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Rock brand

Financial services companies have a tough enough job when it comes to creating a brand and an even greater one protecting it.

Just how tough is evident when you compare financial brands with brands such as Google, Microsoft and Coca-Cola. They do not score well – out of a survey of the top 500 so-called super brands in the UK, only 15 are financial and strip out credit card brands such as Visa, the rest fail to make the top 200. But brand is vital.

When Richard Branson made his foray into the world of unit trusts in 1995 with his index tracker, no one questioned his grasp of fund management des-pite Virgin being better known for taking on the likes of Coca-Cola. But within two years, almost a quarter of a million people had bought the fund and it is still over £1bn in size, even though it has underperformed its peers, largely due to its 1 per cent annual fee.

Indeed, you cannot blame Henderson for deciding to keep hold of the New Star name, given the impact John Duffield’s former outfit made before the wheels fell off, even though the new co-joined brand looks clumsy at best. New Star’s name was on just about every billboard going and poor performance may not make a difference if the latest Superbrands’ survey is anything to go by.

Despite the banking crisis, HBOS, the Halifax brand, is ranked higher (234) than any other high-street bank or insurer for that matter. And for the record, Halifax is closely followed by RBS and Barclays.

But if the survey is anything to go by, Santander is right to ditch the Abbey brand (along with A&L and B&B brands) for its own. When it comes to Britain’s super brands, Abbey was a fading star and was ranked 419 in 2007/08 before falling to 512 a year later. Despite the bowler hats logo, Bradford & Bingley failed to make the top 500 in the last three years, as did Alliance & Leicester, even though it appeared to be making ground on the big four high-street banks before the crunch hit.

But, unlike the decision by Santander, I am still not convinced that Aviva was right to ditch the Norwich Union brand which completed this week.

NU has been quoting people happy for more than 200 years. The economic environment is difficult enough, while consumers are nervous of any financial institution in the light of the credit crunch. People want a company they have affinity with and one they can trust.

Aviva’s decision will test that loyalty, yet a recent vox pop interviews on East Anglian TV showed that not too many Norwich folk know who, or what Aviva is – a type of car was a popular response.

Aviva will fail to make Superbrands new top 500 list due to be published in July. It never made it past the so-called council vote – the council is made up of around 40 independent individuals who filter an initial short list of 1,500 brands down to just over 800 for the public to rate. Aviva was ranked in 1,125th place by the council.

Those in the Aviva boardroom or the marketing departments will argue that, from a strategic point of view, it makes sense – marketing costs can be more easily spread by supporting one mighty global brand.

“By investing in a single name, we will amplify the global impact of our advertising and sponsorship spend,” it said when it announced its decision last year. It had better hope so, because it has some way to go to be recognised in the UK.

Paul Farrow is digital personal finance editor at the Telegraph Media GroupMoney Marketing

50 Poland Street London W1F 7AX


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