The ultimate objective for all new brands is to earn a place in as many customers’ personal identity preferences (PIPs) as possible. This simply means that if a customer was asked to list the brand that they believe most accurately projects their personal image, your brand’s name would be at the pointy end of the list. The more customers who believe that your brand will help them project a desired image, the larger your brand following becomes.

In order for this to occur, however, a brand must launch in a way that clearly reflects its value to its demographic along with a host of unique personality qualities that the market finds attractive, and may even aspire to adopt themselves.

Each month, I will assesses the launch or relaunch of a brand – from brand identification elements, to the concept and communication choices the brand has made in making its promises, and subsequent brand behaviour that will be required for the brand to live up to the expectations created by its promises.

The brand that appears on this month’s radar is the big budget relaunch of the nab. It is speculated that last year the National Australia Bank spent an estimated $2 million on a new logo after suffering prolonged and significant media attention in 2004 for a fictitious trade scandal.

Brand background

In 2004, Australia’s largest bank (by assets) was in brand turmoil. Brand integrity was in question and many wondered how a brand this size would recover. Last year’s new logo was viewed by many as a smokescreen set to distract the public while management consultants turned the bank inside out stabilising the culture and reinventing the bank’s brand.

Brand building blocks and promise

The nab is not considering its new visual identity and now big dollar TVC campaign a relaunch; however, for the customer, the message from the bank and what it stands for is now drastically different from our previous relationship with it. In my book that means ‘rebrand’. Nab ‘a small word for a big life’ tells us that ‘you have to plan for what you plan to become’.
The new message behind this brand descriptor and brand promise is ‘valuable resourceful companionship’ and ‘support to fulfil ambition and aspiration.’

Psychologically, the message is about breaking free from imposed values of work and routine, and pursuing a life that is more aligned with your authentic values and heart-felt ambitions. The bank is broadcasting that through its service-oriented approach and variety of resources, it can give people confidence to chase their dreams.

Brand behaviour

Drive on any major freeway, turn your television on at prime time or even listen to the tune that the kids next door are singing and it all points to one thing – a wonderfully executed ad campaign out of Clemenger BBDO that optimistically and confidently suggests that you ‘climb every mountain’. Advertising critics are at odds about the campaign; however, from a pure brand awareness perspective, I would be very surprised if we see another professional brand have such an impact in the next 12 months.

The compounded and integrated use of the catchy jingle, poignant focus on the daily frustrations that most of us face, along with genuinely amusing scenario-based commercials hit home in a memorable way. If the category wasn’t banking, some may even say it is inspiring.

At this stage, the only real observable brand behaviour is the campaign itself; along with the increased presence of the black nab SUV mobile bankers on the road. The new web resource that integrates the animated visual language of the billboard execution lends weight to the belief that the bank is doing more than making fancy, emotive promises.

Brand by-line

The very sceptical banking market will be happily surprised by the nab’s overt reappearance on the cut-throat financial playing field. The mass media exposure – the well-crafted and humorous TVCs along with the soft and palatable outdoor advertising – all bode well for this brand looking to find firm footing after all but falling over a few years ago.

Despite the obvious irony in proclaiming ‘confidence’ after so many customers lost confidence so recently, the new logo and style of communication find the nab communicating in a way that inadvertently states that it has abandoned ‘The National’ for the smouldering old wreck that it was even before the trading issues.

This evolution from ‘stale old bank’ into ‘modern, understands your frustrations in life and can rescue you from bad singing bikies next door’ has been very well coordinated and will be, for many, very believable. The credibility established around this particular promise, however, may also be the largest dormant danger for the nab. You see, just as Optus suffers from saying ‘yes’ and often delivering ‘no’, the nab is now saying that it will help people chase their dreams through financial support. The reality is that all people have dreams; however, few have a credit and asset status that would enable a bank to firstly lend money, and secondly do so with conditions that won’t cripple people on their way up their personal mountain of dreams.

The ANZ received wide acclaim for its service-oriented advertising campaign that positioned most banks as living in the 70s, inflexible and regimented, while the ANZ tunes into contemporary needs, time managed branches and longer operating hours in major shopping centres. These claims and brand promises are easily deliverable, and while the nab should be applauded for establishing distinct and possibly pro-social brand promises, delivering on them consistently at a time where financial pressures are about to rise significantly, may prove problematic.

In the mandatory consumer industry of banking, the nab has succeeded in bringing a whole world of optimism and hope into the lives of everyday people who would give body parts to escape the mundane routine of their existence. It will be fascinating to watch and see whether the delivery of this wonderful premise does in fact help us climb every mountain, or simply perpetuate the incessant scrambling around our debt-ridden molehills.