Archive for June, 2010

Putting its money where its mouth is – another great ad from NTUC Income

June 20, 2010

Most brands today will do anything to avoid paying compensation to customers.

I should know – I recently ordered an iPAD that never arrived and was told that despite the product never having left the US the only sum the courier company would pay would be $100 – a figure so well tucked away in its terms and conditions you’d had to be better than Google to find it.

So naturally I was delighted when I saw this ad from NTUC Income earlier this week. It appeared the day after the floods devastated businesses on Orchard road. Rather than shirk responsibility, the brand appeared hell bent on accepting it; a stance I am sure consumers would have welcomed.

This isn’t the first time NTUC Income has run well appointed ads like this

In September last year, I wrote about the brand’s advertising strategy and how well thought through and engineered it was (

A modern day ad classic I think was during the financial crisis at the start of last year when the brand ran an ad that said quite simply ‘In times of crisis, the best place to be is home.’

What the ad simply highlighted was the home grown nature of the brand – the fact that it was Singaporean and a brand the locals knew they could trust given the Government would never allow a local institution of its size and stature to fail given the immediate implication it would have on the financial stability of the country itself!

Great advertising is still possible

NTUC Income and its agency (which I believe is BBH) prove that it is. They prove that you don’t have to spend too much to achieve it either. You can out think rather than outspend your competitors. They’ve done that by developing and running communication at the time it’s most likely to have an impact on its audience.


BP. Or why if CEO’s aren’t involved in their advertising it’s time they were

June 12, 2010

BP can change the world - but not for the better its clear. This spoof on its ad campaign was done by Greenpeace. The brand should have been more thorough in analysing the implications of its claims in advertising given the nature of its operations.

Most CEO’s don’t pay much attention to the ads their companies run. Perhaps it’s time they did – BP is a good reason why.

For years the brand has been highlighting its commitment to the environment in its ads. In 2000, it even changed its logo to the Helios (the Greek Sun God) – at a cost of over $100 million – to reflect its new found passion – the environment and solar power as a source of alternate energy.

It must regret those decisions now.

Their only effect – has been to amplify sentiment against the brand.

If BP were to have made it clear that they were simply an oil company that was aware of the risks its activities posed, and would do everything humanly possible to avoid the disasters those risks entailed – engaging with the likes of Greenpeace and other environmental organisations – the brand may have had better equity going for it which would have led to sympathy rather than outrage at the spill that occurred.

However, since the brand chose to rail about its commitment to the environment, its inability to protect it ultimately – I believe – has been a key reason negative sentiment against it was amplified – and many times over.

It wasn’t like BP hadn’t been warned

For years organisations like Greenpeace had been asking them to stop pursuing tar sand work and deep water drilling – due to the dangers they posed to the environment.

Greenpeace even ran a competition asking people to re-design their Green Helios logo to reflect the more real and dangerous nature their oil exploration activities entailed.

The brand paid little heed to the warnings from Greenpeace, didn’t engage with them to hear their environmental concerns and the result is that it finds itself waist deep in one of its biggest crisis ever.

The lesson for brands

Don’t go overboard when it comes to making claims in your advertising. They may sound nice in a focus group but if they won’t ultimately hold up to scrutiny or can’t be supported by the brand’s business strategy then they won’t create equity – they’ll cannibalise it.

Something that’s pretty much happening to BP today!

Brands are valuable assets

But they’re also vulnerable ones. Make the wrong move, act in a way that’s inconsistent with the way your audience expects you to and you suddenly find that any equity you had – you don’t any more.

Can a bank be here for good?

June 11, 2010

A few months ago, Standard Chartered launched a global campaign titled ‘Here for Good’.

The campaign’s key themes – CSR and endurance – seek to establish Stan Chart as a brand that’s here for the long term as well as focused on investments with a positive and ethical social outcome.

While Stan Chart’s goal is laudable, I am not so sure it is credible.

People interpret ‘good’ in many different ways – commercial banking just doesn’t happen to be one of them

Shareholders interpret ‘good’ as being a return on investment that’s in line with, or above, the risk incurred with obtaining it.

People in general however interpret ‘good’ in a slightly more selfless way.

Brands that are deemed ‘here for good’ are brands that are doing work that is humanitarian and that truly arouses the admiration and respect of the human spirit. Brands that stir this in us are brands like Amnesty International, SPCA, Mother Theresa, Kofi Anan, Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Project Red – to name a few.

Can Stan Chart exist alongside these brands enjoying the same sort of esteem they do? I don’t think so – simply because of the fundamental difference these brands have in terms of purpose – compared to Stan Chart.

Even if Stan Chart could claim to be ‘good’ – could it claim to be so more powerfully than its competitors?

All banks are not the same – their structure and reasons for being differ.

Commercial banks answer to shareholders and are fundamentally driven by a motivation to earn profit.  Stan Chart is in this category of banks.

Cooperative banks on the other hand answer to members, are less focused on profit – and more on service to the community instead. Australia’s Bendigo Bank, for example, which is owned by the communities in which it operates, was the country’s only bank to register a world class Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 33 – NPS being a key measure of customer loyalty.

Credit unions exist for a purpose similar to cooperative banks while newer financial organisations such as Kiva or Grameen Bank of Bangladesh push even harder into the social and ethical space issuing microloans to people to break the cycle of poverty.

Against competition of such nature, how does, and indeed how can, Stan Chart claim the title of ‘Here for Good’ more persuasively than these brands?

A clear disconnect between tactic and thematic

Visit the Stan Chart website here in Singapore and you’re immediately greeted by a banner that screams “unlimited giveaways with Stan Chart Cards – start shopping now!

We know that a key global issue – and an important reason countries have faced the economic problems they have – is credit card debt.

Yet here is a bank that encourages it – whilst at the same time making the claim that it is here for good. How can it be – when it turns a blind idea to a key issue facing society – and in particular – its youngest and most vulnerable members!

What Stan Chart needs to do is to get the bank’s product and brand marketing people together and ensure they are better aligned in terms of proposition.

Banks don’t decide whether they’re going to be here for the long term – markets and the fundamental nature of their operations do

It is all well for a bank to make a claim in an ad, it is a completely different matter to be able to support it.

Part of Stan Chart’s communication strategy (as stated in their annual report) is to be seen as the bank that’s going to be here for good (as in for always). It’s understandable that they may want to reiterate this position given the number of banks that have gone under (122 in the US in 2009 alone!) if web reports are to be believed.

But I am sure even Citibank and Royal Bank of Scotland harboured the same lofty ideal of being around for good – yet both were severely tested – and very nearly obliterated – thanks to conditions in the market and the fundamental nature of their operations which finally caught up with them.

Other financial institutions such as Lehmann Brothers were not so lucky.

It is not for a bank to claim that they will be here for good

It is for them to undertake practice that ensures they will – and what Stan Chart is not doing is showing evidence of this in its advertising.

In summary, I think the campaign tries to achieve goals that are laudable but in way that I don’t think is awfully credible.