5 Questions with Philippe Garneau of GWP Brand Engineering

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Phillipe Canada

Not many people know financial services advertising industry as well as Philippe Garneau, Founder of GWP Brand Engineering.  They were the agency that famously brought ING Direct to Canada, and are now the agency powering Borrowell’s mission to make Canadian borrowing more fast, fair and friendly.  We caught up with Philippe for the latest installment of ‘5 Questions With…’

You are well known in Canada for your advertising campaigns in the Canadian financial services industry.  Can you tell us about your experiences in this space?

Financial services advertising is a unique beast. Lots of it sucks, some sucks less, and some is great. I’ve learned a few hard lessons over the years: humour almost never works. It might make the ad funny but when someone is having trouble sleeping because they lost their job and they are worried about mortgage and credit card payments money stops being funny. I’m also proud that I’ve never written a bank ad in which I asked the question “Got a dream? Talk to us”. Why? Because people are the heroes of money, not banks or insurance companies. When financial brands assume a paternalistic tone that sets them up to be the hero of the story, versus a champion of the customer, they are out of ideas.

You brought ING Direct to Canada in 1997.  What was that experience like?

Engineering the launch of a bank isn’t something an ad person gets to do often in their career. There are probably 10 living advertising agency professionals in this country who can say “I created a bank brand”. So obviously being part of the small team that created ING DIRECT and stewarding it for over 12 years was nothing short of career changing. But the best part was that this was a brand that mattered. We forced all the banks to raise their game and not take their customers for granted, and the ING DIRECT guy in the ads helped mid-wife a whole generation of empowered customers. People miss the brand, miss the ads and miss the great value.

Why was ING Direct so innovative at the time?

ING DIRECT was innovative because it offered Canadians something they’d never had before: real choice. Suddenly if a customer didn’t like what their bank was offering they could walk across the street— virtually speaking— and get a better deal. This was a tectonic shift for the Canadian consumer. Up until then if you shopped between banks the difference in interest rates and fees was negligible. ING DIRECT changed everything.

Where do you see Canadian financial services headed in the next 5 years?

I think things are headed in all sorts of different directions and they all lead to more power for consumers. Credit Unions and the co-operative banking movement are emerging, alternative FinTech brands and famous trusted brands like Google, Amazon etc… are all focused on bringing financial choice and control to people. In the next 5 years your wallet, err… I meant to say your phone, will look very different indeed.

What excites you about creating the Borrowell brand?

Borrowell is a perfect example of why I love what I do. Borrowell is bringing real choice to people and making a real difference in people’s lives. The borrowing and credit marketplace in this country still needs a lot of work and Borrowell is stirring things up and doing a lot of the heavy lifting by standing up for people and saying here’s a better way. I confess that I also like that there are dragons to slay. Borrowell wants to help bring down the level of credit card debt in Canada, we want to help people learn how to borrow well not just borrow. That’s what gets me up in the morning. What ING DIRECT did for savers, Borrowell is going to do for borrowers. That’s what excites me.

Philippe Garneau has been the President of GWP Brand Engineering since 1996.  Learn more about Phillipe and Brand Engineering 

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