LIVE ISSUE/BARCLAYS: Barclays looks to Leagas Delaney to unify its brand - Barclays is rediscovering branding in its new work, Francesca Newland writes

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.

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

customers.’



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

week.



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

next month.



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

distributors?’



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

broad remit.’



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

Lewis.’



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

see.’