Customers like brands that deliver

The Sunday Times recently published a supplement entitled Superbrands to rank the strongest brands in Britain. An initial short list was narrowed down before a consumer survey was used to hone it to the top 500 brands. The podium positions were taken by Microsoft, the BBC and British Airways, all of which are clearly giant brands and not only in the UK. I turned to the ‘Banks and financial’ category to see which institutions received the branding plaudits.

Perhaps the term ‘plastic generation’ sums up the top three positions, with American Express heading the category and Visa and Mastercard on its tail. The list continues with Barclays and Barclaycard. The other big clearing banks show their brand strength with HSBC, Lloyds TSB, NatWest and RBS all finding recognition. Halifax rounded off the top 10 in the category, reaching number 291 in the overall list.

If this exercise were repeated for the mortgage industry and brokers were asked to name their top brands I am sure firms would be ranked quite differently. Halifax is an enormous brand and Abbey would surely come in higher than its overall position of 467. So how important is a brand and what are the factors that create a good one?

Imaginative PR and marketing is a good start for a brand and edeus is an obvious example in how a well thought out marketing campaign can get a lending brand off the ground. There may be some dissent about the meaning of the name and the images portrayed in its adverts but that hasn’t done it any harm in getting across the message that edeus is in town. The mortgage community already knows the name and the proposed launch date is still more than a month away.

Of course, a lender needs to deliver on product and without attractive rates it will struggle to attract brokers’ attention. Closely linked to this is the fact that its service proposition must match up to its ability to put together competitive and innovative products.

A lender doesn’t need to be a household name to be given a chance by a borrower. Advantage will no doubt make a splash with its Flexishare product. The ability to draw on the Morgan Stanley group name will allay any doubts that the odd client might have about the new brand name.

To cultivate a successful brand in the long term a lender needs to offer consistency and transparency. First Direct has a top reputation for service among consumers and I’m sure that ING Direct will build on the clear and fair product features that have worked so well for it in the savings market when it launches its mortgage proposition. Ultimately, consumers will be swayed by brands that treat their customers fairly.