Tag Archives: trust

Trust in Financial Services

Trust and Financial services.  Just 4 words but the amount of time this occupies in creative agencies and Banks and Insurers currently is incredible.

I have posted on my blogs about trust, heritage and credibility alongside customer insight regularly in the last few months.

The amount of money being spent on TV advertising alone is now significant in trying to rebuild trust in Banks and banking.  Some even use the word in the advertising.  A risky approach , who amongst us thinks, “trust me I’m a doctor is reassurring”?

Lets look at the cold hard facts, these stats are a little dated, March 2010 … so the numbers are only likely to have increased;

Selected UK Payment Volumes and Values Annually

Volume (billions) Value (£ billions)
Cash 22.6 267
Debit Cards 5.4 241
Credit/Charge Cards 2.0 139
Direct Debits 3.1 935
Direct Credits* 2.4 3000
Cheques 1.4 1429
Value transported by G4S, Loomis, etc around 700

* Including internet and telephone banking: Source UK Payments Council – the Future for cash in the UK report

In essence we trust our banks to do all of this every single day.  We trust that when we set up a direct debit that it will be paid as we instruct, the same with standing orders, the same when we go to the cash machine to draw out cash.

So on an unconscious level we do trust our Banks and Financial Services companies.  We even trust brand new companies to do this … look at the success of Metro Bank – a start up!.  And what convinces us to change our Bank … well I know switching is low currently – only around 2.5% to 5% according to the latest Payments Council report and Simon -Kucher research,  but the reports show that 37% of us would CONSIDER switching to a challenger Bank. Now I know that there is a difference between words and actions, otherwise the switching figure would be much higher, so maybe the trust issue is a lack of trust in the banks to switch our current accounts correctly.

That is a very different starting point and all the brand rhetoric in the world will not convince people this is low risk, unless there are some hard facts/proof points behind your claims.

To try to resolve that the Payments Council have now announced details of the switching guarantee scheme – a real positive forward-looking move.  I won’t repeat all the details but at launch in September 2013 almost 100% of Banks are included and in summary the details are:

  • The service is free to use
  • The customer can choose and agree the switch date with their new current account provider
  • The new current account provider will take care of moving all payments going out (e.g Direct Debits) and those coming in (e.g. salary)
  • For 13 months the new current account provider will arrange for payments accidentally made to the old account to be automatically redirected to the new account
  • If anything goes wrong with the switch, as soon as it is told the new current account provider will refund any interest and charges made on either a customer’s old or new current account as a result of the failure.

You can read the full details here.

Nationwide have the most interesting publicly stated approach to service driving loyalty which works well as a compliment to the above hard / rational approach.  In Marketing Week Magazine (2 May 2013) their Customer Strategy Director stated that “…we treat our existing customers, if not the same, then better than new customers…” interesting.  Santander are using their 123 offer to rationally drive loyalty by giving tangible benefits to loyal customers of its current account offering. Interesting.

It’s a fierce marketplace that generates lots of marketing activity and expenditure.  A simple fact I know, and you can trust me here (sic), as you will see this offer repeatedly, is that at present it only takes £100 to ‘incentivise (read “bribe”)’ someone to switch current account providers.  I’ve marketed on that basis successfully in the very recent past.

So do I think trust is key? No I don’t, not entirely.

I think you need to be ‘liked’ by your customers and your target market.  Here is an example; First Direct are loved by their customers

Look at this Which survey from November 2012.

Customer satisfaction for current accounts
Current accounts Internet Telephone Customer score
First Direct excellent excellent 92%
Smile excellent good 87%
The Co-Operative Bank excellent good 87%
The One Account n/a n/a 85%
Nationwide BS excellent satisfactory 76%
Intelligent Finance (IF) good satisfactory 64%
Yorkshire Bank satisfactory n/a 61%
Cahoot good n/a 60%
HSBC good satisfactory 58%
Lloyds TSB good satisfactory 57%

I would contend that the platypus campaign is an advertising strategy designed to make you LIKE the brand not TRUST the brand.

