Displaying items by tag: Brand Strategy

Mention any organisation that has excelled in branding such as Nike, Apple or Lego and you’ll find they have much in common. Consumers understand clearly what these brands stand for, how they are different to their competitors and bring expectations on purchasing value when dealing with the brand. For each of these organisations, brand is the champion that sets them apart and drives their business growth. More importantly, brand investment sits front and centre when it comes to budgeting and business strategy. Shareholders and the C-Suite value investment in the brand. The role of the CMO and their marketing team is clearly valued as contributing to the bottom line.

Communicating the impact of brand investment on revenue and revenue growth can be a tricky task - especially if the Board or investors/shareholders are used to viewing the business through a profit/loss lens. CMOs need to work together with the C-Suite to communicate the value of the brand and how it helps build and improve the overall performance of the organisation.

A recent McKinsey study highlighted that 83% of global CEOs agree that marketing can be a major driver of growth. There are still many who believe marketing falls under discretionary expenditure and would not attribute it to growth. The report concludes that the opinion of the CEO and Board is heavily influenced by the reputation and rapport of the CMO with the C-Suite and their ability to build deep, productive relationships and win over the sceptics in the C-suite.

McKinsey divides CMOs into three categories – Unifiers, Friends and Loners. The unifiers are 1.4 times more likely to be viewed as having a clear role in driving growth, be mutually accountable in delivering on this growth and be given the right resources and tools needed to achieve this.

It is vital that CMOs ‘seize the day’ in proving the value of marketing in driving growth for the organisation. They must unify the team and leverage the CEO’s support in order to drive growth. The challenge placed on CMOs, is to ensure they can effectively showcase the value brand and marketing has on business growth.


CMOs can take ownership of driving positive growth via 4 key deliverables.






1. Direction - a clear vision and set of values that align with your brand positioning

CMOs can lead the way in creating a clear vision for the entire company. A vision that is easily adopted at all levels of the organisation and that aligns with values and brand positioning.

A clearly defined vision and brand positioning can not only help unify the organisation but also help in making informed decisions, understanding where the company is heading and setting a clear path on how to get there together. An effective brand positioning will not only provide a guiding light for the team - it will should also clearly differentiate a business from its competitors.

How does this directly impact the bottom line? There are some clear-cut examples. The recent Nike campaign which, as reported by CNBC, created a surge firstly in shares, likes, followers and fans across social media - followed by a surge in sales and stock prices. The campaign initially prompted a boycott from some consumers, but the values behind the brand and the campaign proved more positive than polarising with their customers and the general public. An increase in sales followed in the immediate days after the campaign release.

2. Differentiation – setting you apart from your competitors

In this commoditised world, brand is often the only factor that differentiates an organisation from its competitors. A well-articulated brand story and brand identity can set a brand apart and build an affinity with your customers. It takes time, investment and patience to build a strong brand. A commitment from the C-Suite and shareholders to this process is vital.

When an organisation commits to building their brand in a consistent and authentic way, brand awareness will grow, consumers will develop an understanding of the brand, which in turn builds trust and loyalty. Subsequently, awareness and trust positively impact overall profitability. A CEO or business owner who understands this will accept the fact that investment in brand, especially in the early days, will lead to long term profitability and a reduction in the marketing spend, once the brand is well established.

Unfortunately, only a small number of board members or CEO’s (McKinsey noted only 3%) have a marketing background. This does not, however, stop them from having an opinion on marketing. CMOs need to bring real data and evidence to the table – start talking the language of CEOs and CFOs to ensure their message is taken seriously above simply ‘opinions and gut feelings’.

Bring data to the table. Evidencing results such as the volume of traffic, engagement rates, search engine rankings and organic search queries for your brand name can be proof that investment into your brand strategy is resulting in growth in sales. Proof of your brand being selected over your competitors and other examples of quantitative data can prove the importance and performance of your brand.

Other research, such as survey results on your customer sentiment, or using social listening tools to track how a brand is being perceived by potential customers, or alternatively engaging in brand tracking research on a consistent basis, are all ways that you can incorporate results into your quarterly or annual reports. In this way, investors start to get used to seeing these results and beginning to understand them.


3. Demand Generation – driving direct business via campaign activity

Demand generation is probably the most resourced area of the marketing team – an effective marketing campaign should result in instant gratification in the form of sales, leads and brand awareness – all of which can be measured.

Providing the C-suite with a clear understanding of the specific objectives of each marketing tactic and where it sits within the buyer journey is also extremely important. Not every dollar spent is about sales – consumers need to know you first before they will be willing to purchase from you – so an element of your marketing investment needs to focus on brand awareness.

