July 31, 2014 at 4:00 PM ET
Sometimes you just want to say thank you. At least that’s the attitude of TD Bank in a new viral marketing campaign that’s warmed hearts across the globe.
In #TDThanksYou, four TD locations across Canada surprised select customers with targeted gifts as part of their annual customer appreciation day, and filmed their priceless reactions for a YouTube video. The customers thought they were coming in for a focus group for a new ATM, but instead were met with an “Automated Thanking Machine.”
“This year we decided we wanted to step it up a notch,” Chris Stamper, senior vice president of corporate marketing for TD Bank Group, told TODAY.com.
The feel-good nature of the ad helps cut through the cynicism about the fact that at the end of the day, TD Bank is still trying to get people to pay for its services.
"The bank is a bank, and they're looking to get customers, but I think what they're trying to do here is spread some goodwill with customers and reward their loyalty," marketing expert Ann Handley, co-author of the book "Content Rules," told TODAY.com. "I think that's the beauty of it. It feels like a hidden camera, and the emotion is real.
"I look at marketing stuff all day, and I choked up at it," Handley said. "There's nothing about it that feels canned. The best marketing doesn't feel like marketing."
The campaign was hatched just eight weeks ago by TD’s internal teams and agencies, a timeline that Gary Vaynerchuk, marketing expert and CEO of Vayner Media, told TODAY.com is shorter than most.
“The only thing that really goes into something like this is making the decision that something like this is worth the time, effort and money," he said. "When you’re sitting in a boardroom and thinking of spending six, seven figures, the question behind the scenes is: 'Will it go viral?' Nobody can predict that.”
And the video, which has received more than 3.5 million views since it debuted last Friday, has people around the globe gushing.
“What’s really resonated is that it’s so genuine, so real. It’s real customers, that is their real reaction,” Stamper said.
He explained all the clips were shot in real time at branches in Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and that none of the participants — including the two different men inside the ATMs — read from a script.
Stamper was on site for some of the filming, and pointed to the Toronto Blue Jays megafan meeting player José Bautista as a particularly remarkable moment. “He said, 'I’m getting goosebumps,' and he actually went weak in the knees when José came out.”
The people at TD corporate relied heavily on their branch employees to select compelling participants, Stamper explained. “The folks in our branch networks know their customers so well that they were easily able to identify who they felt would be deserving and excited by the opportunity.”
"That was brilliant to use their employees to do that because it has got to feel great from an employee standpoint to give back,'' Handley said.
Vaynerchuk believes in brands banking on emotional connections to create loyal customers, and points to TD as the most recent success story. And in a recent presentation, he identified the element of surprise as being key in that connection, stating, “surprise helps create much stronger memories” and “surprise is more satisfying than stability.”
Despite the fact that they were able to personally impact only a handful of customers, he’s certain the positive vibes extend far beyond the specific individuals featured in the video.
“People just are too shortsighted. They don’t understand how far it can go,” Vaynerchuk said. His company recently pulled off a similarly personal campaign with Dove, featuring handwritten notes from the brand sent via Instagram’s direct messaging service.
TD is thrilled with the response to the video, and Stamper says there’s more to come.