Likeability is a much underrated virtue and one that is, obviously tied up in trust, but its more complex, it plays into multiple dimensions of the emotional and rational belief in a brand.

I wonder if the customer engagement cycle now looks like this:


I think that in designing strategies for success in 2013 the banks that will win will demonstrate the following:

  1. leveraging the unconscious trust – perhaps through reminding customers of what they do day in day out
  2. developing a  friendly empathetic approach to service and acquisition to drive likeability
  3. Become more likeable in their public image – advertising and what they are famous for – I await the rise of Sponsorship here !
  4. A customer experience that holds at its core, that a customer who does not like you, even if they stay, will not repeat buy and will be a vocal pagan
  5. A brand that really champions the switch guarantee service – publicly and often … this will build trust, trust that the brand has its processes nailed already.  Early adoption will be crucial.


I would really welcome your views .. let me know what you think if you get a minute or two, thanks.


17 06 2013

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Yorkshire take over !

Yorkshire. A massive County and a state of mind maybe after the 2012 London Olympics. A county that fires connections as soon as you mention it; Cricket, The Moors and Bronte sisters (without hats of course), Great Castles and Abbeys, The Steel of Sheffield, the grand coasts around Whitby and Scarborough, a great cultural scene with the Hepworth, YSP, York itself – all set to a stirring brass band soundtrack – and one of the great cities of the UK in Leeds at its centre.

The advertising of Yorkshire as a destination has a great call to action ‘Have a brilliant Yorkshire’.

Fair enough, I have lived in Yorkshire and loved it.

My Blog and this post though, are concerned with Marketing, and not of Yorkshire itself, but Financial Services.

I have posted before about the heritage of Yorkshire Building Societies, and Insurers and Banks abound in the County.

Three new TV campaigns borne out of Yorkshire are worth mentioning for their diversity and their aim, and that fact that all aired within a week of each other in May this year;

Yorkshire Bank are back on TV with a sweeping TV execution. This is a rare event in itself.

Let’s look at the facts: Founded in 1859 In Halifax, now a trading name of Clydesdale Bank which in turn is a subsidiary of National Australia Bank Group. Not the most promising structure from which to start a heritage play. But for Bankers building trust is the biggest game in town. You have to give it a go, or do you? (see First Direct later)

The TV ad is a minute of well crafted TV, scene by scene it hits you with resonance’s:

  • Fishing – Trawlers and the magnificent Yorkshire Coast – Whitby to Hull
  • Agriculture – calling to mind the vast moors and farming at the heart of the Dales
  • Modernity – to capture the hearts of the city dwellers of Leeds, Bradford & Hull
  • Steelworkers and a furnace – to warm the hearts of South Yorkshire’s finest
  • The boxing looks a clear play on the Olympic tradition and a subliminal reference to Nicola Adams/Billy Elliott
  • The NHS – perhaps a reference to the world famous Jimmy’s, but it’s a big employer regardless in such a large county

Clever ! Very clever in fact.

But the strap-line is horribly confusing – “We care about here” – in the context of examining the ad in detail it works, but even their own website (unusually clear and coherent for Financial Services) muddies the water – if you have to think what it means it may not be working. The clear idea is to target Yorkshire based folk – and it may well resonate with that audience, I fear for its reach though. Still, its nice to see them back !

One thing to note is clever use of photography on the website too – Humber bridge, Scarborough coast perhaps – nice colour palette too.


Yorkshire Building Society

They have extended their TV exposure and are continuing with their heritage focused advertising, but bringing in a rational trust argument alongside the emotional references. That end play is all about Mortgages, seasonally quite apt.

The Ad over labours the engagement metaphor, but I like it. The voiceover being earthy and Northern fits well. There are two points worthy of pulling out: emphasising the words “fair’ & “built” (on trust) works really well. Coupled with a measured tone you get the sense of a business on your side – Mutuals should be ! and one that is not jumping on a bandwagon. The more I listen to this “Built on Trust Campaign” the more I like it.

The Steve Reich like metronomic quality of the soundtrack drives the ad along to a nice CTA “Search Yorkshire Mortgages” … a clear invitation to the rest of us to bid on that term of course ! (sorry!)

