Moments that matter – Lloyds Bank’s clumsy attempts to connect with their customers

by
April 27, 2014

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I had a go at a mailer I received last year from Lloyds’ Bank with a post entitled “There is something rotten in the state of brand land”.  As they were between campaigns at that point I guess a bit of confusion on their part was excusable.  But now the new advertising is in full swing things are no better.  Looking at the “Moments that matter” ads you have to ask yourself “what planet are these guys on?!”

Not a happy customer

First of all let me be totally honest – our personal customer experience with the bank has not been good of late, so I’m a bit jaundiced.  We bought a new computer a few weeks ago, using my wife’s credit card.  Because we don’t buy new computers every week Lloyds Bank decided this constituted “unusual activity on the account” – and suspended the card.  Problem was, they neglected to inform us.

She only discovered this when trying to buy books from Amazon.  Lucky she wasn’t miles from home, trying to pay for petrol, late at night.  When she contacted the bank they told her what they had done, adding “we tried to call you”.

Tried?  As in our customer service representative in a remote call centre had one feeble attempt and gave up before they succeeded?  We both work from home so at least one of us is here 95% of the time during working hours.  We have an answer machine.  And they could have texted us.  So what kind of “try” was that?  Marks for security vigilance 9/10.  Marks for communication and service 0/10.

So you could say I’m not a neutral observer when it comes to judging their marketing.  But here goes anyway.

We care about you.  No, really, honestly, we do, trust us on that one…

Catherine Kehoe, managing director for brands and marketing, Lloyds Banking Group, talked to Marketing Magazine and Marketing Week last September when the new campaign launched.   She acknowledged that the bank, along with the entire sector, has some work to do in terms of rebuilding trust (don’t mention PPI mis-selling, Libor fixing, taxpayer bailouts or excessive bonuses).  She told the interviewer that the new campaign was intended to persuade people that “what matters to our customers matters to us”.  Hence the new theme of “Lloyds Bank – for the moments that matter”.

She adds that the bank is going to use the “customers’ words” and “It’s about reflecting people’s lives and not pushing products at them, and not the bank doing the talking”.

As a strategy it sounds reasonably sensible.  But how well does it play out in practice?  Dave Trott, in his excellent book “Creative Mischief” has a chapter entitled “The punters haven’t read the brief”.  He reminds us that the conventional way of judging an ad campaign, checking how well it matches the brief, is bollocks.  You are, as Dave says, “judging the work in exactly the way the consumer won’t  – the consumer won’t have read the brief before they’re exposed to the work.”

So what is our reaction to this?

lloyds-bank-46_460

 

Right, what they are saying is “we know your family matters to you”.  Blimey, how did they figure that out?  What amazing insight – these guys are truly on my wavelength!

Is that really my reaction?  No, I feel they are cynically playing back to me what they think I want to hear.  But in a way that’s banal.  Insincere.  Patronising.  Cynical.  Sickeningly sweet and cute.

What’s more, it begs the question “so, understanding how much my family matters to me, what are you doing to help me do a better job of providing for them?”  Does the ad answer that?  No (the line along the bottom is the statutory small print).  It is all “look and feel”, style and aspirational froth, with absolutely no substance.

For mortgages:

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All feel good factors and no information.  A belly rub for first time buyers who are just expected to roll over then sit up and beg.

Business banking:

lloyds1_0-300x150

 

Tell me something that I don’t know!  But what, specifically, are you doing about it?  Apart from suspending my credit card when I buy my business a new computer (sorry, had to get that one in).  Having decided that they don’t want to “push products” at people, what is the audience left with – sentiment, hot air, and the suspicion that they have **** all to offer the SME other than fifty shades of green.

And here’s another classic:

Lloyds-LearnToLove-Crop

 

Does the arrival of the bank statement really fill people with this kind of euphoric contentedness?  Is this a bank that understands me or one that’s taking the piss?

