Abbey changes strategy in favour of ‘basic’ approach

Abbey, the Spanish-owned high street bank, is adopting a “back-to-basics” strategy as it moves itself further away from its “Turning banking on its head” positioning.

Director of brand and communication Jeremy Davies says Abbey is focusing on “Doing the basics of banking well” and clawing back the confidence of customers following two brand overhauls in less than two years.

He has also questioned the gimmicky nature of the industry and says Egg Money, the hybrid credit/debit account launched this month by Prudential-owned Egg, is over-complicated.

“It’s a question of people getting back their confidence in our products and the brand,” says Davies. “If you go through a period of great change, people will always question whether it is the same business as it once was. We have been through a difficult and volatile period.”

The “Turning banking on its head” positioning was adopted when Abbey rebranded from Abbey National in 2003 and was spearheaded by former chief executive Luqman Arnold. It was toned down and later dropped after the bank was bought by Banco Santander Central Hispano in 2004.

In March, creative agency TBWA/London was dropped in favour of WCRS, and Abbey set on changing the branch fascia, interiors and marketing communications to incorporate the red Santander flame. The bank is also reported to be in talks with media agencies over its planning and buying account, held by MindShare, although Davies strenuously denies a review is pending.

He says Abbey is repositioning because of general decline in customer satisfaction in the industry, which has correlated with big brands concentrating on differentiating their products by adding “bells and whistles almost at a cost of doing things right”.

Yet he claims there have been few real innovations in the sector since internet banking, saying that many brands were relying on gimmicks. Of Egg Money, Davies says: “It feels very gimmicky. It is really complicated to get your head around though for certain people it will be good.”

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