Innovation feeder


NAB tries to pull a social media swifty with Ubank and it all goes terribly wrong…

This is the controversial post from Cheryl over at Moltn about National Australia Bank’s latest foray into the world of social media and user generated content.

Some of you may remember the corporate spamming issues NAB had earlier this year  when their agency posted commercial messages on private blogs, commentary here from Duncan Riley. Well this latest issue covers the launch of Ubank, a brand new consumer banking site. The post below covers the ins and outs of the whole palava and whilst NAB should be commended for having a go. It does show just how social media can go terribly terribly wrong…

Cheryl’s post starts here ::

It seems that big companies don’t learn from previous mistakes (see Coke and Playstation) and the latest “user generated content” idea coming from NAB tries to get consumers to design their future bank.
The site claims to be sponsored by Ubank, the latest spin-off company from NAB. At least they are honest about this (and have a nice source-code tracking system to check if they are getting anyone visiting their site from this one).


The site’s aim is:
Welcome to the My Future Bank ProjectWhat is the bank of the future? What will it look like? How will it work? How will it meet your needs? Imagine your ideas realized. That’s the plan of the My Future Bank project.
We need your help. Please share with us and our visitors what frustrates you about your bank, and more importantly, what you would do differently to improve your banking experience.


So far, so good. Except the majority of the commenters are obviously either the agency or NAB/Ubank themselves.

hopefulcustomer 10/4/2008 10:25:22 AM
I agree

Yes, “hopefulcustomer”, I’m sure you don’t work for NAB.

Fine, they are just trying to get the conversation going – after all, there is nothing sadder than an empty site with no comments. But it’s once they start getting real customers that things get interesting. People start getting negative (because let’s face it, the majority of us hate banks, plus they asked for “what frustrates you about your bank”), then Monty (head of online at Ubank) jumped in to say to keep it positive.

A user then replied (quite legitimately I thought) -

Monty – the instructions to the left say “Please share with us and our visitors what frustrates you about your bank” – so I don’t know why you are suddenly turning around and saying “let’s keep it positive”. At least try to be consistent, hey, chum. Personally – I think that this site is a pointless piece of junk. The banks already know what customers WANT – it is hardly rocket science. The only question that banks ask themselves is how to most economically deliver on these customer wants just a little better than the other banks on the high street, for that is the profit maximising approach. I have very low expectations for UBank.

Bloody fantastic, he/she summed up my sentiment perfectly. Banks always know what consumers want, they’ve done enough research into it. I can sum it up right now by saying less fees and charges, and try to not be greedy bastards.

Instead of Monty replying (which would have gained my respect), a “user” then replied to the comment.

attitude 10/8/2008 11:36:14 PM
the last poster obviously is an aggitated employee from a competitor bank, UBank is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale banking world, i set up a TD with them, i didnt have to speak to a robot 1st, i got professional service from them and this is at 3:30 in the morning, go UBank, i love you

Really, honestly Ubank, how stupid do you think we are? It is so obvious that this has been written by someone internal to your company. Let’s break it down here.

* You can’t use capitalisation at the beginning of sentences or for “I”, yet you manage to capitalise the name Ubank every time.


* A TD? That is internal bank shorthand for Term Deposit. A consumer wouldn’t know this, or refer to it as a TD. Only someone who uses the term every day (such as an employee of NAB) would refer to a Term Deposit as a TD as they use the word hundreds of times a day.


* “a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale banking world“? Get your hand off it guys, is this how you think consumers speak? Especially consumers that can’t spell. A breath of fresh air? What exactly is it doing that is so different to other banks? Your website sure as hell doesn’t say why it is different.

* “i didnt have to speak to a robot 1st, i got professional service from them and this is at 3:30 in the morning, go UBank, i love you“. Despite the user posting at 11pm (which we can overlook for now), is this what the “breath of fresh air” meant? That they were professional? Isn’t this what you’d expect from a company? I love you is a bit strong for a bank offering term deposits. I have an account with ING and they give me good interest and they have always been professional and never screwed me over but I would never claim I loved them. Especially if they only launched last week. I think the strongest emotion I could say is “I like them”. Ubank, people don’t love their bank. They really don’t.

* “the last poster obviously is an aggitated employee from a competitor bank“. Ummm why is this exactly? Sounds damn like a normal everyday consumer to me – someone who has no faith in this bank being different. Why would a competitor bank post that he/she hates ALL banks, surely if they were a competitor they would claim that X bank rocks and this bank sucks. This is a pathetic attempt from Ubank to discredit a consumer with a genuinely interesting point to make

I don’t mean to pick on anyone but I’m struggling to find out how I can have my say too. Under “contact us” there is a link to send feedback – is this what he means by having my say too? If I can have my say, I’d say to be honest about posting under fake names on your own “sponsored” website. But I bet I’d be silenced. Interesting that I submitted a comment to their site that was negative but it’s still being held in the moderation queue. I’m not holding my breath that it will make it onto the site.

