Addicted to novelty since 2001

RBC p2p: The Royal Bank is Blogging Like It’s 2003

Disclaimer: Regular readers know that I have some issues with financial institutions. The Royal Bank is no exception.

James pointed me at the Royal Bank’s newest social media nugget: RBC p2p. Here’s the blurb:

RBC p2p is a Royal Bank of Canada site for students and by students. This is where you’ll learn about budgeting for books and maybe a reading week vacation. This is where you can ask how to save money when your next paycheque will be 3 digits (it can be done). This is where you can read about people diving for change in the couch, without shame.

Before discussing where they went wrong, I do want to first applaud the sentiment. They appear to be seriously trying this conversational marketing stuff, and getting student bloggers to write first-hand about personal finance is a smart approach.

It’s just that the implementation, by Delvenia Interactive, needs some help:

  • Though they recently picked six student bloggers–actual humans–most of the site’s photos are of ethnically diverse, attractive young models. The bloggers themselves are less representative–five dudes and a dudette, sans visible minorities.
  • The site design is a bit too Degrassi Junior High for my liking.
  • Where is the integration with other social media channels? Why aren’t there videos on YouTube and embedded in the site? How about photos from Flickr? Or updates from Twitter? They have a sizable Facebook general RBC student group (are a bunch of images broken for you too on that group, or is it just my dodgy connection?), but nothing specific to RBCp2p. Plus, there are no links to Facebook or badges on the site. They’re blogging like all those services don’t exist–like it’s 2003 (the name doesn’t help in that respect). Lots of companies have already made this mistake–why repeat it?
  • It’s about students blogging, but the blog isn’t on the front page. Maybe that’ll change once they officially launch on March 1.
  • The design is a bit b0rked on Firefox on my Mac. Good thing no students are using that browser-OS combination, eh?
  • No RSS on the front page, and the blog RSS feed is excerpts only. Boo.
  • Does anybody else find this a little creepy: “The bloggers are now in blogging boot camp, being trained by the RBC p2p host, Michel Savoie.” That reads to me like “The bloggers are now being indoctrinated by Royal Bank staff to ensure they remain on message at all times.”

Surmountable Problems

Fortunately, none of those issues are insurmountable. You could correct them without too much pain or effort.

Unfortunately, it sounds like their blogger search campaign was wanting. From a recent article which discusses various Royal Bank marketing efforts:

RBCp2p.com, also developed with Delvinia, went live in time for the back-to-school season, with former college student Michel Savoie as host. The bank is offering a laptop, digital cameras and part-time wages for six postsecondary student bloggers who will represent their peers on RBCp2p.com, with winners announced in January. Users uploaded videos to the site until the end of October, while Savoie hit the road to capture on-the-spot video submissions at various campuses. By mid-November, the site was hosting pages and pages of user-generated videos by students pitching themselves for the job, while RBC encouraged visitors to rate submissions – many of which racked up hundreds of views.

‘Hundreds of views’? Any marketer knows about the usual numerical amplification that goes on with this sort of thing. I’m guessing by ‘hundreds’ that they mean, at most, 200. And that’s being generous. Either they made a mistake in disclosing those numbers, or in running a campaign which displayed the meagre number of views the videos were receiving.

Seriously. This is the Royal Bank. They had a record year for earnings in 2007 (a mere $5.5 billion). They surely have enough money or marketing savvy to, you know, push those views into the ‘thousands’?

I hope I’m wrong, and that after they launch, they demonstrate more savvy than I’m seeing. And I hope they’re successful with their target demographic. University students (or, you know, recent graduates) out there, what do you think?

UPDATE: Todd points out two other peculiarities. The Royal Bank has a trademark symbol beside ‘p2p’ (though they don’t list it on their trademarks page). Todd also remarks (I can’t find this, specifically, but I suspect I’m just missing it): “one terms of service for the blogs and another for the RSS”.

6 Responses to “RBC p2p: The Royal Bank is Blogging Like It’s 2003”

  1. Michel Savoie

    Hey Darren!

    Thanks for the entry, and for the feedback. I appreciate you taking a look at the site and giving your honest feedback.

    To comment on some of your feedback from my own perspective…

    We don’t have the latest social media tools on the site. The reality is that for every piece of blogging awesomeness that we put on our site (ok, so RSS feeds are that rockin’ anymore), it’s not something new to you and I, but it is something new for an organization that has never done something like this before. It is approached cautiously because it’s a risk.

    As for the views to our sight, while we didnt achieve you-tube-esque numbers in the millions, we are about being open and honest, so, we did get videos with votes (not all views turn into votes) numbering in the multi-thousands.

    We’re actively working on the site design, and I anything that input that I can provide into improving the site (including yours) does not fall on deaf ears.

    As for the trademark thingy, I’ll mention it to the folks that maintain that page.

    Remember, when you look at RBC p2p, we’re just a bunch of real people doing the best that we can (and we’ve really got people who are putting in everything they’ve got) to do something we’ve never done as an organization!!

    Sorry for the long comment! Just had to get it out! E-mail me if you want more info!

    Michel
    Host, RBC p2p

  2. Erika Rathje

    I get the sense that youth are suspicious about big corporations and wouldn’t think a bank to be that cool. Credit union (like Vancity) maybe, but not a big conservative bank. However, I think the idea is clever and helpful. They could probably benefit by having more of a sponsorship position rather than a branding position because ultimately, its obvious their goals are to sell their services (and why not). Unfortunately, RBC’s student services only became free around the time I graduated, and sneakily, I’d have been paying for it if I’d cancelled my services one at a time.

  3. Duane Storey

    Considering my car loan is 2.9% and my RBC student loan is closer to 10%, I’m not very trusting of banks and their objectives for like this, especially when it involves kids.

  4. Duane Storey

    Oh, I was also going to comment on RSS excerpts. I’ve also had full entries in my RSS, but to be honest have never really been that happy with it. Sure, it helps people read my content quickly, but if I’m a brand then you’re really missing out on alot of the things I have over at my website. To me, it feels sort of like skipping the hockey game just to watch the highlights later on.

    That being said, I’ll keep it the way it is because most people except it that way now. But I don’t blame people for limiting it to excerpts only.

  5. Erika Rathje

    Before the last federal election, I was told the government (Conservatives I think) wanted to eliminate the eligibility of students to declare bankruptcy. Plus the government thinks that increasing the loan threshold is supposed to help students somehow (how about lowering tuition eh?) and RBC competes with the government for loans.

    As for excerpts, I used to be worried about people not coming to my site, but after using RSS for awhile, I’ve discovered if I’m interested in enough in the topic/blog, I’ll go to the website to comment. Ultimately websites are not just about aesthetics and branding. If the content’s not there/not accessible/not engaging, you have nothing.

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