And my favourite.  Not:

Lloyds private banking ad 2

 

The sentimentality makes me cringe.  Ripping off a line from The Beatles shows a remarkable lack of imagination – it’s just plain lazy.  But what really gets me is that word slipped in surreptitiously.  Being a good dad is all about loving your kids – almost.  You’ve also got to have an annual income of £100,000 or £250,000 in savings or investments (read the body copy).  You haven’t got that?  You are a heartless parent and total loser!

Smug, moi?

The campaign is the work of RKCRY&R (on the top of a large block opposite Mornington Crescent tube station – I worked for the Y&R bit years ago), who modestly describe themselves as “The UK’s most creative agency”.  Equally modestly they describe the Lloyds work as “The brand transformation story of the year”.  Really?

On their website they write that “The strategic direction allows the bank to position itself as truly in tune with the needs of its customers, and there for the challenges and opportunities they face today.”

I beg to differ (but hey, I’m just an ordinary bloke who happens to be one of the bank’s customers, so what do I know?).  The work convinces me that they are quite the opposite – totally out of tune with the needs of customers, from a planet in a galaxy far, far away, and so puffed up with self-belief that empathy simply means everyone else agreeing with them.

The blurb on their website continues with “RKCR/Y&R’s new creative approach features distinct and differentiated creative that redefines the bank, and carves a unique position for Lloyds Bank within the financial services sector.”  Distinct and differentiated?  In what way?  All the ads are green, whereas RBS, Barclays and Nat West are blue – is that what you mean?  The ads are so devoid of any information that looking for any meaningful point of difference is an entirely futile exercise.

CEO Ben Kay adds “The rebrand afforded us an opportunity to revisit and draw on the role banks should play in customers’ lives today.”  There’s a weasel right there – the word “should”.  The work draws on the role banks should play, not the one they do play.  So we’re not talking fact here, but fantasy.  The ads are a projection of the role banks would play, or might play, if their number one priority was to increase the sum of human happiness.   They paint a rosy picture (with green tinge as specified in new brand guidelines) of an idealised happy-clappy world, or a fairy story, where everything is perfect and everyone lives happily ever after.  This stuff (I’m being polite) is pure wish fulfilment – a truth-free adman’s lala land.

How many people, at the bank and the agency, were involved in creating this campaign?  Hundreds.  And they all seem to go along with the idea that branding is about painting pictures that are totally aspirational – feeding consumers a sugar coated lie that bears no relationship to current reality.  From my own reaction, and other comments online, plenty of consumers are just not buying this tosh – they’re simply not as gullible as the marketers seem to believe.

I can’t work with these people

The marketing industry is now stuffed full of people who “live the brand”.  They delude themselves into thinking the fantasy world they live in, and which they have helped to create, is real.  And go around feeding themselves, and the public, “future truths”, pretending that what everyone would like to happen has already happened – pure doublethink.

The ordinary punter, who is on the receiving end of the mediocre service and very average products, sees it very differently.  And yet the marketing people keep waffling on about how “we understand”.  It’s about as convincing as posh boys like David Cameron and George Osborne saying “we share your pain and we’re all in this together”.

I have done work for Lloyds Bank years ago, plus a few other big financial institutions like Legal & General, Coutts and Halifax.  And I’ve worked for top agencies like Saatchi and Saatchi and Y&R.  But I just can’t stomach it any more.

I much prefer working for smaller and medium sized businesses that really are offering something truly different, genuinely have something to say for themselves and where the marketing people have not lost touch with reality – see my earlier post “I’m sold on my clients”.

