Case Study: Bank of New Zealand’s Emotionscan

Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) is one of New Zealand’s largest banks and has been operating since 1861. The modern-day bank operates a variety of financial services covering retail, business and institutional banking and employs over 5,000 people in New Zealand. There are five different banks in total operating in New Zealand.

EmotionScan ( is an online experience that allows you to track your emotional responses to a variety of financial scenarios. Before EmotionScan, BNZ was generally the fifth choice bank for New Zealanders.

As with most financial institutions, the same old scenario applies here: people just don’t trust banks. But in general we do like money and we care about our money. It’s very difficult to get people to visit a bank branch and discuss their financial situation. BNZ claimed to help customers to ‘Be Good with Money’, but there was nothing to start the conversation between the two parties.



“Essentially it was around trying to give people a better understanding of how they respond to money which gets people to really think about their money. As a bank, we are trying to break down what we see as a taboo around talking about money. New Zealand is a bit like the culture in UK, where we find it intrusive when people talk about money,” says Terry Williams-Willcock, Digital Creative Director at Colenso/ProximityNZ.

The main goal of this project was to get more customers into the bank. It’s a very competitive sector. People are savvy enough to see through cheesy TV ads. Now it’s all about offering some value first and making the advertising part almost unnoticeable, but still effective. BNZ had to prove that it really helps to ‘Be Good with Money’, not just say it or win customers over with competitive rates.




Colenso/ProximityNZ approached it from a more scientific angle. They thought on how people actually act around money. The truth is, we make emotional rather than rational decisions when it comes to our finances. Facing this fact might trigger interest and who can explain finances better than a bank.

Terry Williams-Willcock comments: “As an individual, when I’m exposed to the ways I respond to money – I find it interesting and revealing. Therefore, I might want to talk to someone about it.”


EmotionScan uses emotion recognition software to analyse facial expressions. People are faced with scenarios based on various different banking subjects: cash flow, budgeting, mortgages, retirement, financial security, financial control, debt, dependents, donations and savings. EmotionScan is placed on a website and works with a webcam. The process takes roughly 4 minutes and takes the person through several scenarios, while tracking their emotions via the camera. Afterwards, they’re faced with a graph charting their reactions/emotions over this 4-minute period.

“When you go through the test it feels like you’ve been put in a room of TVs. We got the inspiration from a TV series called Black Box. The idea was to show you images that make you start thinking a bit. We used a lot of audio and encouraged people to go full screen and put their headphones on. It is like being in a room with a psychologist who asks provoking questions,” explains Terry Williams-Willcock, Digital Creative Director at Colenso/ProximityNZ.


Hopefully, the graphs encourage the user to reconsider his/her financial behaviour, which (ideally) means they either call BNZ or visit one of the branches. In this way, BNZ’s goal of starting a conversation is reached and the staff can now help the customer to make ‘smarter financial decisions’. Of course, the readings can sometimes be questionable and EmotionScan has received a fair amount of criticism from sceptical users. The claim that all human reactions can be interpreted in the same way for all people is, in itself, controversial.


The media campaign was built around EmotionScan. Colenso/Proximity NZ posted a behind-the-scenes video on the website and on YouTube. Users shared their experiences on social media and a simplified version of EmotionScan was set up at bus stops. Timing was also important.

Terry Williams-Willcock on their marketing strategy: “We wanted to reach people at the time when they’re more sensitive to money: paydays, Monday mornings. We used different types of media including billboards, interactive outdoor media, which read your emotions and printed out a picture of your reading. We also had digital media leading to the video on the website. The video did a lot for us. It had around 100,000 views.”


Over 200,000 people took part in an EmotionScan experience – that’s over 6% of all New Zealand adults. BNZ became the second most considered bank in New Zealand (after being 5th). Terry Williams-Willcock explains the change in behaviour: “One key result is embedding the bank into the minds of New Zealanders in a new way so they could choose a bank not based on the rates or deposits. We hope that now they consider choosing a bank with a bit more conscience around money.”

In the first version, the bank was unable to train all 5,000 people working at the branches. Therefore, going to the bank branch after the scanning wasn’t as detailed and helpful as it could have been. Still, the agency claims to be confident that, overall, customers will have a better experience next time.


Source : Bank


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