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Brand stand

We now appear to be at the start of spring. Stockmarkets are up, as are house prices, while new business figures from product providers increase. Adviser numbers are growing and consumer demand to find an IFA through www.unbiased. co.uk is very encouraging.

Against this backdrop, product providers’ marketing budgets appear to be healthier than they have been for years.

Yes, we have all the activity taking place around treating customers fairly and the implications of Mifid while we eagerly await the findings of the FSA’s retail review. We also have a plethora of other regulatory changes that are due to hit our desks and those involved in marketing need to keep their eye on this activity, which will result in a creeping influence upon brands.

As you will be aware, the FSA has previously provided guidance on the detail of brand usage, particularly in the disclosure arena, with prescriptive font sizes and brand weightage while enforcing strict rules surrounding the use of the FSA logo and key facts logo that are both prevalent on below-theline literature and its electronic equivalent.

Millions of pounds have been spent building some of the best-known brands in the UK such as Scottish Widows, Norwich Union and Prudential. Many of these well-known brands are about to change and the implementation of new brands will cost millions of pounds to implement and tonnes of perfectly functional literature will be thrown away.

Liverpool Victoria is now known as LV=. Ask Norwich Union if it is about to be renamed Aviva and checkout the IFA research where Prudential is asking for views on how it should rename its healthcare arm.

Consider the amount of paper produced at the point of sale which will need to carry the new name of the product provider. Clients receive at least 10 separate information items in many cases including:1. Key facts about a firm’s services.2. The menu.3. A business card.4. Terms of business and/ or customer agreement.5. Marketing material from the advising firm.6. Copy of the fact-find. especially if electronically populated.7. Key facts product document.8. Simplified prospectus for funds.9. Illustration for any product(s) recommended.10. Suitability letter.11. Corporate information on any recommended product provider.

Traditional brand reminders include the strength of the provider company, the selection of funds, past or expected performance, the fund management credentials, applicable investment process and opinion on the markets.

As products become simpler and commoditised, those with time to shop around and compare products from different providers will find very little difference in cost. The financial strength of the provider and its levels of service and delivery will be the deciding factors.

As a result, the design of each piece of literature within the customer journey must resonate, be recognisable and memorable, needing to work harder than ever before.

Can the cost of reprinting all marketing materials be justified every time a marketing team introduces a new logo or company name? Especially when consumers consistently say they do not want lots of different pieces of paper.

Many IFAs tell me that the top-line brand of company, that is, what it is called and the colour of the logo, is generally unimportant to clients. It is the service and product promises that matter.

So why don’t we as an industry try to be as economical as we can with the earth’s limited resources and leave rebranding to a time when there is very little literature stock left. It is clear to me that the sooner we move to totally online transactions, the better it will be for clients, future generations and the forests of the world.

Kim North (kim@techandtech.co.uk) is director of Technology and Technical.

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