Wonga: puppets face the axe
Wonga: puppets face the axe
A view from Nicola Carter

Three key lessons for Wonga as it strives to improve its brand reputation

As Wonga looks to scrap its elderly puppets and rework its image, Nicola Carter, senior planner at Rufus Leonard offers three lessons to help the payday lender tackle its reputation issues head-on.

Andy Haste’s plans to overhaul Wonga’s marketing in a bid to return the brand to favour have caused a stir across the industry, particularly on Twitter. However, as Wonga itself admits, there are numerous things that have caused its reputation in the market to be as it is.

Business issues aside, from a brand perspective, Wonga's position as category leader exacerbates its challenges. In short, Wonga has become synonymous with payday lending. At a time when the industry's reputation is damaged, the brand is automatically associated with any negative press surrounding the sector. Wonga's task going forward is to differentiate itself from the category, proving to customers that it is not just another payday lender.

Be meaningful in differentiation

The team must differentiate Wonga in a way that is meaningful to its target customers. This requires customer-centricity; developing deep understanding of its target customer and speaking to them in a way that is truly relevant.

It will require imagination and bravery for Wonga to differentiate effectively. The brand must not only differentiate from the category, but from its current business practices. To succeed, Wonga - with help from the Financial Conduct Authority - must be able to imagine a different way of operating. If Wonga can differentiate in a way which meets both customer and regulatory needs, it can become true pioneers in the category.

Demonstrate genuine business change

Change should not be limited to communications. Today's consumers are savvy and cynical - they can detect and filter out inauthentic brand spin a mile off. It is no longer enough for brands to say things differently; they must do things differently as well. If Wonga wishes to regain consumer trust, it must demonstrate genuine business change.

Making change throughout the business requires a champion at the top. With executive support, change can manifest in many ways: sales, credit risk, customer service, employee engagement and remuneration. To successfully address its reputational challenges the entire organisation must align behind any brand promises.

Don’t shy away from the issues

The one thing the company can’t afford to do now is shy away from the issues around its reputation. It should listen to and monitor sentiment, and engage in a frank appraisal of where the issues lie. The bravest brands acknowledge their shortfalls before they attempt to move on. Consumers appreciate honesty. They have time for brands who are courageous enough to admit to mistakes, so long as they deliver on the changes they promise.