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Bob Diamond goes at last – but the banking sector has lost centuries of brand value in just ten years

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 is that Bob Diamond (left) has fallen on his sword and with immediate effect stood down as CEO of Barclay’s Bank. I would say about five days too late but at least he has accepted responsibility for wrongdoing 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 malpractice 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 which runs the risk of real damage to the reputation of the brand.

My view, 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 brand’s 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. They are the poor relations within banks where the mega-money goes 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 one that’s reviled by the average man and woman in the street – a massive mismanagement 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 CEOs who show no interest in the reputation of their brand.

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About Paul Simons

Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies. Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.
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