 

37 Comments
  1. Bill Maslen April 28, 2014 Reply

    Class article - and unfortunately 100% right. We transcreate work for lots of agencies, and recently finished a major online campaign for a well-known purveyor of... well, I won't give it away, but it's stuff you wear on your face. I don't know what the agency was on, but what amazed me even more was that the client must have been on it, too. A more exquisitely designed way to slash and burn your own brand values I have rarely seen. Presumably the marketing manager who signed off on the campaign was sucked in by precisely the kind of creative brief you mention - 'look how new and cool you'll be'. What the campaign actually says is: 'we're assuming you all like to be treated like 15-year-old adolescent males, because that's hip and cool and happening, and if you don't, well, you're just an ageing fart, probably female, and deffo a loser'. In view of the broad target audience, I can't help but feel that this (undoubtedly expensive) campaign is going to do zero for their sales, and almost certainly damage brand perception. We fought tooth and claw (we do have certain prerogatives as we attempt to convey brand messages between cultures, not least thanks to highly intelligent feedback from the various translation teams), but ended up pretty gloomy at the outcome...

    • Jim April 28, 2014 Reply

      Hi Bill,
      Delighted it's not me then! I was beginning to think I needed a brain reset to get my head around this brave new world of marketing...

      Cheers,

      Jim

  2. Bill Maslen April 28, 2014 Reply

    ... As for Lloyds Bank, they lost me when they started selling themselves using dreamland animations. Wake up, folks, you're not Bank of Disney!

  3. Jim April 28, 2014 Reply

    Bank of Disney - love it!

  4. Dario Canale May 2, 2014 Reply

    Great article, as always! Not sure I would rate S&S and Y&R as 'top' agencies though, they're just 'big'.

  5. Jim May 3, 2014 Reply

    Hi Dario,
    Glad you liked article.
    Agree, Y&R and S&S just big (and Y&R not that good on this evidence!).
    Cheers,

    Jim

  6. Martin wright May 5, 2014 Reply

    Great article Jim.

    Having also worked in the F'S industry I fear that grasping the size of the transformation required remains hidden to most companies. If they focused more on trying to genuinely deliver better value and championing their customers' interests rather than reacting to legislative change and bad press it would be a huge, if less sexy response to the situation they are in.

    Here is to honesty and reality.

    • Jim May 6, 2014 Reply

      It amazes me that all those involved, who work in marketing, can be so oblivious to how they are perceived, how much damage they have done to the reputation of their industry, and, as you say, how much change they will have to go through to regain the trust (they don't realise) they have lost.

      They are in denial, big time.

  7. Jeremy Payne May 6, 2014 Reply

    Well said, Jim - love the article. I have worked on financial services brands for years and I'm gobsmacked by the moronic nonsense being peddled to these credulous companies by major agencies (and ultimately being paid for by UK taxpayers!) I expect this first salvo of guff is just an exercise to get consumers to associate the bank with green, and the more focused sales messages will follow on. But from this start, you wouldn't put money on it.

    • Jim May 6, 2014 Reply

      Hi Jeremy,
      Your comment is bang on the money. When you work on financial services brands (well, some of the bigger ones) you have to suspend you disbelief (or be replaced).

  8. Richard May 6, 2014 Reply

    Hi Jim, how are you?

    I worked on some of the literature for this rebrand. In the briefing we were asked to 'write in the language of the customer.'

    I duly wrote: "Your bank manager will..."
    The copy came back amended to: "Your dedicated Relationship Manager will..."

    Need I go on?

  9. Sian Hoskins May 6, 2014 Reply

    Great article Jim. While queuing up in Lloyds Bank just last week, I stared at a series of these leaflets and thought "But what are they trying to saying to me?" Good to know it's not just me. They're all talk and no trousers.

    • Jim May 6, 2014 Reply

      All talk and no trousers. Love it! Thanks Sian

  10. Stuart Chalmers May 6, 2014 Reply

    Well, that was interesting.

    Marketing can be a fantasy world and a lot of people in the end react to it and buy stuff even though they know the marketing blurb often isn't exactly kosher so the cringe worthy blurb does work I guess.

