The fate of our ‘flexible friend’

Hardly a week goes by without some announcement in the marketing press that Bank X or Insurance Company Y is to invest more in its brand. While we must applaud their pluck, the truth is that developing financial services brands is very difficult and few have succeeded. This makes the fate of poor “Access” all the more difficult to comprehend.

Access was the response by a consortium of leading high street banks to Barclays Bank’s Barclaycard. Access received fairly consistent support over the years (the “flexible friend” theme) and in time acquired that rarest of commodities, a likeable brand personality.

When the banks decided they would do better with their own credit cards, Access was, quite literally, killed off – rounded on, like Caesar, by its former friends.

The tide of public sentiment is running against traditional suppliers of financial services, and how you could do with friendly Access today.

However, even among Caesar’s assassins there were honourable men. In the Access case there is little evidence that the conspirators were motivated by anything but self interest; they know that, and the public knows it too.

It is hardly surprising then that attempts to create financial services brands are met with healthy scepticism.

Mack Bottle

West Byfleet


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