purely financial prosperity.

"Tricky, if you're a bank," Baynes said. 

Further research by Santander and its agency Engine showed that beautifully and professionally shot ads did not resonate with viewers and they associated the visuals more with financial prosperity than with a holistic life. 

"We really wanted to anchor prosperity in happiness and the joy of everyday life. So we decided to use real people with real video clips that showed how they were enjoying everyday life and prospering," Baynes said.

Managing the risk of UGC

To help mitigate the risk of a campaign rooted in user generated content, Santander adopted several strategic rules.

First, they ensured that that content chosen was rooted in the brand's proof points. So if a clip didn't tie in, it wasn't used.

Next, they had to ensure that the ad was still really well-branded without losing the feel of the campaign. To do this, Santander used its sporting ambassadors but in a new way – shooting videos and photos of the ambassadors on iPhones and weaving it into the ad's narrative.

Finally, Santander opted to be extremely careful about the videos chosen in terms of licensing and background. One clip was rejected because a man featured in it had a criminal background. Another was not used because consent could not be obtained from everyone featured in the clip. To help manage the licensing and sourcing aspect, the marketing team worked with Jukin Media. 

"We couldn’t be wedded to one script or clip because even if the footage existed there was no guarantee we could use it," Baynes said. 

The total campaign is brand led but not solely brand driven. Each concept of prosperity is tied to the "how", Baynes explained, leading consumers back to a relevant product. 


The campaign debuted in January and according to Baynes it is still early days for hard results. Nevertheless, she claimed that, across the metrics the bank uses to measure its marketing efforts, everything is on the way up. 

"Our communications awareness scores are up as is our brand image, which for us means consumers will consider us for a current account," Baynes said.

Unfortunately for Santander, when they reduced interest rates on its current accounts, consideration went down and customer satisfaction took a hit too. This campaign has gone some way to repairing that, Baynes said. 

Product sales have gone up during the campaign as well customer satisfaction and loyalty have also recovered in the past five months.