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Daring to be different in the finance sector

4 min read

Back to Insight

4 min read

Daring to be different in the finance sector

Author: Phil Birss
Posted in Brand Strategy on 11th January 2019 12:00 am

Finance is a sector that has a reputation for being, at best, pretty boring, and at worst, untrustworthy. Which means marketing to an audience can be tricky. So how can those working in financial services work to change this perception?


Brand & reputation


Tom Adams, from global creative agency Dragon Rouge makes the point that “reputation is often used as a synonym for brand, and while it’s not quite like-for-like, it’s true that both brand and reputation are built through people’s experience.”

Basically, every time you put yourself in front of your audience, you’re presenting yourself in a certain way and making a statement of how your brand should be perceived.

Then, “every point your brand touches your customer is an opportunity to provide a good experience, or a poor one – one that either lives up to the public persona you are presenting to the world, or falls short.” In this sense, overtime, reputation can inform brand and vice-versa.


This brings us to First Direct.


First Direct launched in 1989 and since then, has amassed 1.25 million customers. They have unprecedented levels of service and brand loyalty, and have been voted Best Financial Services Provider by Which? for the last three years. But the real interesting thing about them is that they’ve also been voted one of the UK’s coolest brands for several years too. They were first named a CoolBrand in 2006 and haven’t left the list since. In 2010, they were the only bank to make the list. Which isn’t surprising. Because y’know, banks aren’t cool.


What makes First Direct different?


First Direct built their brand upon amazing customer experience, bucking the banking trend of opening late, closing for lunch, and not being open at the weekends. Focusing on the customer rather than the importance of the branch manager and the bank they created a “branchless” bank, open 24/7/365.

Deciding to take away the formality of banking has allowed them to be a bit more adventurous with their advertising, at least for a brand in the finance sector. Their angle has been “being proud to be different” and “standing out from the pack.”


Brand colours


Firstly, in terms of colour, they’ve moved away from the calming, safe hues of blue and green and gone for a striking and bold black and white combo. Simplistic yes, but it sets them apart from the rest of the banks immediately.


TV ads


And there’s First Direct’s TV ads. Which are just plain weird. But wonderful. One ad features Barry the platypus (probably the world’s most unlikely animal: a semi aquatic egg-laying mammal with a duck’s bill) who likes things a “a bit off-beat.”

That’s why Barry banks with First Direct who “do things differently.” The ad showcases a range of quirky, unexpected things, like a beatboxing bird, which all tie in with their vibe. They’re “the unexpected bank.”

However, the ad is also careful to emphasise how First Direct value customer experience and go above and beyond to just “get things done.”

It certainly doesn’t look or sound like your average banking TV ad:




But it’s not just their use of video that makes them stand out in the finance sector, their copy is very different from the regular bank jargon you get and is a defining feature of their brand and their advertising.


By daring to be different in the finance sector, First Direct have carved out a real slice of the market for themselves; setting them apart from the rest of the banks out there.


When to explore daring advertising in finance

Understandably, not every finance company can get away with daring advertising but it can be really useful if:

  • playing it safe hasn’t worked for you so far
  • you’re trying to find a new audience
  • your company culture & the nature of your business allows it
  • you’re looking to re-brand
  • you’re a new, exciting company

Let’s face it, fun, adventurous and daring advertising is much more likely to be shared than generic, run-of-the-mill stuff. So why not take the risk?

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