Nationwide shakes up its marketing

Nationwide’s move to bolster its marketing division with the creation of a new executive role (MW last week) signals a push by the building society to reassess its strategy.

When the chief marketer is appointed later this year, he or she will report to sales and marketing director John Sutherland, who was promoted to the position early last year and seems intent on making his mark. The marketer will be charged with reviewing Nationwide’s marketing strategy and will run a fine tooth comb across everything from its agency arrangements to its brand and CRM activity.

The remit will include overseeing various product areas, customer experience, brand strategy, sponsorship and advertising and communications. This will result in Nationwide’s long serving head of brand strategy Peter Gandolfi, head of customer insights, CRM and segment marketing Simon Barnes, and head of customer experience and segment marketing Tim Hughes reporting to the new divisional director.

Strengthening the team

Sutherland maintains those roles, including that of the high-profile Gandolfi, remain secure and the rationale of the restructure is to expand the department and widen its remit. “We’re making a big investment with our core products,” he says. “There will be big product launches in 2009 and 2010. So what we need to do now is really strengthen the team.”

The new marketing role emerges almost six months after Nationwide launched TV spots which combined brand advertising with direct response (MW January 31). It marked a major departure from its traditional strategy of brand-focused advertising.

Sutherland says the idea has been to drive product sales and communicate the range and depth of its product range, which includes a current account, mortgages, loans, insurance, a credit card and savings account. “The general perception has been that we don’t have a broad product range, which we do, and that is what we need to communicate. Going forward we’ll also be linking different [product] offers together.” He adds what Nationwide also needs to do is have a customer-facing focus in its marketing.

Taking advantage of its popularity

It would seem this is the area where it can capitalise on its competitive position. Toby Clark, senior financial analyst at Mintel, says Nationwide consistently comes out as one of the most liked brands within financial services and also finds itself at an advantage as a mutual, which means it is not beholden to the demands of shareholders.

He points to Mintel research which shows the average customer satisfaction rating for financial service companies is 21percent, while Nationwide scores a much higher 36percent. “It is getting the service right and coming through with the promises it is making, which is crucial for any brand,” Clark says.

But while all the talk of change and new product launches could signal an exciting time of growth for Nationwide, one industry source says in the longer term, the negative campaigning against banks in its advertising does little to help the financial services industry as a whole.

“There is a broader concern about advertising that is overtly critical of the rest of the industry because what it does is perpetuate the image of greed and bad service. I don’t see Coca-Cola advertising the negatives of Pepsi to promote itself. So, Nationwide needs to focus on more positive aspects of being Nationwide rather than the negative aspects of being a bank customer,” the source says.

Nationwide has spent the past three years on a brand campaign starring comic Mark Benton, highlighting where it is that banks fail. Sutherland says its agency Leagas Delaney is currently working on a “refreshed” Benton campaign due to be launched later this year. Given its relative size compared to its big banking competitors, many observers say what Nationwide must now do is demonstrate that it does in fact have the product range and drive to prove that it can beat the big boys at their own game.

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