Will we ever want an 'emotional' relationship with a bank, especially Barclays?

'I've got a big meeting with the big cheese from the big studios. It's the big time with the big bucks.' So said Sir Anthony Hopkins in a series of bank ads back in 2000.

Barclays believed its most important asset, as far as consumers and branding went, was 'because we're big'. Its ads shouted: 'A big world needs a big bank.' Today, despite the impeccable acting, it makes for rather grotesque viewing.

Last week, Barclays boss Antony Jenkins set out his plan to address some of that rot at the core of the brand. At the centre of his strategy is a desire to become the 'go-to' bank - 'to be the instinctive partner of choice, for that choice to be both rational and emotional because of what people think and feel about us'.

Is Barclays kidding itself? The words are laudable - its new values are 'respect, integrity, service, excellence and stewardship' - but are they grounded in reality? Could the best that Barclays should hope for be regaining a little trust, or, at least, consumers distrusting it a little less?

Speaking to Marketing, Barclays' head of brand, reputation and citizenship, David Wheldon, says he believes the bank can learn a lot from Apple (page 12). So perhaps its championing of digital developments, such as the Pingit payments app, will go some way to re-engaging consumers whose emotions are aroused by technology.

The problem for banks, though, is that (even disregarding their recent misdemeanours) our relationships with them are based on very different emotional foundations from those with the likes of Apple. The aspirational glow generated when we first turn on an iPhone is not replicated when we transfer money online.

The strongest emotion we feel tends to be a negative reaction to customer service. A good service is often simply a smooth, un-noteworthy transaction.

It’s hard to see how the ambition for an ‘emotional’ relationship with Barclays translates to the real world. For example, within Barclays’ strategic review, many of the cost-savings are based around customer efficiencies: processing people as quickly as possible.

Striving to cut time spent on one-to-one dealings with customers - even if that ambition is centred on reducing the hassle for those customers - can only serve to push Barclays towards an emotion-neutral experience.

Wheldon says this is the most 'exciting' opportunity of his 30-year career. However, it is fair to say that, for the next few years, the brand will only ever be one mistake away from undoing a lot of good work, and the internal marketing challenge of promoting major cultural change will be at least as important as, if not more important than, any customer-facing transformation.

The answer to a big challenge for a big bank with a big image problem? Reconnect with what matters to people, get personal and build trust. And, above all else, remember that the big picture can be changed only by making thousands of small improvements.

Rachel Barnes is deputy editor; Claire Beale is away.

Rachel.Barnes@haymarket.com Twitter: @rachelmrbarnes


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Oasis #springasmile digital campaign gets people doing good deeds
Coca-Cola: 'Don't approach bloggers with a fait accompli'
Tesco CMO Matt Atkinson: 'It is so important not to stereotype mothers'
McDonald's gives Ronald a new look ahead of global 'Fun times' social media push
In pictures: BrewDog opens first craft beer shop BottleDog for 'beer aficionados'
Facebook ad revenue leaps $1bn as it invests in targeting
Malteser or Maltesers? Mars takes Hershey trademark dispute to court
Apple Q2 profits top $10bn as iPhone sales soar
Lynx tells men not to leave love to fate
HBO captures awkwardness of watching sex scenes with parents
Primark to open first US stores with Boston chosen as flagship location
Marketing spend on the up but a reality check is needed before celebrating
Top 10 ads of the week: Jackpotjoy and BT Broadband fend off Kevin Bacon
Lidl beats Tesco to 10m Facebook fans
Center Parcs ad banned for encouraging parents to take kids out of school
Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Amazon named top brands for targeting youth market
Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015
Jimmy Savile victims urged to claim compensation in new ad campaign
UKIP launches biggest  ad campaign and stirs up 'racist' accusations
Apple boss Tim Cook provides voiceover on ad touting firm's renewed green commitments
John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers