Branding and brand development through direct marketing in the consumer financial services sector: METHODOLOGY

Branding and brand development through direct marketing in the consumer financial services sector: METHODOLOGY

This paper represents part of an ongoing PhD study of brand commitment in a consumer banking context. The author is currently engaged in conducting research among personal banking consumers, examining the influences that keep customers with their ‘main bank’ or financial provider.

From the literature review it was concluded that consumers’ views on branding in financial services and on direct mail/direct marketing have already been researched (albeit separately) by academics and commercial bodies. On the other hand, literature on direct marketing in consumer financial services from an expert and DM agency perspective was lacking and it was found that brand commitment or loyalty had not been explored in this context.

A qualitative approach was undertaken as the aims of the research were exploratory. In-depth interviews rather than groups were selected to avoid logistical difficulties and problems of eliciting frank insights from a group of experts potentially competing in the same industry. Hussey and Hussey (1997) write that, despite problems such as interviewer bias, interviews may yield a higher degree of confidence in replies and ‘permit the researcher to ask more complex questions and follow-up questions’ than a questionnaire, allowing deeper insights to be obtained. Moreover, Easterby-Smith Thorpe and Lowe (1991) indicate that unstructured or semi- structured interviews are appropriate when ‘it is necessary to understand the construct that the interviewee uses as a basis for his or her opinions and beliefs about a particular matter or situation’, in this case, exploring how brand commitment could be developed through DM.

Fifteen in-depth interviews were undertaken aided by a semi-structured interview guide to ensure consistency of questioning between two interviewers. The interviewees were selected on the basis of their being both experts in DM brand building and experienced practitioners in financial services direct marketing. Interviewees were recruited first from a list of nine judges of the annual DMA/Royal Mail Direct Marketing Brand-Building Awards (five interviewees) and/or they were creative directors from a list of the top 20 DM agencies (ranked by turnover), which also had one or more leading financial services accounts.

The selection criteria above mean that the paper covers a spectrum of those financial services mainly represented in direct marketing, including: banking, credit cards, loans, general insurance and some (off-the-page) investments. Quota sampling, to focus on fewer financial services in more depth, was not carried out because this would have made it impossible to meet the primary interviewee criteria; experts in DM, branding and financial services.

The interviews were recorded for later transcription and were analysed and interpreted on the basis of recurrent themes as advocated by Huberman and Miles (1994) and Wolcott (1994). Interview locations were mainly in London but also included Bath, Bristol, Manchester and Surrey.


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