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Branding iron in the fire

Nicole Blackmore reports on reaction to the possibility that the historic Norwich Union brand could be scrapped in favour of Aviva

Aviva sells life insurance, investment and general insurance in the UK under the NU label but trades under Aviva in 25 markets around the world and Moss believes the move could boost the firm’s global recognition.

Policies sold in the UK are now branded as NU, an Aviva company, and sources suggest that Aviva increasingly make the Aviva branding more prominent and use this to test and compare brand recognition among consumers before making a final decision.

Aegon could be said to have carried out a similar exercise by renaming its Scottish Equitable pension arm, Aegon Scottish Equitable.

Moss is said to be looking at ways to compete with larger international companies and believes brand alignment could help.

But Aviva director of external affairs Hayley Stimpson is keen to stress that no final decision has been made on the rebranding.

But advertising agency CCHM:Ping managing director Paul Gordon says if Moss is trying to achieve global brand recognition then the rebranding exercise would be a logical step.

He says: “We live in a global world and there is a sense that financial services is increasingly becoming a global business. Therefore, if you want to build a global brand then you have got to have global branding in the major markets.”

Gordon says, in general, consumers are not as emotionally connected to financial brands in the way that they are with non-financial brands.

He says: “In the long term, rebranding can be positive if you handle it properly. If that is the decision that the group makes and they rebrand Norwich Union as Aviva and spend a lot of money, time and effort explaining to people what it is, then in the long term it will be fine. There will be some short-term disruption because there always is as people do not like change but providing you handle it properly, it can inject some dynamism and modernity into a business.

“It is all about the way you do it. You have got to take people with you, you have got to spend big, you have got to position the new brand firmly and you have got to do that consistently as well.”

Informed Choice managing director Nick Bamford says the adviser’s job will not be made any more difficult but NU’s off-the-page sales could suffer in the short term as brand recognition might suffer.

He says: “From an IFA perspective, we are very often recommending companies that consumers do not know so I do not think it will be difficult for intermediaries if Norwich Union changes to Aviva. I am not sure what value they will get from changing the brand from a direct consumer awareness perspective though.

“Norwich Union means a lot more to me than Aviva does and I think Norwich Union is a pretty powerful brand so one imagines that they have done some research to say that they are not going to undermine their brand by changing it to Aviva.”

Hargreaves Lansdown head of pension research Tom McPhail says people generally adapt to new brand names. He says across the insurance and fund manage-ment sectors several formerly high-profile brand names have fallen by the wayside.

But Scottish Widows has kept its traditional name and regularly gets plaudits for the strength of its brand awareness and is generally cited as one of the most recognised brands in the UK.

McPhail says: “I think it is interesting that some insurance companies, such as Standard Life, Scottish Widows and Legal & General in particular, do still have pretty strong brand associations in the UK and I suspect they would be pretty reluctant to drop their names.

“I would put Norwich Union somewhere close, perhaps not as strong as Scottish Widows, but I think Norwich Union has had such a strong presence for so long that I would not have thought that they would ditch it without fairly careful consideration.”

Calculis director Alex Pegley says NU rebranding is “a ridiculous idea”.

He says: “They should go with a brand everyone knows. If the brand was badly tarnished, then by all means rebrand, but I do not believe that is the case.”

Pegley believes that NU will lose consumer confidence if a rebranding goes ahead and he believes the decision is being influenced by marketing and design agencies looking for a big pay day.

He says: “Norwich Union is the big strong brand name that Joe Public knows so if Norwich Union is going out there as Aviva, then they have to recreate that brand awareness. Most people I know with a background in marketing will say that brand is one of the most difficult things to build. Why ditch a brand that works?

“I am quite cynical that the marketers and the consultants will be in there, saying, let’s spend some money and rebrand. I think it is a futile exercise that will do more harm than good.”

Egg Design managing director Michael Ward says there is no sense in waiting for a negative image to develop before changing a brand. He says that as the Aviva brand has been introduced gradually, it is not entirely new and people will soon forget the exercise as people probably forgot the CGU brand.

He says: “It is good practice if you are running a business to continually assess the value of your brand anyway so I think it would be naive of them not to consider options like this.”


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