Banking for populist times - Comment & Profiles -

When the economic outlook is uncertain, banks need to respond to their customers’ concerns and fears writes Brian Caplen.

Canada’s TD Bank increased its brand value by 15% and moved up four places to 13th in The Banker and Brand Finance’s latest Top 500 Banking Brands ranking, at a time when other Canadian banks performed less well. What was TD’s secret?

Of a number of changes, the bank rethought its tagline switching from ‘Banking can be this comfortable’ which had been used for 17 years, to ‘Ready for you’. Theresa McLaughlin, global chief marketing officer at TD, says: “The change was based on the insight that 79% of Canadians don’t feel confident about their financial future; something that as a leading bank we felt we could change.”

Of course, TD also invested in artificial intelligence and the giving of online investment advice, but for all the focus on technology in banking today, it is important not to forget that on-target messaging can still achieve a great deal.

Messaging that was appropriate for a former time when job security was greater and the economic outlook more rosy is not going to hit the mark for customers living in the current uncertain times that have led to the rise of populism in the political sphere.

The UK’s Virgin Money, which also did well in the ranking, reckons that not being called a bank is an advantage. “Consumers don’t talk about banking; they talk about money. As we have ‘money’ in the title Virgin Money, we are already differentiated from other banks,” says group brand and marketing director Helen Page. So even the name and designation of the institution needs to be considered.

For more ideas on branding see managing editor Joy Macknight’s report.

Brian Caplen is the editor of The Banker. Follow him on Twitter @BrianCaplen

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