Branding and brand development through direct marketing in the consumer financial services sector: DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS


The findings are discussed in relation to each of the three aims of the research paper.

Implications of the key criteria identified for DM branding success

Two key factors identified for successful branding in direct marketing, that were additional to the pillars of brand strength found in the branding literature, are consistency and credibility. The importance of building brand credibility is mentioned in the brand-consumer relationship literature where it has been suggested by Gurviez (1997) that brand credibility may be one of two dimensions of consumer trust in a brand (the other dimension being ‘brand fairness’). Credibility may, however, not be so critical for branding through DM in other industry sectors, being identified here as specifically relevant for the financial services sector. Consequently DM branding research should be carried out for industry sectors other than financial services.

Interviewees stressed that the development of brand commitment varies according to sector or product category. Indeed Glaser and Strauss (1967) emphasise the importance of developing theory at the substantive level, or within a specific context. For each product category there are separate trends and competitor activity. Customer ‘lifetimes’ vary accordingly and brand commitment is relative, so that the approaches proposed here will need tailoring to suit the needs of individual sectors. Credit cards are easy to switch every six months following promotions; for car and house insurance, timeliness of DM offers in relation to the annual renewal date is important and the customer ‘lifetime’ may be influenced by the length of discount schemes operating for three to four years. For banks, on the other hand, customers may be considered ‘long standing’ after 15 years. In-depth research into specialised categories, or comparing findings from several specific financial services categories, is required to identify more of the sector-related issues. Looking at these issues from the client direct marketer’s perspective would additionally increase understanding of internal and operational issues not raised here.


Agencies and branding judges in DM advocate a written communications strategy, indicating, though, that rigid adherence to a Brand Bible is not enough. For brand clarity a ‘brand footprint’ is recommended (RSPB and Lego are two examples described in the Appendix), spelling out not only a few core brand values but also statements that can ‘bring the brand to life’ and specific consumer ‘take outs’.


Achieving credibility was closely linked with achieving consistency and contrasted with the performance brand strength component in a holistic model of how consumers experience branding. A move to simplify the English in communications is also viewed as a means of gaining credibility for brands positioned as ‘people’s champions’ in their sector (such as Virgin).

An example of propositions that are not considered credible is where banks claim to be local or friendly, while customers may perceive them to be large institutions with centralised administration, who are not all that ‘caring’ and are closing down branches that are convenient for some customers but unprofitable for institutions. It was felt that in order for management to achieve credibility in brand propositions, more detailed insight into the customer experience and expectations of their service was required. An example in the Appendix of increasing credibility by supporting the brand positioning with deliverable policies is Co-op Bank’s ethical stance, which is supported by the bank not investing in unethical concerns.

In order to enhance brand credibility, the author suggests that, for financial sectors where customers have even remote contact with the organisation, undertaking services encounter research among customers would be an appropriate research method. For customers with access to it, online or WAP technology may even speed up the processing of such research.


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