    Banks are greedy, they want profit and if "looking after customers" for their business gets them there then that's what they will say they will do. They need us but "business would be sooo much better if wasn't for the customers". Funny really because the banks are mostly run by, well, er ... people! We are doing it to ourselves. Outside of work people are people when working in a corporate organisation they turn into something else.

    Profit means nothing unless it benefits people (and the environment, can't leave that out). Perhaps we should be listening to Thomas Piketty.

    Hey, wouldn't it be cool if people had to rotate jobs or maybe spend a few months a year doing a job that's a polar opposite to what they normally do, bank CEO to dustman or something.

    Everything should be for the benefit of each other and our environment otherwise what's the ultimate purpose of a business?

    Cheers
    Stuart

    • Jim May 6, 2014 Reply

      You raise a lot of interesting points Stuart. The thing that really rankles with me is the way they trot out the "we listen/we care/we understand" mantra so carelessly and thoughtlessly and imagine we're so dumb we'll buy it. Being treated like a moron by someone who seems incapable of engaging their brain and thinking for themselves is especially galling!

      As you say, they seem to have two heads - one they wear in work and one they wear outside.
      And they change them the way they put on different shoes - thoughtlessly.

  11. NEIL May 6, 2014 Reply

    Love the article. I am also a Lloyds customer for some 30 years, and agree with almost every syllable. Oh and I also worked for the Halifax for 7 years so like you fed up with all the false promises.

    Good work.Cheers Neil

    • Jim May 6, 2014 Reply

      Hi Neil,
      how many customers does it take to change the way a bank thinks?
      Dunno, but it will be fun to find out...
      Jim

  12. Greg L Gomez May 6, 2014 Reply

    Cracking article!
    Having worked for a High Street bank, I know the brainwashing mentality well!
    These briefs get through because people just feed off each others bullshit and start believing the nonsense they spout!

    • Jim May 6, 2014 Reply

      Yes, it has to be some kind of mutual brainwashing process that goes on - then flossing the mental cavities with the corporate guidelines/mission statement/vision document/brand manifesto/blahblahblah

  13. Richard Hussey May 6, 2014 Reply

    Top rant Jim. Symptomatic of a marketing campaign that tries to pretend that a business is something that it isn't, and presents values and objectives that don't match the reality. As in your case, people interacting with the real business have a very different experience, which makes the advertising a waste of money at best and more likely counter-productive.

    • Jim May 6, 2014 Reply

      Thanks Richard!
      You don't have to experience the reality as a customer to know it's all hot air...
      I think the marketing budget for this initial push was somewhere in the region of £30 million - scary! And then there's all the salaries of all those people who helped create this warm bath of smugness.

  14. Peter Milligan May 6, 2014 Reply

    Jim, you've expressed the truth that we all know so well. These "(m)ad men / women" are putting lipstick on a pig (that we all still know is a pig!). I guess they're making the people who pay their bills feel good.
    I'm just learning about a powerful tool that maps the true perceptions of everyone in and around an organisation so people can see where things really are/aren't working and where energy is / is not really flowing affectively. It will be interesting to try it out as delusion is rife within most large organisations.
    Hope to catch you at a future GV event (I sat next to Sheila last time I went). Unfortunately I'm in London next week so maybe I'll get along in June ...

    • Jim May 6, 2014 Reply

      Hi Peter, yes, good to see you at GV. I don't think I can make the next one either. I'd love to hear more about this new tool for gauging perceptions in and around an organisation - delusion, as you say, is rife in big organisations. But then perhaps that's the only way they can function effectively as a unit?

  15. David Whiting May 8, 2014 Reply

    The piece is spot-on and describes yet another example of an entire industry that has never understood what marketing actually is. For 30 or more years the financial services industry (like many others, such as the utilities and most BTB companies) have misunderstood marketing as being the same thing as communications. What is so desperately wrong with the banks is the core product and services, but their 'marketing' departments, which spend vast sums on pointless advertising campaigns, have no influence over the basic customer offer. The consumer goods companies that created and propelled modern marketing drive everything they do - above all in terms of the core consumer offer - from the customer's point-of-view. If the banks would only pay attention to the Unilevers of this world they would stand to learn a great deal...

