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Will NU rebrand be winning strategy?

Advisers are split over the move by Aviva to axe the Norwich Union brand.

The NU brand will be phased out in favour of Aviva over two years, with the investment arm the first to change, followed by general insurance and life.

Marketing director David Barral says: “This is not a move we have taken lightly as it is a defining moment in the company’s history. This is more than a logo change. We want to make sure we bring the best parts of the NU business along in continuing to build Aviva’s own global brand.”

Thinc Group head of investments Ian Shipway does not think the rebrand will affect clients’ view of the company. He says: “As much as we rely on brands, when it comes to fund selection, we are not fussy as to whether it is Norwich Union, Morley or Timbuktu. It is not going to matter a great deal.”

Others question the time and money spent on the rebrand, given the success of NU in the UK.

Chelsea Financial Services managing director Darius McDermott says: “NU is one of the best-known brands in the UK life and pension markets whereas Aviva is just the listed entity. It does not mean anything. I can see the logic of having a single vision but why would you go out of your way to get rid of a brand that you have spent years trying to build up? I would have thought it would be more important to keep established brands in local markets where they are successful.”

Tangible Financial chairman and executive creative director Lucian Camp believes it is more of a concern for NU’s direct arm than its intermediary business. He says for the IFA market there is nothing new or surprising about the rebrand but the direct-to-consumer market will be less forgiving.

He says: “For IFAs, there is not a week that goes past without one or other rebrand taking place but this could be a bigger issue for the direct market. I think there are millions of people who will feel quite confident that their house or car is insured by Norwich Union and these people will have no idea who Aviva is.”

Camp says Aviva will have to deal with the fact that rebranding exercises are usually met with disdain.

He says: “Rebranding happens all the time and is rarely met with good feeling. There are always the challenges that will be raised at AGMs and the boards will always respond with ‘the need for alignment’ or ‘improved efficiencies of global communications spend’. The fact is, people are never happy.

“When a rebrand takes place, it is never accepted with praise. Everyone always finds themselves criticising whichever name or identity is chosen but no one has ever managed to come up with a better option.”

In terms of the Morley fund range, Hargreaves Lansdown senior investment adviser Ben Yearsley says the move could create some confusion. He says: “The phasing out of Morley has been well under way for a while so this is no massive surprise. However, when you think that it was launched in the first place to differentiate itself from NU, in terms of raising its profile in the investment market, to now move this altogether into Aviva seems confusing.

“While having one brand is a really sensible option, you have the fact that NU is so well known in the UK that it makes you question if it is too valuable to give up.”

The communications spend of a company such as NU is estimated to be between £50m and £100m a year and Camp says the money that the provider intends to spend on the rebrand could perhaps be better spent on pushing something other than its new identity.

Experts have suggested that the rebrand could create a one-off 50 per cent increase in communication costs.

Falcon head of investment solutions Tim Collyer says: “There is so much going on at the moment in terms of change and the markets that it does not really make that much difference. Whether the funds are Morley, NU or Aviva is largely irrelevant as changes of this type are not as prominent as other things that are going on in the investment world.”

Whitechurch Securities managing director Gavin Hains says: “I think for IFAs, if you have any kind of service issue, a new brand can be a positive thing in the eyes of all investors.

“I guess with the end client, NU seems to be quite a strong and safe brand with strong awareness, whereas not that many people would recognise the Aviva brand, if you did a poll of the man in the street. This was part of the issue they had with Morley.

“At least with NU, you have one of the few financial services organisations that people outside the industry recognise.”


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