A new bank brand?

If you were to start a new bank tomorrow what would its brand stand for? The first thought is anything but the new Metro bank that open in London last month. Well yes, that is rather brash especially its cheap looking Janet & John marketing (more on this in a later post)

Banking is one of the few sectors where we don’t get start-ups and new thinking very often. In Britain, the last new bank to open was over 100 years ago.

But a new bank? what would it stand for?

It should be taken as read that it would have a call centered that worked 24/7 and the online experience was pretty neat, but what else?

  • Pop-up Branches?
  • Augmented Reality affordability apps?
  • Multifunctional credit/cash/travel/ticketing cards?
  • Customisable visual branding?
  • Crowd-sourced products?
  • Run by rebels from the banking industry?
  • Owned by a mobile network operator?

The old ideas of trust and solidity died with the credit crunch. Brand bank now stands for incompetence, greed, and cheap jokes about bonus’s. How do you go back to the consumer and say your bank is not like the others and has something new to offer? 

There will always be a place for status, It would be hard to take on brands like Coutts without some kind of third party recommendation i.e.  Bank of Bill Gates

A fairshares policy might take you to the Peoples bank or a Mutual society approach but on its own that feels like it could end up like the 125% Northern Rock mortgages or the tatty Post Office branch experience.

The Service Bank, as NatWest see themselves. A fine marketing strategy if your branch & telesales personal can actually pull it off in person. But again the Halifax would claim to hold a similar position but the execution of this as brand communications I find hateful.

I like the idea of The Knowledge bank. Because unless you are a rate chaser, you do wish your bank brand to have a bigger pool of information than yourself on all matters financial. However for that knowledge to have value you would want it delivered in a 24/7 non-patronising easily accessible manner. 

mmm I’ve just invented First Direct.

The innovation bank, i.e. First Direct is a such a well documented case of getting a bank brand right. targeting, products, marketing and service. How would you launch something better?

You could go niche. Credit-suisse have a gay banking arm and there are female specific brands in both Austria and Canada. Extrabanca recently launched as a bank aimed directly at immigrants in Italy.

I do think there is a place for a new banking brand built on a broad plank of innovation. 

To open a new bank you actually need existing bankers, bit of a shame, but its the law. If we take as read trust is delivered by transparency of owners, backers and regulatory compliance. The very fact a group of banking professionals are starting again by building from scratch could be the sell.

I particularly like the attitude of a banking ‘breakaway’ in the style of a reinvention built on the distrust of the past.

But could you build a banks service just from existing technologies mashed together? well yes I think so.

Targeting would be all who seek banking services but are too busy to spend any real time managing the process. But as 90% of these are on Facebook. A simple incentivised survey targeted just a UK users between 25 and 55 would crowd-source what its services should be. The debate on what a bank should and could offer would also be stage one on the marketing campaign.

Investment strategy could be as simple as a copy of the constantly best performing investment banker in the city. is one such product that does just that. Instantly copying the strategies of the best performing stock combinations.

You would want the best minds at the bank looking at your savings and investments, not just the first guy that comes free. currently does this in Holland. Where banks bid for consumers savings accounts.

I would want any credit cards or branded items to fit with my own style so customisable would be a cert like the Helsinki bank that offers personalised cards & banking products

You would want New Bank to combine as many services as possible either into an app on your phone or at the very least into a one card does all (inc. travel card functionality i.e. Barclays One Card)

My contact in the physical world need to be convenient to where I am at that moment. Mobile or pop-up banks could be the answer. The supermarkets will soon be offering 15min slots for home delivery, so why not on demand, in person banking? A pop-up shop style bank. located via users of Foursquare. A group of people all from one location i.e. an office block linked via Plancast could have there banking services delivered as they left for lunch.

Location is now featuring in existing banks marketing strategies like Barclays but new bank would have it as its foundation.

I would want heavyweight mobile support from any new bank. The Natwest app is a start. But augmented reality could deliver so much more. If I took a picture of a laptop I wanted to buy. I could be instantly shown the ways I could afford it and what my old ones worth. Something like Blippy or Swipely could also show who else has brought this and when.

Actually mentioning Blippy is a good point to talk about security. They had a breach early this year but showed a very deft and open hand in dealing with it HERE. The use of so much location information would demand class leading security as the New York Times tech editor found to his cost.

The online interface would save so much of my time if it consolidated all my spending & saving in one place. Mint in the states have a good dashboard effect for this, but I like the tonality of the Egg Money Manager.

So New Bank brand would be innovative, available and adaptable. 

But to gain customers and therefore enough profit to pay for the innovation at its heart it would need class leading marketing, that was as equally innovative, always on and adaptable as the products it sold.

Royal Mail - fit for purpose?

What a great time of year to be thinking about the future of the Royal Mail. Excluding Daily Mail readers most people must be thinking its due a kick into touch. There was a time (pre email) when getting your post at home in the morning before work was a benefit. But for the last decade or so urgent means online. So why are the Posties busting a gut trying deliver when most of the population are out at work (or robbing). Society has moved on some what. If the Royal Mail really intends to survive it needs to match the needs of its customers. Outside of bills the post is for parcels. Forget mornings, let the posties have a lie-in and focus on the evenings when people are actually at home able to except parcels. Rather than spending all Saturday queuning at the sorting office. rant rant rant

Cambodia the brand

I have just come back from an amazing two weeks in Cambodia. I was with Jake my son (13) We travelled from the tourist hot spot of Siem Reap  through the country to the far north east corner bordering Laos, before leaving via  a few days in Phnom Penh. It is an amazing place, The Khemers we met proved to be fantastically warm, honest hosts. The place has so much to recommend it. When I have a moment I'll write up our learnings/recommendations on Trip Advisor.

One thing that did strike me is that Cambodia is not unlike Mazda car brand. Mazda had a worldwide sales hit with the MX5 sports car, unfortunately so iconic did this model become but pretty much the whole of the rest of the range became over looked by the buying public. The subsequent advertising then lacked confidence as it became an endless string of 'look there is more' messages rather than strong individual model statements.

Visitors to Cambodia on average stay only three days, see the Temples at Ankor Wat and then fly on to Vietnam / Thailand. There is a huge debate amongst the fledging tourist authority as to how to get visitors to 'stay another day' The whole of Cambodia is pretty unique and unless they have the confidence to say so I feel they will always be saddled with the image of 'like the neighbours but with bigger Temples' i.e. only worth a few days excursion rather than a dedicated holiday.