Even though I never really understood Lloyds Bank’s mysterious
’tales from the Black Horse’ campaign, I would bet a pound a penny that
it was all about presenting the bank as a customer-friendly sort of
place which provides tip-top service and all that.
Now the Sunday Times has uncovered a nasty practice at Lloyds TSB- a
memo instructing staff not to move customers’ money from current
accounts into higher-interest accounts, thereby saving the bank millions
a year in interest payments. At a stroke, you might say, Lloyds has
undone all the hard work the banks have put in since the early 90s to
change their image. Cut away the marketing hype and the bank has
revealed itself as a greedy institution with no care for its customers
It is ironic that the Cheltenham & Gloucester, whose tagline, ’run to
make you richer’, is one of the best in the sector, is a sister
But imagine the mood in the Lloyds TSB marketing department, where a
mass slitting of the wrists is probably taking place as you read this.
For not only has the memo undermined all their hard work, it also
reveals the true status of marketing in the bank - ie near the bottom of
the pile, and certainly well below that of operational staff like the
author of the memo. Like all other service companies coming to terms
with deregulation and competition, banks have struggled to integrate
marketing and customer care into the heart of the organisation.
The Lloyds gaffe is a salutary reminder that merely hiring a marketing
director and giving him a big budget does not, by itself, make an
First there was Flora. Then came the RAC, which thought that using her
name in a seatbelt ad might help it recover the ground lost by its
disastrous TV campaign. Now Hasbro wants to do a Diana doll. Tacky?
Almost certainly. Commercially sensible from the marketer’s point of
Of course, it is easy to be too critical. The very act of establishing
the Princess of Wales Memorial Fund legitimised the idea that her name
and memory were available for commercial exploitation. No-one should
therefore be surprised at some of the ideas that are floated.
The trick is going to be in balancing the aims of the Fund - to raise
money for the good works with which Diana associated herself in the
latter stage of her life - with those of its partners. They may not be
mutually exclusive in all cases, but they are very different. However it
is dressed up by the likes of Flora or Hasbro, they are interested only
in selling more products.
What, though, does a commercial partner buy? If it’s certainly not her
endorsement - how could it be? - then it is at least association. But
association with what? By definition, the nature and quality of that
association will change with each additional licensing deal. Unless the
fund is careful, the currency of that association will diminish.
It may be a fanciful comparison, but would Eva Peron or Marilyn Monroe
still have the same value more than 30 years on if there had been an Eva
or a Marilyn doll?