Summary

Starling Bank is a UK-based online bank whose ethical values are based around making financial services more accessible, diverse and sustainable. Working with communications agency Third City, Starling Bank wanted to raise brand awareness by changing negative media depictions of women and money. Its #MakeMoneyEqual campaign partnered with Brunel University to research and expose the scale of the problem. These insights led to the creation of a free, industry library of images that better represented women and money, housed on the Starling Bank brand website. Launched to online media via a digital PR and social media campaign, #MakeMoneyEqual contributed towards a five point brand awareness uplift for Starling Bank.

Objectives & aims

Starling Bank’s desk research showed that women were often portrayed as naive or inept with money, whereas men were represented as confident and in control. The research showed that this depiction negatively affected how women felt about their ability to manage money.

The company tasked Third City with changing these perceptions and, in doing so, raising brand awareness of Starling Bank as an empathetic and ethical consumer ally. The target audience was affluent, digital-first 25-40 year olds, and tech savvy 40-60 year olds.

Implementation, execution & tactics

As any analysis of representation of women and money in the media would be subjective, the strategy was to undertake objective, academic research into the issue, for added understanding and campaign credibility. Starling Bank’s subsequent partnership with Brunel University uncovered three core, problematic representations of women and money:

  • Women were four times more likely than men to be ‘infantilised’ in relation to money. For example, they tended to be shown with placing very small amounts in piggy banks
  • Women were rarely portrayed as the decision makers. Men were shown signing documents and shaking hands
  • There were no women with grey hair, no visible disabilities, headscarves, tattoos or same sex couples.

These insights informed the creation of a new, free image library on Starling Bank’s website which represented women and money more positively. A photographer who specialised in representing diversity was used to produce 100 branded and unbranded images of women signing documents, wearing suits, handling notes and so on. Pegged as a new, industry resource for anyone to access, the shots also featured different lifestyle settings and demographics, including a grey-haired mother with her deaf adult daughter and her daughter’s girlfriend, a professional in a headscarf in an office setting and a young black family with the mother signing documents as if buying a house.

The campaign was seeded to online lifestyle, news and finance media and picture desks via a digital PR campaign. It was also launched across Starling Bank and Brunel University’s social channels and shared with  gender equlity stakeholder organisations such as ‘everyday sexism project’ and ‘pregnant then screwed’.

Results

  • The campaign generated extensive online media coverage with a reach of 10 million. Highlights included pieces in the Telegraph, Metro and The Independent
  • The images have been downloaded 20,000 times and continue to be used within general articles about finance in the media
  • More than 250,000 people across social media interacted with the campaign in the first two months since launch
  • Starling Bank’s brand awareness rose by five percentage points (68% Q1 to 73% Q2, source: Opinium)
  • Brand trust increased by four percentage points (60 to 64%), and there was also a significant rise in people seeing Starling as “for people like me” (source: Savanta BrandVue).

Awards

  • 2022 PRCA Digital Awards, Best Use of Content
  • 2021 ESG Awards, Best Campaign to Improve Gender Equality & Best Campaign to Reduce Inequality
  • 2021 CIPR Awards, Best Use of Content