Claire Stroud has had a dream year. Twelve months after its launch,
Goldfish, which is perhaps one of the most unlikely brand names ever
launched, has become the fastest growing credit card on the market and
is widely seen as a fish with a big future.
As brand spokesman Billy Connolly says in the latest TV ad, Goldfish are
Stroud has been a key player in developing the Goldfish business, taking
on the role of head of marketing in January from Bruce Rayner, who acted
as consultant on the launch of the card.
In many respects, the growth of the brand is reflected in Stroud herself
as a marketer. She admits that until the Goldfish job came her way she
had had little opportunity to greatly influence the direction of any of
the brands she had worked on.
Now aged just 33, Stroud has been involved in taking an idea from
scratch and building it into one of the most recognisable brands in the
UK. With the financial backing of two major corporate entities, this is
the sort of brief most marketers would walk over hot coals for.
The Goldfish card, which is run by Goldbrand Developments, a
joint-venture company owned by British Gas holding company Centrica and
US-based credit card issuer HFC Bank, offers no-nonsense money saving
deals, such as savings on gas bills, BT calls, shopping at Asda or the
television licence, and currently has 500,000 members.
Its apparent success is emphasised by the fact that its owner, Centrica,
now has the confidence to say it is to copy Virgin’s brand extension
strategy and take the Goldfish name into non-financial services
Stroud did not get results by becoming a hard-nosed marketing mogul and
cracking the whip over a vast marketing team. She appears to have
remained human and, in conversation, is personable and almost
But she clearly has a passion for her brand and an understanding of the
fact that a product will only succeed if its consumers are
These two qualities are reflected in her almost maternal feelings for
Goldfish and the fact that she often asks friends and family for advice
on future marketing ideas.
Originally from Teeside, she moved south after taking a degree at York
University and entered marketing with Swedish-owned Nobel Consumer
Goods, working on brands such as Silkience shampoos, Nulon handcream and
She gained her introduction to financial services by marketing store
cards for brands such as Kwik-Fit, Laura Ashley, Debenhams and Tandy
while at Burton Group Retail Financial Services. A three-year stint at
Midland Bank as head of card marketing gave Stroud experience of dealing
with the major card networks, Visa, MasterCard, Switch and the fledgling
Mondex electronic cash scheme.
Now standing in the Goldfish camp, Stroud is scathing of her rivals in
the credit card market. She appears to regard some of the major players
with something close to contempt - emotions which have been given
particular potency by her experience at Midland Bank, where she
encountered the proverbial glass ceiling and was frustrated by the lack
of influence enjoyed by marketers.
’I don’t think they (the banks) try hard enough. In ten years’ time they
are going to get a hell of a shock because there is a generation of
consumers coming through now who are far less loyal,’ she says. ’They
need to adapt to what the new type of consumer is demanding.
’Goldfish has gone from nothing to 73% brand awareness among consumers
in one year, and we are already being compared to Barclaycard and
NatWest, which proves we have reached a certain level of
According to Stroud, Goldfish is a success because it has a fresh image
which is backed up by lots of fresh ideas. This, she says, is because
the marketing team, which numbers only 12, genuinely cares about its
’The small team is a big reason for our success. People are more
positive about the product and can have more impact. If you have been
working in a big company for 20 years, there is less chance of making
much of a difference.
’To come from Midland, where you have little or no input into the brand
because it has become part of the environment, to go to Goldfish, where
you have a lot more freedom with the brand, is tremendously exciting,’
Product manager, Nobel Consumer Goods
Senior product manager, then marketing manager, The Burton Group Retail
Senior marketing manager, then head of card marketing, Midland Bank
Head of marketing, Goldfish