Knowledge: Sector insight - Finance

Financial services brands have faced an uphill struggle in recent years
Financial services brands have faced an uphill struggle in recent years

Live events are helping a reputation-damaged sector win back the trust of consumers.

Financial services brands have faced an uphill struggle in recent years to restore their reputations and regain consumer trust. Despite the fact that the financial crisis happened some years ago, more recent scandals such as the mis-selling of payment protection insurance mean the industry is still working hard to improve its image and strengthen levels of customer loyalty.

The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer survey, revealed earlier this year, showed that just 39% of the UK public trusts banks, while a survey in September from uSwitch of more than 10,000 current account customers highlighted that satisfaction with the big UK banks is falling almost across the board.

However, it's not all bad news. A survey from IT banking supplier Fiserv, released last November, showed that 81% of UK consumers would trust a bank if it had the right technology in place, while more than half said a new bank would have an advantage over existing competition if its IT was "very reliable".

"Since the crisis, brands (in financial services) have had to quickly and drastically evolve, which has seen above-the-line campaigns focus on honesty and transparency," says Alec Braun, managing director and creative lead at agency Slice.


Braun believes this trend is now filtering down to experiential activations, with financial brands acknowledging the need for genuine human interaction, creating braver and more engaging experiences that encourage consumers to step in rather than just walk past. He cites the agency's recent Breakthrough Box campaign for Santander - where a bright red structure was set up at locations across the UK to promote the bank's services for SMEs - as an example of how financial brands are creating more standout experiences that positively interrupt consumers and bring messaging to life in new and exciting ways.

Michael Thorne, product director at marketing insight company Pearlfinders, says that major players in the sector - still reeling from the loss of trust suffered during the recession - are seeing events and activations as a way to put a face to a new brand promise.

And with challenger banks and 'fintech' start-ups continuing to challenge the status quo in the banking, payment processing and savings space, Thorne believes experiential is also playing an increasing role in getting customers to change their long-established behaviours.

"Peer-to-peer lending platform Zopa, for example, is increasing its experiential output in an effort to normalise the brand and build a personable image," he says.

Thorne adds that 'safe' sponsorship continues to be the most popular type of activation for financial services brands, with a focus on sports such as golf and athletics, mass participation events and cultural partnerships. Barclays has this year carried out a number of activations tied in to its sponsorship of the Premier League, while Santander devised a Summer of Cycling campaign, which featured four bike-based events held between July and September.

With financial brands continuing to look for ways to break free of the negative perceptions that have plagued them since the recession, live events are increasingly seen as a key communication channel to rebuild trust through genuine face-to-face conversations and interactions.

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