Barclays Bank spends 30 per cent more on advertising than its
nearest rival, yet who remembers any of the ads? Its decision last week
to hire Leagas Delaney to handle its pounds 18 million account, ending a
seven-year relationship with J. Walter Thompson, indicates that this is
all about to change.
But in an increasingly competitive market where consumers are getting
more and more demanding, it’s going to take more than a branding
campaign to sustain its 7 per cent market share.
Barclays, along with every other high street bank, is facing
increasingly tough market conditions. NatWest has 5.8 per cent market
share, Lloyds/TSB 10.9 per cent and HSBC 3.3 per cent, according to
Datamonitor. And growing competition is dividing the market. The
building societies have joined the fray, as have several trendy
specialist offerings, with strong youth appeal, including the
Prudential’s Egg and HSBC’s First Direct.
Not only that, but many of the launches are coming from ever more
specialist providers. Banks are increasingly under attack from pensions
companies and unit trust specialists.
Harry Macauslan, deputy chairman of account management at JWT, says:
’Niche players are arguably offering better services to key
Adding to this, consumers are becoming more savvy and are expecting more
from their banks. The popularity of operations like First Direct, with
its customer-focused positioning, have forced high street banks to
invest in costly initiatives, such as Lloyds/TSB’s recent decision to
open certain branches all day Saturday and until 7pm two nights a
Jayne Barr, the Leagas Delaney board director who led the Barclays
pitch, admits: ’It is a very confused market.’
So, in response to such challenges, Barclays is preparing its first
branding campaign for seven years. For the first time, the campaign will
span all four of the company’s major units: retail financial services,
corporate banking, Barclays Capital and Barclays Global Investors.
Sally Shire, Barclays’ director of corporate affairs, who oversaw the
pitch process, says: ’Most of the previous advertising has been
product-specific. What we haven’t had is an over-arching creative
framework. That’s what we’re now trying to achieve.’
The move mirrors that made by NatWest last year when, in an attempt to
secure brand consistency, it centralised its entire marketing account
into TBWA GGT Simons Palmer.
The strong creative reputations of the agencies invited to pitch for the
business prove that Barclays is looking to bring about significant
change: the incumbent, JWT, pitched, but it was battling against Leagas
Delaney, BMP DDB and Wieden & Kennedy.
The company has been looking at its positioning for two years, since it
set up a top-level ’brand leadership council’ composed of the chief
executives of each of the divisions. A year later it hired Interbrand
Newell and Sorrell to develop a new identity, which will be unveiled
The brand leadership council came up with its own positioning and brief
for both Interbrand and Leagas Delaney. ’We have to be behind the
thinking because we have to live with it,’ Shire says.
The bank remains tight-lipped on the actual positioning it is aiming
for, but insiders expect a softer, more customer-focused approach.
Point-of-sale material gives some indication of the direction the bank
is taking - it features artistic photographs of very happy scenes from
everyday life, such as people swimming.
Barclays’ core strengths as a brand, according to Shire, are
wide-ranging expertise and progressiveness. ’Clearly the market is very
competitive, but it is our belief that we have a compelling story to
tell, which we want to bring to life,’ she says.
The challenge for Leagas Delaney is huge: a branding campaign which will
suit all four Barclays businesses and appeal to everyone from business
leaders to teenagers. Macauslan wonders: ’Can it be all things to all
people at all times when the sector already has very effective niche
But Nick Hough, Leagas Delaney’s managing director, sees the new
strategy as an opportunity: ’It’s an under-exploited brand. The main
thing will be to re-inject some vigour into the brand.’
Macauslan adds: ’They’ve got to put some meat into the sandwich for the
advertising agency to work with.’ It seems likely that the new brief has
given Leagas Delaney some ’meat’, while JWT, with a string of
product-led commercials, was provided with just some stale white bread
and a piece of limp lettuce. Shire concedes: ’JWT didn’t have such a
Macauslan is adamant that the opportunity for Barclays lies in truly
committing itself to customer service. ’They talk about it, but they
don’t do it,’ he says.
’I’ve yet to see a bank take an aggressive position on this. You don’t
ever get a ’never knowingly undersold’ statement, as you do with John
But all banks face the same conundrum. Barclays is by no means obliged
to offer a bargain to its customers because, so far, none of its main
rivals are doing that. The motivation to change does not yet come from
the bottom line. But as one banking commentator says: ’Nice branding
campaigns are not panaceas. It’s what you get that counts, not what you