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Canadian bank advertising joins the warm-and-fuzzy bandwagon

A view of a branch of a TD Canada Trust bank in Toronto November 9, 2007.

© Mark Blinch / Reuters

Advertisers love to put a lump in your throat.

The trend toward heartstring-tugging advertising has picked up speed in recent years. All kinds of products, from peanut butter to fast food, airlines and beer have advertised their softer, human side.

When it comes to the warm and fuzzy, you wouldn't think banks are the best fit. But Canadian financial institutions have also been working the emotions in their ads of late.

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Last year, Toronto-Dominion Bank had success with an online video that racked up millions of views. In it, an ATM machine gave away surprise gifts to loyal customers, including a trip for a woman to see her sick daughter in Trinidad.

Now, Bank of Montreal is hoping for similar results with a new video in which its employees surprise a customer with a gift of their own.

The customer, Arash Bahrami, is a small business owner who runs a deli, and has been struggling with knee pain due to the time he spends on his feet. Like many small business owners, he does not take days off. BMO staffers ran the deli for him for a day, and bank employees came out for a special lunch rush that tripled his usual sales.

The bank checked Mr. Bahrami into a hotel for a day off. While it certainly doesn't solve his longer term health issues, BMO is hoping its gesture for a customer will strengthen its "We're Here to Help" brand positioning.

For BMO, the strategy is to set itself apart from its competition in any way it can. The banking sector can be one of the most challenging for marketers: customers are reluctant to switch, and often don't perceive much difference between brands. Besides that, because it can be difficult to pique people's interest in financial products, taking a softer storytelling approach could help the bank connect with viewers in a more relatable way.

BMO's story received more than 100,000 views in its first few days, but it has also been supported with paid ads on social media – it remains to be seen whether the story will be a widespread success.

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