Santander Group – Re-branding

Santander Group is one of the largest banks in the world, according to their market capitalisation.  The originally Spanish bank has become a truly multinational corporation; it now also owns Abby National, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley.  Santander acquired these banks prior to the credit crunch and began to brand them under the wider banking group.  The ethos of this was that big is beautiful.  A larger bank meant more power, wealth and illustrated the success of capitalism.  This, however, was before the financial crisis…

As a result of the colossal bank-bailouts that was necessary to prevent a financial melt-down,  banks have suffered pretty poor public relations the past few years.  Many U.K tax payers no longer see their bank as a safe place for their funds; this has been replaced by a bureaucratic, ‘too-big-to-fail’ and reckless image.  Its common-sense marketing that strategies need to be adjusted to the economic climate, which is why Santander is to re-brand itself.  The strap-line “Together.  We are Santander” – which emphasises the scale of the bank – is to be replaced with “Driven to do better”.  The motoring theme will also become more significant, as Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are going to be the focal points of a summer advertising campaign.

Although the financial crisis has clearly altered their consumers’ perceptions and requires some form of response, I am not sure re-branding is the correct solution.  Branding has to reflect the actual product or company itself.  The bank is still going to be a huge multinational and operating in the financial sector.  I believe they may not have considered that it is strong consumers’ beliefs about the entire banking industry that have changed, as opposed to specifically Santander.

Given that there is no way any one bank alone can change the way the public views the public sector, Santander should be focusing on problems specific to their own corporation.  Namely, poor customer service.  This is a problem that has stifled Santander’s success for many years.  This is a critcal issue; customer service is how strong, profitable relationships are built with consumers – the very purpose of marketing.  I have written previously about great customer service here.  The benefits of effective customer relationship marketing should become clear: this, not re-branding, is something Santander could use to gain a competitive advantage.

Overall Santander are right to revise their strategy.  That, however, is a no-brainer.  But instead of trying to convince customers that their bank is superior to their competitors – which is highly deceptive – they need to fundamentally improve their core service.  It seems to me as if they think they can use branding as a quick fix and that their customers are naive and easily swayed by marketing efforts.  Perhaps this arrogant culture may be where their poor customer service originates from?

© Joshua Blatchford, author of Manifested Marketing, 20/06/2011

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