So shame, NAB, shame. You could have actually made a difference by listening to people (which you are claiming to do) but instead you try to discredit and silence your users that don’t think you’re amazing. You have shown no honesty or transparency in this and I hope your users eat you alive.

A dishonest and not-very-clever attempt to harness the wisdom of the crowd.

[Below is a snap of user postings from Cheryl's post@ Moltn.com/blog]

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How quickly it all goes wrong as Cheryl’s readers start digging it, posting it on Facebook, Twitter and every other site they can get their hands on.









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Cheryl’s post seems to be causing much controversy and has been taken down from the original site. However the posting and rapidly accumulating commentary now seems to be appearing all over the web like here, here, here and here.

But in the spirit of social media, community and conversation, I thought I’d also include some comments from other bloggers who are chewing the cud on this one because surely the key question here is – What could they have done differently?

Gavin Heaton of the famed Servant of Chaos reasons:  [comment taken from Banking Review blog which also covered the issue]

To be honest, pulling the site seems to be an overreaction. Yes, social media can be rough. It exposes your brand to dialogue. It opens you up publicly to the voices of your customers. In fact, in doing so, you create a platform for their complaints (and their praise). This is not necessarily a bad thing.

And regardless of who did what, this is a supreme opportunity wasted. Why build a site designed to provoke conversation and then shy away from it when it doesn’t run to your script? Why not dig deeper? Why not truly (and honestly) engage with the detractors and questioners?

Instead of working through the issues and creating a premier, leading, socially-oriented brand, the bank rolls over and closes up shop at the first hurdle? In a sea of bland similarity this was an opportunity to differentiate. Shame it was squandered so readily.

Stephen Collins another blogger from acidlabs [which by the way is a great blog if you haven't stumbled across it before] has commented : [comment also taken from Banking Review blog]

It’s a bit disappointing that apparently, NAB couldn’t take the heat being generated at myfuturebank.

If it had been me advising them, I’d have strongly advised a couple of things:

- engage in a little “mea culpa” recognising that their participation, readiness and attitude was not quite up to the response. It would have humanised the participants on the NAB side and won them some social capital.


– establish a strong and clear rules of engagement for participation, both for NAB staff and visitors to the site. It then becomes clear what everyone’s rights and responsibilities are.

- get back to some of the detractors and the supporters to canvas more opinion. Find out what they really want.

NAB had a huge opportunity here that, while it exploded in their face a little, actually left them with something of value – real, human opinion. Sure, they made some mistakes, but they could have been recovered from.

For a bank, or any big business, an approach to social media needs to be implemented quickly, but it needn’t be implemented badly. There would have been no discussion of “FAIL”. Only opportunities and risks. It is business, after all.

On the positive side they tried something new and are to be commended for that. I agree with Gavin what a shame they shut up shop so quickly at the first sign of a little backchat. Life doesn’t go according to plan, especially when you’re dealing with real people. You want to have a relationship with us? You want us to think of you differently than we think of other banks? You want to make it personal? I think what NAB learnt is that conversation is a two-way process and without it, it’s just advertising. You see if you open the conversation, people are going to talk . . .

When the company makes a mistake or things go wrong for the consumer, you as the company actually have an opportunity to make good, to reconnect, an opportunity that your competitors don’t have. You actually have an opportunity. . . I for one am disappointed that they didn’t stay around to take the heat and actually deal with the response. You want to talk to people as a real bank? You want to show that you’re different from other banks and for the people? Here was your chance…

So NAB was taught a lesson by the digerati . . So Google now has 1,130 new posts relating to this conundrum.. So they missed the mark on this one and didn’t realise that when you dive into social media you have to play by new rules. So what?  People make mistakes. The million dollar question is ‘what do they do now’?

I bet there are a bunch of social media strategists out there with an answer to that one…


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I am having sooo much trouble with this UBank that’s supposed to be a “breath of fresh air”, my @$$! I put in a substantial amount of my savings to them and could they even do what they’re supposed to do, which is put it in term deposit? NO! right idiots!

Comment by aspen

Hello “aspen”.

I just saw your post here. Sorry that you’ve had trouble with our service.

If it hasn’t been resolved by now, please email me directly with the issue and I’ll ensure resolution: gerd.schenkel@ubank.com.au

At UBank, we are proud of our service, and if something does goes wrong, we’re committed to fixing it.

Speak soon,

Gerd Schenkel
General Manager, UBank

Comment by Gerd Schenkel

Nice one Gerd, thanks for stopping by

“Aspen” you should take up Gerd’s offer if you’re unhappy, after all, people want Ubank to listen to them, here’s your chance, they’re listening.

Comment by jen

That is a good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere.
Simple but very precise info… Thanks for sharing
this one. A must read post!

Comment by Jacquelyn




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