Bankers, brands and breakdowns

One of my hobby horses is the importance of brand management at the top of any organisation; it is, in my opinion, one of the key jobs any CEO should be most concerned about.

The breaking news today (3rd July) is that Bob Diamond has fallen on his sword and with immediate effect stood down as CEO of Barclay’s Bank. I would say about 5 days too late but at least he has accepted responsibility for wrong doing on his watch.

I’m sure I am one of millions who can’t balance the huge amount of money someone like Mr. Diamond has been paid with the culture of perceived greed and alleged mal-practice within the bank. A big part of his role must be concerned with the development of Barclay’s reputation with the public at large; if the CEO turns a blind eye to senior employees bending the rules it quickly turns in to an epidemic running the risk of real damage to the reputation of the brand.

My observation having worked with a wide range of organisations is that almost all companies fall in to one of two categories; those that value and understand the importance of brand management as an investment and those who don’t and regard anything to do with marketing as being fluffy and a cost. These different corporate cultures have a profound effect on behaviour.

When PlayStation was launched across Europe we worked with Chris Deering who was the President of the business and a natural marketing leader. He completely understood the challenges of building a brand from scratch and the brave decisions they made were significant in gaining brand leadership across Europe withing six months of launch.

I’ve experienced the reverse with a range of organisations where trying to get senior management to engage in discussion on matters that impact on their brands’ reputation falls on deaf and disinterested ears.

I feel sorry for the thousands of Barclays employees working in the high street branches. They are the ones who will suffer the comments from customers yet they are distanced from the ivory tower in Canary Wharf. Also they are the poor relations within banks with the mega money going to a handful of traders  they don’t know and never meet. Whereas in the past banking employees were regarded as pillars of the community, today they are the butt of jokes and public anger.

The whole category of banking has shifted from respect to being reviled by the average man and woman in the street, it is massive mis-management of the category brand on an industrial scale. This reversal of perception has taken no more than ten years at most to happen, destroying hundreds of years of reputation building based on integrity, honesty and trust. Let this be a lesson to all CEO’s who show no interest in the reputation of their brand.


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