Never mind the outputs, what about the outcomes? I’ve spent much of my career agency-side but, for the past ten years, I’ve been a client. And that experience on both sides of the great divide has taught me a lot about the difference in agendas. As an agency man, I was mostly focused on our own outputs – how great the work was. As a client, I realised pretty quickly that the only thing that really matters is the outcome – how successful the business is over the medium-to-long term. Great communications are an important tool, but real success lies in the sustainable growth of the enterprise.
It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy
A brand with purpose and values is a very valuable thing. During the economic crash, I was working for Lloyds Banking Group and, like many others, became increasingly disillusioned with banking. This led me to joining Virgin Media – a challenger brand going up against the behemoths of Sky and BT. If Virgin Media was about growing a challenger to the big telecoms and media players, then joining TSB was about creating a challenger from scratch. It was a unique opportunity to launch something that was already substantial – I called it the world’s biggest start-up. We set a clear purpose for TSB: to bring real competition to UK banking and to help local people and communities right across Britain to thrive together. And we informed this with a simple yet crystal-clear set of values. Why did we do this? Because I firmly believe that a brand with purpose and values is a very valuable thing.
In the near future, at least 75% of the bank’s transactions will be digital, and most of those will be via mobiles
The "boom loop" – having a strategic long-term mindset. Knowing what kind of growth and value the brand should be driving is vital, as is being able to measure it. Whenever someone encounters the brand, the experience they have creates the brand. And exceptional experiences, wherever and however they happen, create advocacy, which is what ultimately drives sustainable value for the business. I call this strategic process the "boom loop".
The brand exists to serve the business. Not the other way round. Just like our brand values, the KPI at TSB couldn’t be clearer: achieve a 6% market share of new bank accounts. That’s 50% growth and we’ve achieved this every quarter since launch. And, of course, ensuring that as many of those are "boom loop" customers that will share our brand’s values, have a great experience and therefore want to advocate is vital for the growth in value as well as volume of the business. So don’t look inward at what we’re achieving as marketers. Look outward at what we’re achieving for the business.
The brand is the whole customer experience. TSB’s purpose, "Local banking for Britain", isn’t just an advertising idea or a brand line. It’s everything we do, everywhere. So the brand is the entire customer experience. And while testing and learning different approaches and measuring their impact is important, it is difficult and arguably unnecessary to isolate the effect of any one message or touchpoint from another because they’re all reinforcing and influencing each other. We focus on building an ecosystem and culture where all of our content, whether bought, owned or earned, is aligned and works in harmony, so we can focus on the overall effect.
Leaning in to change is vital for success, today more than ever. In the near future, at least 75% of the bank’s transactions will be digital, and most of those will be via mobiles. The challenge of digital vs physical contact is that it’s harder to differentiate the customer experience from other banking brands. I believe the best way to distinguish our digital customer experience is to surround it with relevant content and appropriate social media engagement. That’s why we entered our long-term partnership with Pride of Britain. It provides us with a constant stream of relevant, fun and engaging content and social media buzz, as well as the opportunity to meet Peter Andre!
It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy, as Steve Jobs once said. So be a challenger, refuse to blindly follow accepted wisdom and take others on the path towards the holy grail of originality and success. Now that’s what I call leadership.
Nigel Gilbert is chief marketing and communications officer at TSB. He was previously Virgin Media's first chief marketing officer, group marketing director at Lloyds TSB, and chairman and chief executive of Lowe Asia-Pacific.