According to Gartner, 80% of the buying process will occur without any human interaction. The challenge for brands is to position themselves with brand strength and understand the role of marketing in the lead nurture process. The marketing activation strategy needs to ensure the right message is targeted to the right consumer at the right stage of their buyer journey.

4. Devoted advocates – brand loyalty is alive and well worthwhile

The Pareto Principle, or “80/20 rule” as it is frequently called today, is often used to point out that 80% of a company's revenue is generated by 20% of its customers.

Put simply, if customers are happy, you will find them coming back to you as well as sharing their experience with others. Consistently high retention has a twofold effect on the bottom line via increased sales and reduced cost per sale.

Relationship marketing, customer retention, loyalty programs – these strategies all sit squarely with the CMO. Consistently high retention can create a strong competitive advantage.

Brand loyalty, and its effect on the bottom line, is one aspect of brand where business owners and investors can also track and measure performance. It is evident that shareholders, investors and business owners are well aware of the positive impact of brand loyalty, hence loyalty programs and other reward strategies that have been put into place to retain existing customers. It is hard to ignore the scale of the cost differences in acquiring versus retaining customers.  It costs 6 times more to gain a new customer versus keeping an existing one. The value in retaining existing satisfied, loyal customers is hard for anyone to ignore.

Brand loyalty and retention of customers can not only increase profit, but it can also decrease costs through referral and advocacy. Building great relationships with your customers means that when prompted (and sometimes unprompted) they will refer you to others without hesitation.  

CFOs and CEOs are increasingly accustomed to reading and interpreting the Net Promoter Score (NPS) therefore it has become an extremely efficient tool for CMOs. Sharing this information within your quarterly or annual reporting will also be extremely beneficial in helping financial investors understand the importance of customer satisfaction and brand loyalty to the overall picture.

Getting everyone on the same page

At BrandMatters, we have seen the evidence of the positive growth results of our clients who have made significant investments in their brand. Research and data underpin all our recommendations and provides the much needed demonstrable proof.

For CMOs to become unifiers – they need to ensure they effectively collaborate and earn the respect of the C-suite and key stakeholders. We can also help facilitate this, through depth interviews and stakeholder workshops and track subsequent campaign effectiveness through brand tracking research.

All of these strategic brand measures should be considered when analysing an organisation’s results. As outlined, brand can positively impact sales, help you increase profit margins and reduce costs in the long term through loyalty and advocacy.


Get in contact

In this digital age, word of mouth has gone viral. When you need a recommendation, you head to social media to ask the question.

Brands are paying close attention. Movements and trends coming from global influencers are being adopted quickly. Consider the rise of the sharing economy; or the adoption of non-traditional banking and funds management solutions, along with the trending fashion brands endorsed by celebrities. But it is not all about celebrity and vanity - there is some resultant social good, including issues such as equality, diversity and sustainability, all of which have been gaining momentum via public support and social channels. Brands have been watching and are now seeking to lead on these trends.

For example, the global movement that takes climate change seriously has been heard loud and clear and brands are responding to promote their activities and efforts in these spaces.

Unilever launched its sustainable living brands a few years back and have recently announced that these brands are growing 69% faster than the rest of the business. Nike has announced they will be signing the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Change Action, and in doing so will be committing to the industry’s most challenging climate targets to date. 

Closer to home, Qantas launched the first-ever commercial flight to produce no landfill waste. They announced that this was the start of their mission to cut 100 million single-use plastics by the end of 2020 and eliminate 75% of the airline’s waste by the end of 2021.

Brands can spend millions of their marketing dollars communicating these efforts to customers via various channels - but one of the most effective (from a cost and efficiency point of view) is vocal endorsement via their own employees.

Employees can become micro influencers. Qantas employees are praising their employer on LinkedIn, publicly demonstrating their support of the initiative for the zero waste future. An initiative that is obviously aligned with their own values. 

Consumers love vocalising their opinions or reviews on everything from the best coffee to new and exciting restaurant openings, right through to championing the company they work for. If your internal team is not advocating how great their employer is, or living your offer - several things may require addressing:

  • The company’s values may not align to their own.
  • In an absence of values, they may not be quite sure what you stand for and therefore find it difficult to articulate this to others.
  • Corporate social responsibility activities may not reflect the current employee view of what these could or should be.
  • Your employees are at best disengaged, and at worst looking for engagement from other employers.

These issues can be addressed by aligning your brand, your values, and the value you can bring individual employees in an employer value proposition (EVP). An EVP is a clear definition of what your employment brand stands for. In the increasingly competitive market conditions, attracting and retaining talent should be one of an organisation’s key priorities. Just as a compelling brand proposition will demonstrate a brand’s benefit for customers, so an EVP should define and demonstrate the value an organisation can bring to its employees.

