TSB brings back the local bank

Richard Exon explains how the bank's history and its collaborative spirit helped Joint create the launch strategy for TSB.

In July 2012, Joint pitched against several of London’s best agencies for the chance to partner Project Verde, the Lloyds Banking Group change management programme that delivered TSB on 9 September.

We won, and the intervening 13 months have been like no other we can remember.

That’s because, together with the TSB team – led by the chief executive, Paul Pester – we had to reconstruct the brand almost from scratch.

Joining the TSB team

Right from day one, two things made a real difference.

First, TSB has given us all the access we could possibly ask for. One of us from Joint has attended every weekly executive committee – essentially the board meeting – for more than a year, spending time with the leadership team and understanding how and why they are building the bank they are.

This means TSB’s brand positioning and brand purpose flow straight from Pester’s vision, with further contributions from right across the business.

Second, we’ve been given the time to do our job. TSB has invested time and energy in getting its brand right. It brought us on board early in the process and made creating a powerful brand a bank-wide priority.

What is local banking?

We define TSB’s brand positioning as the home of local banking and, by this, we mean something much bigger than TSB’s 631 branches.

We mean a way of banking that goes right to the heart of what a modern bank in Britain could and should be.

So why is this true of, and competitive for, TSB?

It’s true because the structure of TSB – retail only; Great Britain only, but with real scale and spread evenly across England, Scotland and Wales – makes it unique among bank brands in the UK. Local banking is all that TSB does, with no other distractions.

And it’s competitive because it’s exactly what customers are asking for. People want their bank to be reassuringly big and visible on the high street, yet entirely separate from the whizz-bang world of investment banking, big corporate finance and overseas speculation.

Bringing the brand to life

From the very beginning, we had multiple work streams up and running on TSB.

Our first task was to bring the brand to life internally for the 8,500 TSB staff, well before we had an endline or a campaign as such.

All we had inherited at the start of the process was the beautifully redesigned TSB logo by Rufus Leonard and its credit-card designs.

These, combined with our brand strategy that was rapidly taking shape, was the start point for getting people energised about their new brand.

Armed with our trusty art bags, we shared our thinking the length and breadth of Britain. The questions and challenges we got along the way meant the strategy was continually refined and improved.

Next, we had to create the brand guidelines that would ultimately steer all the assets that a major online and offline bank requires.

We aimed for a lean look and feel, avoiding the well-worn trap of stock-shot hell that makes so many service brands look too similar.

TSB has a strong enough story without letting confection get in the way. Hence the posters and press and digital work TSB has launched with.

Who is Henry Duncan?

One of the most memorable experiences was when TSB’s Mike Regnier led an expedition to the Savings Banks Museum in Dumfries.

We’d read a bit about the Reverend Henry Duncan, but we had underestimated how revolutionary and radical his creation of the trustee savings bank movement was.

We all knew immediately that we had found a story that both substantiated our brand strategy and needed to be told on behalf of TSB.

We know a man…

So Damon Collins went to see Marc Craste at Studio AKA, and the short film that roots TSB firmly in its own history and updates it for today’s bank began to take shape.

Collaboration was key. Our clients were regular visitors to Marc’s studio as every element was crafted, buffed and honed.

The film is something that has already given the bank launch texture and authority, and it’s a touchstone for the brand that will endure long into TSB’s future.

The right partners

Developing the brand strategy and creating, producing and delivering the content – online banking and product brochures aside – have been a huge undertaking for Joint.

The 4.7 million letters and direct mail welcome packs don’t write themselves, and nor do the tiles, banners, interstitials, homepage takeovers, posters, social assets, press ads, in-store posters and mouse mats (no, really).

So thank goodness for everybody and every business that we have worked with. In particular MEC for a brilliant localised national media plan that broke new ground and added a whole new dimension to the launch.

The beginning?

Somebody on the team has likened the experience so far to working on an election campaign for a political party. Intense, all-consuming and with a non-negotiable end date in view.

So while launch day itself is behind us now, building and communicating TSB has really only just begun.

Richard Exon is a founder at Joint