Danielle Long
Jul 4, 2023

How Citi discovered 'True Worth' through brand storytelling

Citi’s latest campaign is driving three in every four new digital clients. Mylene Ong, head of digital sales and marketing at Citi Singapore, shares how the pivot to brand purpose has delivered big results.

TV presenter and actress Belinda Lee in an interview as part of Citi's 'True Worth'campaign
TV presenter and actress Belinda Lee in an interview as part of Citi's 'True Worth'campaign

When global financial services giant Citi shifted from a sales-focused acquisition strategy to brand-centric marketing, the aim was to drive growth by aligning the business with purpose.

Mylene Ong, head of digital sales and marketing at Citi, told Campaign the business had built a strong understanding of its wealth management services; however, with the concept of wealth continuing to evolve, Citi needed to shift the brand from functional to more emotional territory.

“We wanted the Citi brand to stand for something more than just functional benefits,” says Ong.

Working with its agency MullenLowe Singapore, Citi explored how Singaporeans' ideas of wealth have changed significantly in the last decade, and moved to evolve the brand’s positioning to meet these new ideas.

“Citi has always managed your wealth and helped you grow your wealth, but what matters is what you are using your wealth for. Wealth is an enabler to something bigger in life. And so that was where we started.”

Launching the ‘There’s more to wealth' campaign in 2020, Citi aimed to connect with customers by shifting away from a positioning about creating wealth to wealth as the vehicle to unlock goals and passions.

“We did the due diligence and the research,” says Ong. “We talked to our customers and landed upon this territory that our brand was an enabler for individuals as they go on to fulfil a bigger purpose in life.

“That purpose could be about passion, or legacy, or the meaning that they're seeking for in life. It might be to make sure that they pass down better values to the next generation, maybe it’s about giving back to the community or a bigger meaning in life. That is the genesis of our ‘There’s more to wealth’ campaign.”

Ong says while the idea started as a brand campaign, they quickly identified the opportunity to extend it into a brand platform: 'True Worth', to underpin everything Citi did. 

“It's a brand platform similar to Nike’s ‘Just do it’, which is a very evergreen platform, and there's always different articulations or iterations of it. We believe ‘There’s more to wealth’ has the same spirit as ‘Just do it’. It is an ethos; it is a philosophy and a belief that we hold close to our heart.”

Armed with the brand platform, Citi has continued to evolve the ideas of worth through annual campaigns, including 'Hidden Riches' in 2021 and 'True Worth' in 2022 – which have delivered strong results, according to Ong.   

“We track our brand preference, our brand awareness – both aided and unaided – and also our key preference drivers across a number of different segments. So, across the emerging affluent, mass affluent, and ultra-high net worth segments we have systematically seen an uplift over the last four years. We have also consistently gone above the competitive average for brand preference. That’s significant because we fell below the average way back in 2018."

“Our post-campaign preference has consistently gone up by more than 20% post campaign,” continues Ong. “Plus, three out of four of our digitally acquired clients are attributed to our click media campaign.”

“I wouldn't even say they are green shoots anymore. I would say green shoots happened two years ago, it's a bush now and I'm trying to get to a forest,” says Ong.

For the most recent 'True Worth' campaign, which launched in April, Citi created and hosted a multimedia exhibition at Singapore’s Ion Art Gallery. The 'Portraits of True Worth' exhibition brought together three unique personalities Citi believed represented "the True Worth tenets of community, legacy and passion."

The personalities: TV presenter and actress Belinda Lee, conservation biologist Dr Jessica Lee and athlete and entrepreneur Claire Jedrek, all featured in the exhibition with their stories and images captured by award-winning photographer Geoff Ang.

Singapore Ion Art Gallery event. Top middle: Jessica Lee; Bottom L-R: Claire Jedrek, Geoff Ang, Belinda Lee.

The campaign launched with events for clients and media featuring the campaign personalities. The aim was to engage clients with the brand through inspirational storytelling and potential investment opportunities.

“The brand platform is connected by storytelling,” says Ong. “Citi believe in the power of storytelling because storytelling is how we connect with one another. Storytelling is what enables us to establish an emotional connection. Because only when you have an emotional connection will you take action and think, "How can I help this cause?" Stories are how we pass values onto one another.

“We believe these are just the beginning of our storytelling journey; we want to tell more and champion more of them at Citi. We want to be the vessels for them to communicate and to pass on their messages – and, most importantly, we want to match their passions, visions and values with our clients and what our clients are looking for.

Mylene Ong

“Our clients are coming to us and saying, “What can I do more in the area of sustainability?” They are also searching for a bigger meaning in life. So, as wealth managers we can also broker interesting conversations to see what magic you can conjure,” says Ong.   

Ong believes there is plenty of longevity in the platform and aims to continue building the 'True Worth' platform.

“Our challenge now is finding the right stories. It's just making sure that we have a healthy pipeline of storytellers that we can bring in, so we continue to be the vessel. And we continue to provide a platform to communicate stories, and match them with our clients.”

Campaign Asia

Related Articles

Just Published

16 hours ago

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy on using AI to win over ...

The e-commerce giant’s CEO revealed fresh insights into the company's future plans on all things consumer behaviour, AI, Amazon Ads and Prime Video.

18 hours ago

James Hawkins steps down as PHD APAC CEO

Hawkins leaves PHD after close to six years leading the agency, and there will be no immediate replacement for him.

18 hours ago

Formula 1 Shanghai: A watershed event for brand ...

With Shanghai native Zhou Guanyu in the race, this could be the kickoff to even more fierce positioning among Chinese brands.

22 hours ago

Whalar Group appoints Neil Waller and James Street ...

EXCLUSIVE: The duo will lead six business pillars and attempt to win more creative, not just creator, briefs with the hire of Christoph Becker as chief creative officer.