Brand audit: Barclays

David Wheldon, head of brand and reputation at Barclays recently told Marketing Week the beleaguered bank was “beginning to lead the pack again [in terms of brand reputation]” after a period bolted to the bottom of a sector that feels little love.  


Just a little over a year ago, Barclays became the poster boy of what many saw as the arrogance, greed and excessive risk-taking pervasive in British banking pre financial crisis when it was  fined £290m by the City watchdog for manipulating the rate, LIBOR, banks use to lend to each other in the wholesale market.  

The news sent perception of the Barclays’ brand perception into freefall and led to the resignation of chief executive Bob Diamond. Diamond was replaced by Anthony Jenkins, who promised to remould the business to be “values driven”.  

To this end, Wheldon, who had joined just before the crisis hit, has been busy “rebuilding the brand from the inside out”. Staff are now measured and rewarded against a new set of values, for example, in the belief that “what gets measured gets done”.

YouGov BrandIndex tracking data indicates the worst could be behind the bank. In the days following news of LIBOR, the bank’s Buzz ranking – a measure of the positive and negative things said about the brand in the media or through word of mouth – sank as low as -15.6. In the 12 months since it has climbed to -7.1 similar to high street rivals Natwest, HSBC and Santander but still well behind mutuals and newer entrants such as Nationwide and Virgin Money.

Elsewhere, its Index rating – which takes into account how consumers rate the brand in terms of impression, quality, value, reputation, satisfaction and whether they would recommend it – has headed south since the worst of the publicity a year ago. Its score currently sits at -8, down from -4.2 in July 2012.

When compared to the rest of the sector Barclays’ performance is not as sluggish as it first appears, however. Of the 27 high street bank brands tracked by YouGov, only three have enjoyed an uplift in their index score in the past year.

Wheldon acknowledges the job of rebuilding the brand will take up to ten years. LIBOR was the denouement to decades of profiteering at the expense of instilling and communicating brand values and purpose.

His assertion the brand has begun to recover is true to a point. The public is no longer talking about Barclays in the same pejorative terms it once was but it is still has some way to go before it achieves the “go to bank” status Wheldon and his employer want it to be. 


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