First Direct – yes, they are Northern – based in Leeds.

Well their new TV and social media executions demonstrates a very different approach.

All I will say here is that is demonstrates consistency. You will either love or loathe it. It’s either quirky and original or pretentious twaddle. My observations:

  • It gives stand out if you persevere with the ad to find out its a banking ad
  • It is brand consistent – B&W, quirky (remember the Vic and Bob ads)
  • It plays well into an area First Direct obviously see as at the future – Social Media – the unexpected tweet is the latest in a line of attempts to leverage that channel

I know how good their service is, but recently they have been in the same zone of buying business with £100 incentives as many others have done, clearly a follow me strategy. This campaign, though is back to a strategy that clearly says .. Well we can go here and play amongst Meerkats … can you, other banks? No? I thought not.

The answer used to be some could .. Remember Cahoot and Smile. Those days are gone. For me only Triodos Bank and First Direct are operating a differentiated approach to their marketing in Banking terms.

So in summary … we may need to start adding Advertising to the things we associate with Yorkshire pretty soon.

Let me know what you think of these three different ads …


02 June 2013




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Voiceovers ‘maketh’ the advert

Last week in my Marketing team was all about voices.  I work in Insurance as you may know, and part of my day job is to keep abreast of what our competitors are up to.  One of them, NFU Mutual. has just launched a new TV advertisement and as I am in the early stages of developing new ads for my brand it is of particular interest.

The NFU mutual ad is very different to many Insurance ads;

  • It’s not loud and shouty
  • it doesn’t have images of houses or cars in it
  • there are no dancing ferrets or woodland creatures on show to carry us along
  • And, finally, it has no price saving messages or NCD claims

In short it’s a beautifully filmed ad that relies massively on you engaging with the narrator.  Irritatingly I cannot pin down the voice at present – I think it may be Rhys Ifans (let me know if you have a better thought).  It is a rare (for advertising) adult to adult conversation.  The execution by Grey is impeccable.  Grey – London

It is similar in approach to a recent Hiscox advertisement for Insurance, and a comparison of the two points to the voiceover as a decisive difference.

There is character in the NFU Mutual ad, and the voiceover engages me right away.   The ad is called “It’s about time”  and whilst this is only used as end phrase, the use of the variant: “It’s about taking the time” works well with the measured pitch and self-deprecating tone. A brand that can poke gentle fun at itself like this shows itself as endearing and warm – a brand you can trust in fact.

Benedict Cumberbatch voices the Hiscox ad and for me its only at the end they get the value of the reassuring timbre his voice can give, it feels a little too dark and sombre – check out the skies and dimly lit interiors for example.  This gives the ad a seriousness and tone clearly desired by the Agency and client, but for me its a little too cold, despite the voiceover bringing it back a little at the end – does it live up to the ads title I wonder?

The voiceover artist in essence becomes, by default and ubiquity, the most important spokesperson for the brand – even more than the contact centre operators, branch staff and field agents etc.

The voice and brand become inextricably linked.  When the two are in harmony; then 2+2 =5 or more.  Just think about the Dave Lamb voiceovers in Come Dine with Me, or Big Brother without the soothing Geordie accent of Marcus Bentley.  The programmes would lack that instant recognition and extra ‘something’ that makes them work better/harder for the viewer.

There are echo’s all around financial services advertising at present of brands trying to build empathy through trust to increase active engagement with, and selection of, the brand and its offers.  Yorkshire Building Society is doing nice TV work in this area and the Northern tones/accent of the voiceover artist compliment the script and imagery very well in my view.

But what is my benchmark, in advertising at least?

The two voiceovers that stick in my mind which add significantly to the advertisements they are a part of, and which work harder by being well cast are:

The O2 ads voiced by Sean Bean – he simply has a, great, rich voice that is genuine, not actorly or preachy, it could easily be your pal talking about the great deal on top-ups – genius casting in my view.