    • Jim May 12, 2014 Reply

      Thanks David, great comparison between companies that concentrate on creating an offer that's attractive to customers and those that use a smokescreen to try and cover the fact that they actually treat customers with indifference bordering on contempt

  16. Nick May 9, 2014 Reply

    Love this. Thank you.
    It still amazes me that a company that ripped off 1,000,000 of it's customers to the tune of almost £4000 each (PPI thing) can still be in business!

    • Jim May 12, 2014 Reply

      Hi Nick, many thanks, glad you liked it. Yes, incredible they are still allowed to operate, and have any customers left - but the other providers are all equally bad in one way or another.

  17. darrell cocup May 9, 2014 Reply

    Such a good read!
    I was shown the Lloyds re-brand package by a client a couple of weeks ago. They loved it. At first I thought it was an in-house thing to inform their staff what they should be thinking...then I realised what a very pretty, cynical load of bull it was...

    • Jim May 12, 2014 Reply

      Hi Darrell, thanks for positive feedback. Worrying that your client loved it!(?). Yes, might work as a piece of internal comms but hard to believe that many customers will swallow it.

  18. Aaron Nandi May 9, 2014 Reply

    Interesting discussion. I have never worked in advertising, but my first reaction when seeing the posters for this campaign was a kind of disbelief as they are devoid of any real message. I can't see how this can have had any resonance or meaning to anyone seeing it. Perhaps another example of how big institutions have lost touch with ordinary people.

    • Jim May 12, 2014 Reply

      You are right Aaron - big corporation totally wrapped up in its own bullshit.

  19. Jonny West May 12, 2014 Reply

    Well said Jim, enjoyed reading this. Any other company out there in danger of feeling the sharp end of your keyboard? Looking forward to some more! Hope you're well.

    • Jim May 24, 2014 Reply

      Glad you enjoyed. Watch this space!

  20. Mark May 15, 2014 Reply

    Nice one Jim,

    Glad to see the new meds are working. :)
    I'm fascinated by the discussion you have provoked here.
    Isn't it interesting that when a big business does branding the wrong way round they actually end up doing the opposite of what they intended.
    By doing a 'brand out' exercise before/instead of doing a 'brand-in' exercise they've ended up with empty rhetoric which directly conflicts with their (lack of) values.
    If they'd changed their culture first and then let people know about it they might have stood a better chance.
    I was told recently that Ford are spending many millions of dollars globally putting a coach in every dealership to improve communications between the staff. The intention is that if the staff respect each other and work better together they will improve customer loyalty due to the authentic and supportive culture in the business. 'If they look after each other like that, then they'll look after me'.
    But here's the point; Ford makes money on selling cars to dealers. Dealers make money on servicing and customer loyalty. Ford derives no direct benefit in its downstream relationships. Now that's what I call a real investment in culture.
    Does it work? Well it's being rolled out globally after extensive testing in the States. And McDonalds, among others, have attended some of the briefings to see what they can learn from it.
    That would be a yes then.
    In the meantime Lloyds have made people angry instead of happy.
    I wonder how many customers they will lose over this? And that's the true cost of this campaign. They could have saved a fortune by doing nothing. Did they consider that option I wonder?
    And in the social media age (Dell Hell anyone?!) how long before big companies get the message that brand starts with culture, not advertising?

    Keep up the good work Jim!

    Mark

    • Jim May 24, 2014 Reply

      Well said Mark, and great to hear from you. Sorry it took me so long to respond...
      Cheers,
      Jim

  21. John May 23, 2014 Reply

    Get a life!!!

  22. Jim May 24, 2014 Reply

    It is a life, but not as you know it John.
    Jimx

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