First Direct has succeeded in changing value perceptions in a way that could hold valuable lessons for supermarkets locked in a price war.

Saving is a task that many find quite hard. Faced with the options of splashing the cash on something we want now (a new gadget, pair of shoes, tickets to a gig), or taking a longer-term approach to saving for something less attainable (a luxury holiday, a car, a deposit for a house), it’s often easier to go for the quick hit.

The problem with saving is that it’s dull and worthy, with gratification deferred to a point that seems too far away. Step forward First Direct with its SaveApp. It’s a smart piece of kit that promises to make it a bit easier to save in a way that’s a little more fun than being completely hairshirt about it.

SaveApp asks you to set a target amount you want to save, and to choose areas where you can cut back, such as drinks, lunches and taxis. You can also set reminders so the app periodically tuts your spendthrift ways.

To promote the app, First Direct has hooked up with illustrator Mr Bingo in a social campaign through We Are Social, which selects tweets featuring #SavingCup and personalises coffee cups based on their hopes.

Banks are forever preaching the joy of taking the long-term view but the truth is that saving is quite a dull subject. However, First Direct has almost gamified it to make it more engaging. The doodles are bang-on for First Direct branding too – quirky and irreverent.

For retailers, there is a message here. Price has become the foremost battleground for supermarkets especially. However, it’s not working, because rather like the competing claims of political parties, it becomes hard to assess who is most truthful. Consumers become confused, cynical and they switch off.

What if supermarkets were to take a leaf from First Direct’s book and adopt a different approach to value? Rather than trumpeting price cuts as an end in themselves, maybe they could create something that would help hard-pressed shoppers to really save money by changing their shopping behaviour.

Perhaps an app could allow shoppers to identify something that they were looking to save towards – a product, or even an occasion such as Christmas – and then suggest small changes that could help towards it.

Maybe it could analyse your consumption and proactively alert you when products needed replenishing, or even warned you to return something to the shelf because you have already overstocked. Perhaps that’s a bit too revolutionary for our supermarkets though – they’re hard-pressed too at the minute, but ‘Every Little Helps’.

  • Matt Pye, chief operating officer at ad agency Cheil UK