But the real benchmark for truly making an ad has to be the early ‘dine in’ M&S ads with Dervla Kirwan … not just any voice-over, an M&S Voiceover! (Sorry I couldn’t resist that!)

I will post our ads when they are ready, but in the meantime .. I hope you enjoy these ads and my observations .. Let me know which ads you think have great voiceovers if you get a moment – its a neglected field I think.

2 March 2013

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Polar Bears and Marketing

I was fortunate to attend a lecture by Dr Alice Roberts in Keswick last week : An RGS lecture on “Survivors of the Ice Age”.  The setting was intimate, the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, a small newish venue that lends itself to this type of lecture.  There was a full house and Dr Roberts was a really great speaker, wonderfully warm and relaxed and brilliantly able to translate a very technical presentation for a partly lay audience.

I thoroughly enjoyed the two hours.  I learned some things, and as usual it led me to think of parallels in her descriptions of how mammals responded to the last ice age to my marketing challenges.  Polar bears featured, which I guess you knew from the title to this blog.  I was tempted to call it ‘The death of the Sabre Toothed Tiger’ … but only because we now know they are more closely related to Cats.  Hence ‘Sabre Toothed Cat’ is the new descriptor I am afraid, but in fairness I find this quite sad, so Polar Bears it is !

I learned that Polar Bears and Brown Bears have the same genetic coding, and that the Polar Bear is a response to the last ice age, and is descended from the Brown Bear.  The reason the Polar Bear evolved was a response to climatic change and shows a response by all mammals to seek “Refugia” (grown up scientific term you will note, you can tell I went to a lecture by someone massively cleverer than me !).  In short, and apologies to Dr Roberts for the next bits, the mammals at the time were warm adapted … they lived happily in Northern Europe, there were even some early Humans around at the time.

Glaciers descended down through Northern Europe in due course and this mean that the warm adapted mammals sought out Refugia.  In essence they went to ‘chill in the med’  which, I think you will agree, is a sensible enough idea in the circumstances.  This enabled some mammals, like Brown Bears, to stay ‘warm adapted’.

But not every species of mammal was that sensible – sorry to any Brown Bears who may read this – and some bears existed, they think on the very southern tip of Eire.

All mammals in these different Refugia had broadly two choices: evolution or extinction.  In the case of the Brown Bear colonies in Eire on the edge of the ice, they evolved over time into Polar Bears = Cold adapted, and generally very happy with the ongoing ice age – well done them!

Not every species was so lucky of course, and indeed, the current climatic changes mean that the Polar bears are seeking Refugia themselves and dwindling in number.

The two elements here that interest me are the 1) flight to Refugia and 2) the evolution required to survive the climatic change.

The parallel for me is the response of consumers to financial services and other advertising over the recent single, double and now treble dip recession – an economic climate change.

Consumers have demonstrated their desire for the familiar, the less risky, the solid and dependable.  Co-operatives have been a winner in this, Mutuals too.  The losers; the capitalist giants of banking who failed to evolve or communicate appropriately to the consumer need as it changed.  Of course it’s not that simple there are many reasons for the success and failures of financial institutions, but there are lessons to be learned from the demise of those cold adapted Mastodons, Woolly Mammoths and Sabre Toothed Tigers (sorry CATS); Evolve, like the Brown Bears, or go extinct being the most obvious as I for one, have never seem a Woolly Mammoth on my travels in Europe.

I would even go so far to say that the success of some brands I really dislike, like Wonga.com, are a direct response to a change in the economic climate.  I am balancing this with the fact that brands I really like e.g. Wilko and Poundland are prospering based on a  more positive exploitation of their new status as Refugia and for the same reason Wonga are flourishing.

The good news is that these brands appear to be evolving already and adapting to the climatic change by exploiting the feeling that they are in fact the consumers “Refugia”.

I’m sure that just like Polar Bears these brands will persist and grow to be a stronger species better adapted to the new Refugia they find themselves in.  The cautionary note is that one thing is certain … the economic climate, just like the climate in Northern Europe did at the end of the last Ice Age, will change again creating new opportunities for brands to evolve.


18 November 2012

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