When finance gets friendly: how Barclays and RBS are using comms to charm customers

spotted.  sign in a Barclays bank window in Buxton, Derbyshire.  if you walk into this bank you are – officially – one of the loveliest people in the town.  welcome to marketing post credit crunch; where the banks are the bad guys with the perceived need to re-engage with the customers on whose savings (and borrowing) they depend.

the problem is that I'm not quite sure a sign saying 'you're lovely' is quite going to cut it given the spate of irresponsible banking practices that helped in their own little way to bring about a global credit crunch.  it's a fine gesture but does feel rather duplicitous given the scarce availability of credit and the limited extent to which government interest rate cuts are being passed on to consumers.

I'm told (thanks Phil G) that this started out as a employee-facing initiative, to make them feel (even) better about working at Barclays.  this makes sense and in many ways extending it to customers is analogous to what Halifax achieved for a long time with Howard et al.  but you have to question the tone in a customer-facing communication given the current economic climate.

unfortunately being overly nice seems to have caught on like a flu in the banking sector of late.  this from Stephen Hester, chief exec of RBS:

"At RBS we will take seriously our duty to support our customers and
try hard to avoid a repeat of the events that have weakened us. We need
to rebuild our strength, to work closely with Government and the
communities we serve" (source)

supporting communities, that's nice.

from Mediation's point of view there's a real opportunity here for a bank that's prepared to break the mold in the current climate and take customer commitment beyond window displays telling them they're nice or press releases about community support.  something like a First Direct approach for the credit-crunch age…

communications that provide advice and education in a rapidly changing financial climate.  communications that offer transparency about the positions and propositions of banks.  communications that talk honestly about the state we're in rather than the currently emerging knee-jerk reactions that lead to 'you can trust us because we're the biggest or the longest or the fastest' ads.

the opportunity is there for the taking.  customers are no doubt feeling bad enough about their financial futures without a barrage of 'buy me' – or worse 'like me' – coming at them…

but if you are one of those customers don't feel too bad; remember, you're lovely.


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