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Branding the deposit account Back  
Ethos is out and products are in when it comes to branding a company's services for the ever more sophisticated consumer of the late 1990s, and financial services have had to pick up on the buzz. A generational change has resulted in the customer of today viewing all outgoings in a similar light, be it a car from Hertz, a flight from Lufthansa, a room at the Holiday Inn or an everyday deposit account at the local bank or building society. The chosen products must offer that little bit more and this is where the power of the brand becomes appreciated, according to Aidan Magennis, marketing manager with recently re-launched First Active.

'The brand is only a manifestation of what a company means', says Magennis. 'It's got to reflect a personality and a culture. We at First Active see ourselves as a modern retailer so brand is as important to us as it is to any other modern retailer, e.g. Tesco. Banks are now thinking like retailers and are asking what will make the customer cross the threshold? If you take product range as a given, it's the little advantages that become important'.

Adrienne Murray, manager of advertising and sponsorship with AIB, says branding is just as significant in financial services than in other markets because of the lack of physical dimension that is involved in, say, banking.

'In terms of branding for financial services, it's as important as in other sectors, particularly as products become more commoditised', says Murray. 'Banks and other financial services companies need to have an understanding of this. Customers today are more assertive, more discerning and definitely more brand conscious'.

Pat Farrell, head of marketing and communications with mutual EBS, takes a slightly different tack, saying that the brand is just another means of communicating what is really important - the company's values.

'I personally think that it's the values around the brand which are important', says Farrell. 'In EBS, we're married to the fact that we're customer-owned and last year, we ran a specific branding campaign using animal imagery to get across the idea of mutuality and people coming together for the common good. We've been keen to emphasise the proposition associated with our brand, which is long-term value. We're always putting that as the focus of our advertising campaigns for lending and saving. Promotions may come and go but, at the end of the day, what we offer is lending and savings'.

Meanwhile, even the International Financial Services Centre may be jumping on the 'brandwagon'. In the Taoiseach's recently published 'Strategy for the Development of the International Financial Services Industry in Ireland', it was stated that the various IFSC industry associations would consider the suggestion for an IFSC 'brand'. This comes as the ten per cent IFSC tax rate begins to be replaced by the flat 12.5 per cent corporation tax rate, when IFSC companies will no longer have to obtain special certification. Torlach Denihan, director of the Financial Services Industry Association, says 'At the moment, IFSC companies have CAC (Certification Advisory Committee) approval, or operate on the reputation of their parent. However, if you don't know the parent, it becomes more difficult. With the demise of certification, one concept that was put on the table was the brand', he says.

Owen Purcell from Prospectus writes on branding in financial services on page fourteen. According to Purcell, the only survivors in financial services in such a competitive market will be those who appreciate the strength of the branding tool.

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