An uneasy feeling of manufactured authenticity

house-money-capitalism-fortune-12619Something is afoot in financial services advertising. Last week I saw two new campaigns, one from NatWest and one from Nationwide that are not ‘normal’. Both have shifted from selling the features and benefits of their products (like current or savings accounts) to more emotional, emotive messages about grass-roots values and providing a deeper level of financial responsibility and help.

First up is Nationwide, founded over 170 years ago on the principle of helping ordinary people to come together to accomplish something they could not achieve alone.

Using this brand story, their latest campaign features three films of ‘ordinary‘ people sharing their views on Nationwide’s values of community, security and family. All these ‘ordinary’ people are poets who wrote prose especially for the campaign. Check them out here.

Sara Bennison, Nationwide’s chief marketing officer, said: “Nationwide has one of the best brand stories that has never been told, it is a brand of the people, by the people, for the people. So what better way to bring this to life than through the powerful voices of spoken word poets.”

Over at NatWest they are focusing on the needs of others with a film about how ‘we are what we do’ and an interview with Sherene Richards a senior personal banker talking about putting customer service first and how it makes her feel good to do the right thing for someone else. Check them out here.

NatWest tell us (the viewer) that they believe that we all have a responsibility to do the right thing, and to make the future better than the past. Which is why they are committed to thinking ahead and being ready to help people before they even realise they need help.

The banking industry certainly need to build trust from – and provide services to – ordinary people and extraordinary people alike. And I agree with the values that the ordinary Nationwide poets have so beautifully crafted. I also fully support the ethos of a bank putting service and the needs of its customers first. So why do I feel uneasy?

It’s widely accepted that consumers are more likely to trust people they know, for example friends, colleagues and family as well as reviews from other customers over advertising messages from companies; hence the importance of genuine reviews on sites from Trip Advisor to Amazon to John Lewis, but how will this work with the poetic ordinary people filmed especially for Nationwide?

I’ve not banked with NatWest so I can’t comment from a customer perspective, Are NatWest really putting their customers best interests first over the profits of the bank? I hope so.

It’s also widely accepted that people make decisions based not just on facts and figures, but are driven by emotional responses. Emotionally I like the concepts, but my unease is a feeling of being manipulated by glossy, highly polished advertising posing as grass-roots values. And as much as I’d love to, I don’t quite buy that the driving forces behind the campaigns are genuine. I’m left feeling that these emotional approaches are responses by smart agencies to help their clients build trust in order to sell more products in an uncertain and competitive financial services marketplace.

And that’s what advertising is for, to build trust, sell more products and make more money. There is nothing wrong with that per se but these two high-profile campaigns crossing my screens in two days has left me with an uneasy feeling of being conned.

I want to believe these two organisations have values and customers at their heart, but what I am feeling is manufactured authenticity. I’d love to know your thoughts?

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One Comment on “An uneasy feeling of manufactured authenticity

  1. Brilliantly put. If you realize, that someone wants to manipulate you, you won’t like the person. Same with companys – and organisations.

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