Leveraging 'Hamilton' to Reinvigorate a 232-Year-Old Brand - Social Media Explorer
Leveraging ‘Hamilton’ to Reinvigorate a 232-Year-Old Brand
Leveraging ‘Hamilton’ to Reinvigorate a 232-Year-Old Brand

As a marketer, it’s not often that you meet upon perfectly aligned opportunities; the ones in which you can directly connect your brand story to something that is trending in the world, something that is relevant and of interest to your audience. Only the most skilled of marketers are able to accomplish this feat, and one such person is Aniko DeLaney, Global Head of Corporate Marketing at BNY Mellon.

I spoke with Aniko about how she and her team successfully jumped on the opportunity of a lifetime when the bank’s founder, Alexander Hamilton, was thrust back into the limelight with the release of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical. I also learned how Aniko and the BNY Mellon marketing team use new technology, social media, and their agency partner to keep their 232-year-old company current. (By the way, if you’d like to hear Aniko cover this program in more detail, join us at the Incite Group Marketing Summit October 27-28 at the Brooklyn Marriott.)

Drew: When did you become the Head of Corporate Marketing?

Aniko: Two years ago. It was a wonderful opportunity because I have a broad view of BNY Mellon, having been the head of marketing for six of our different businesses. It really gave me the chance to dig deeper into the businesses and get to know our clients and target markets. And again, now in this corporate role, it affords me a very unique perspective. So it’s been fun to have that.

Drew: Tell me about the campaign that has been nicknamed the “Hamilton” campaign.

Aniko: We affectionately call it the Hamilton campaign, but we officially call it our ‘Invested In Our Legacy’ campaign. As long as I’ve been at the company, we’ve always celebrated our founder Alexander Hamilton and his pioneering and innovative spirit. What’s been amazing is to see how Ron Chernow’s impressive book, Hamilton, inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda’s phenomenal Broadway show that has now led to a celebration of one of the lesser known founding fathers of our nation — and the founder of The Bank of New York.

Drew: From a strategy standpoint, was it opportunistic that this show came along? Were you able to hop on this crescendo of interest, or were there other aspects that helped to expand the perceptions of the bank?

Aniko: We continue to build upon our strong brand, as a respected and trusted organization. But what we’ve been trying to do over the past several years is modernize our brand. So it’s been a great chance to leverage the Hamilton phenomenon and evolve our message in a much more relatable way that is also digital and social media friendly. It has been this amazing opportunity to really use fun creative, generate ‘snackable’ content, and develop a multimedia campaign.

Drew: How do you make something that is old — 232-years-old — fresh and current?

Aniko: We have had some great times working with our wonderfully creative agencies to really bring our story to life. What we’ve done is celebrate our 232 years of innovative and pioneering spirit with a multimedia campaign. So for instance, in our archives we have beautiful handwritten ledgers with client names in it like Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Some of the client’s names are memorialized on street signs across Manhattan. However, today, the discussion that we have in some of our innovation centers is around Blockchain, which is a distributed ledger. It’s all about the new technology and exploring its potential for our industry.

Drew: How did you use digital and social to be more engaging and fun, which is very unusual for a bank?

Aniko: In imagining what our social campaign could be, we’re trying to have a lot of great educational content and activate it in creative ways. For example, in 1789, we were the first to make a loan to the U.S. government. Today, we service and offer investment management capabilities to 80 percent of the Fortune 500 companies.

We can take these short messages and package them for use in the social media arena. We kicked off our campaign back on June 9th when we celebrated our 232nd anniversary with unique LinkedIn and Facebook posts. We rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and tweeted the video and shared that we were the first stock to be traded on the exchange. That was followed just a week later with animated gifs during the Tony Awards, then more on Father’s Day to celebrate our founding father. We were able to enter conversations that we normally wouldn’t have before.

Drew: How exciting was it when Hamilton practically swept the Tony’s? That must have been a wonderful moment.

Aniko: Our whole team has been just amazed with this great opportunity to celebrate Hamilton — the man, the book, the show. We had a lot of fun working with our agencies to come up with some very creative social media content. My favorite was: “Lin-Manuel gets a Tony for Best Book! Much-deserved, though at a mere 20,000 words, I call it a pamphlet. A.Hamilton” Hamilton was such a prolific writer, so can you imagine him trying to tweet?

