Towards the end of 2014, we faced a dilemma. A huge amount had changed in financial services since the business was formed in the mid-90s. During that time, we had changed a great deal too, evolving as any organisation must in order to survive.
One big question we needed to answer was whether our brand remained fit for purpose. Inspired by a talk from consultant Lucian Camp at the Institute of Financial Planning conference, I took the concept of the brand pyramid back to the team. It was enlightening, helping us to agree upon the tangible and emotional benefits of our proposition and how our brand manifests itself in human characteristics.
I am aware some argue that clients buy individuals, not brands. And there is an element of truth in that. However, the things we do (and fail to do) all make up our personal brands too. With this in mind, it is better to approach branding as an intentional act, rather than allow an accidental brand to develop.
Branding is represented in a logo. Prior to our rebranding exercise, our logo was the name of our business typed in blue font in MS Word. To get inspiration ahead of our new design, we pulled together the logos of every “competitor” within a 20-mile radius. IFA firms, wealth managers, stockbrokers, private banks, solicitors and accountants: anybody a prospective client might choose to speak with ahead of us. Putting all of these on a single page was a real eye-opener. The similarities were striking – a sea of blue.
So we carried out some research into the psychology of colour and selected a palate to represent us. We picked green because it constitutes health and tranquillity, as well as money, and grey because it is a cool and neutral colour, considered to be formal and sophisticated. With the brand pyramid in the background, the colour choices were easy to make.
The exercise required us to invest some money. We paid for a marketing consultant to help us with our proposition and communications plan. We hired a graphic designer who, armed with our brief, developed a number of logo options, then refined our preferred one. We also paid for new stationery, signage and paint for the office walls.
With all this in mind, I was not surprised to see the FCA spending £66,400 on its new logo. It strikes me as excellent value for money. Of course, critics will mock the expense in return for the removal of some background waves and use of a new font. But there is much more involved and a huge amount more at stake.
Despite the FCA having a very different remit to commercial organisations like those it regulates, it needs a considered brand and logo to represent this. Because the FCA plays such an important role in ensuring consumer confidence, a small invoice from an agency like Saatchi & Saatchi is money well spent. We spent around £14,000 on our own brand refresh, which is far higher on a relative basis than the FCA did with its much larger annual budget.
What matters is the result: not the cosmetic appearance of a new logo but the deeper understanding the regulator will have gained by completing the exercise.
Unlike us, where we measured an increase in turnover, profit and client satisfaction following our brand refresh, the FCA will have other metrics to measure. Whether or not readers of Money Marketing approve of it will not be one of these.
Martin Bamford is managing director of Informed Choice