Drew: Your CEO might look at Twitter and say, “My Fortune 1000 customers are not exactly looking at our Twitter stream.” Why is it important as 232-year-old bank for you to be on these social channels?”

Aniko: I think social media is incredibly important for raising our brand visibility in the digital arena. Gerald Hassell, our chairman and CEO, is an influencer on LinkedIn, so he really has set the bar very high for our company. It’s very important to reach out to our diverse constituents in channels that they use.

Drew: Can you tell me a bit about some of the other campaign components?

Aniko: One of the things we’re really excited about is our sponsorship of PBS/WNET’s documentary – ‘Hamilton’s America.’ It explores the making of the Broadway show and includes footage of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s show, as well as a variety of interviews. It really brings to life not only the story of the show, but also the story of Alexander Hamilton.. We have two TV spots that bookend the documentary and use fantastic creative to tell our story in just 15 seconds each, as well as a series of videos for our website and social media channels.

Drew: How do you measure the impact of an integrated campaign such as this one?

Aniko: We have our standard KPIs, and are zoning in on the analytics and we really use the insights to adjust the campaign after seeing what content is resonating. And we’ve seen double and triple digit increases in engagement and awareness on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook!

Drew: Can you give us a preview of the kinds of things we might expect to see in 2017?

Aniko: The marketing teams have really rallied behind this concept. What we’re trying to do is think of new ways to activate it in the digital arena. We’re even exploring augmented reality. We set the year-long campaign so that we have a really good yardstick to measure against. But again, this is a theme we’ve been using as long as I’ve been with the company. Now, we’re just able to tell the story in a much more engaging way.

Drew: If you were speaking to CMOs or aspiring CMOs, what would you say were some of the key lessons learned in terms of managing a campaign like this?

Aniko: I think it’s important to have a unique and authentic story that represents your brand. More and more, especially with social media channels, we have to be really careful to make sure the content is educational and meaningful, but then have some fun with the creative. The other thing is to think outside the box, think about unexpected conversations to join and make your brand relevant in unexpected and delightful ways.

Drew: We do a lot of content marketing programs here at Renegade and our emphasis is always on quality versus quantity because there is so much content out there already. Certainly, Hamilton created a unique opportunity for you, but I applaud you for taking it a few steps further with help from TBWA Chiat/Day.

Aniko: I have to give credit to our agencies. We gave them creative license by saying, “Look, we have this great opportunity, let’s share our brand in unique and special ways.” It’s been just an incredible chance to make a difference for the brand and really bring it to life in ways that we would not have only a couple of years ago.

Drew: What was the biggest surprise you encountered in carrying out this campaign?

Aniko: I have to say the biggest surprises were the engagement rates, both internally and externally. The content resonated and I think it’s more than just how cool Hamilton has become, but it’s the person he was. He was truly insightful and innovative, but he also got things done. He was an implementer. I think he’s been so inspiring to many and having that special connection has inspired our employees, clients, and other constituents to be really proud of the company that Hamilton founded

Drew: Oftentimes marketing is just thought of as an external activity, but it does really need to permeate the organization. How do you make sure your marketing is external as well as internal?

Aniko: We work with our internal communications team, and we’re able to really bring the story to life internally. The key goal is to inspire pride among our 50,000 employees. Each one of us should be an avid brand ambassador and share how we are continuing to drive the pioneering spirit of our founder, Alexander Hamilton.

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About the Author

Drew Neisser
"CMO Whisperer" Drew Neisser, is the Founder/CEO of Renegade, the NYC-based agency that has helped CMO’s find innovative ways to cut through since 1996. He is also the former Publisher of Social Media Explorer. He is a recognized authority on non-traditional marketing techniques having won innumerable awards for creativity and campaign effectiveness and is the author of The CMO’s Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing and is the host of the podcast series Renegade Thinkers Unite. Ranked in 2016 among Brand Quarterly’s “50 Marketing Thought Leaders Over 50,” he has been a featured marketing expert on ABC News, CBS Radio and the Tony Robbins podcast series among many others. Drew writes the CMO Spotlight column for AdAge and TheDrewBlog. He consults on digital / social media trends via the GLG network and sits on the boards of the Urban Green Council and Duke NY.

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