A coherently developed and clearly articulated EVP will support initiatives and contribute to the building of the culture of an organisation. This then becomes central to the current and future employees’ experience with the brand. It allows each employee to understand the role they play in the company and what this means in the context of the overall business strategy and the brand’s promise to internal and external customers.


Organisations with a well-defined EVP will benefit in several ways, the obvious being:

  • Talent attraction

  • Talent retention and lower attrition rates

  • Overall lower recruitment costs

  • A more satisfied workforce

  • A more vocal and advocating workforce

The not so obvious, is the benefit of an effective and compelling EVP on the transformation of an organisation’s employees becoming brand ambassadors. Employees that are vocal and positive about their employer in public/social spaces create an organic marketing channel where the value of word of mouth is paramount. This, in turn, creates a more positive internal environment with higher morale: greater retention and lower attrition. Externally, this creates the perception of an engaged and active workforce. Positive, external vocalisation by employees is an authentic brand building strategy that a traditional marketing approach, cannot recreate.

Creating a strong employee value proposition should be a collaborative process that engages stakeholders from across the organisation and includes employees at all levels of seniority, tenure, department and function.


An EVP is built from the inside out, engaging current employees to build out the answers to 3 very simple but critical questions:

  • Why do I work here?
  • Why do I stay?
  • What’s in it for me?

At BrandMatters, we run EVP workshops to unearth employees’ perceptions of their employers, and to start articulating the value an employer brings to their working life. By distilling these views down to a core value proposition, we’re able to cut through to the essence of what attracts and keep an employee engaged, what keeps them motivated, and what will make them become vocal advocates.

Once you have articulated your EVP, (re) engagement with both existing employees and external recruitment targets commences. An action plan needs to be put in place to communicate the EVP to both audiences, and a plan that rings true and is authentic. One key goal today should be authentic, self-directed, independent, vocal advocacy in social media spaces.  

An organisation’s people will ultimately become the representation of a business, especially in service-based industries. Employers should be in no doubt that every single employee is a brand ambassador or a brand detractor. At BrandMatters, we believe strong and authentic brands are built from the inside out by motivated and committed employees who understand the organisation’s vision, values and behaviours and the role they play in delivering to these. To learn more about how we can supply more information about the criticality and benefits of building an EVP, or to help you commence your EVP journey, contact us.


Get in contact

What does it mean for a brand to be authentic? It has a lot to do with ethical behaviour but mostly it should be about telling the truth and demonstrating your commitment to this truth. Consumers are seeking out brands that do more than just talking about how great they are, they are looking for proof that the brand is willing and able to practise what they preach. It is increasingly vital that brands rise up to this challenge and prove to consumers they intend to live up to their brand promise.

Authenticity is not something you can create via a campaign. It needs to be demonstrated across every touch point and every moment the brand interacts with the consumer. Most importantly it needs to be true - not just a gimmick. Consumers are savvy and their expectations are high. According to last year’s Edelman Trust Barometer, the expectation on CEOs to step up and lead change was up to a record high of 65%. CEOs and CMOs can achieve this by working together to put brand purpose front and centre of the organisation.

Not only are consumers seeking out and choosing to support authentic brands, they are also actively calling out inauthentic brands (mainly via social media). The speed at which disapproval can spread is rapid, and the digital footprint left is extremely hard to reverse or repair.

As a brand strategy agency, BrandMatters work with brands big and small, established or start-up, to develop an authentic brand narrative and positioning. A brand’s story needs to be rooted in the brand vision and needs to ensure it addresses the target audience in a way that resonates with them and makes them believe the brand truly understands their needs.

In this time of disruptors and game-changers, no market, industry and category is safe from being called out or completely alienated by consumers. In the wake of the banking royal commission - a recent Roy Morgan Report indicated that 1.3 million Australians are considering opening new bank accounts in the next 6 months. In an industry where the hassle often outweighs the motivation, this number is staggering. ING and Bank Australia are two examples of financial services brands who have stepped up with a message that targets these consumers and are demonstrating how brands, even banks, can be good, ethical and authentic.

How can brands demonstrate their authenticity

Customer centricity 

Putting the customer first. This shouldn’t be a new concept, but for certain industries, complacency has taken over - performance has been measured by profits and dividends alone. This view is incredibly short sighted. Brands need to put their customers first if they want to survive long term. 

Longevity and consistency

Brands need to stick to their guns. Once they have developed and articulated their brand position and brand values, they need to find ways to communicate and demonstrate these values. Examples such as Nike, Lego and closer to home Qantas are legacy brands who have consistently demonstrated their values. They have managed to stay relevant and consumers appreciate this consistency because trust has been developed and consumers know what to expect from these brands.

It doesn’t mean that they can’t change, adapt or innovate - but when they do it must be in a way that is in-keeping with their brand position and brand values.

Purpose before profit

In the past, CEOs and CFOs have been told to put the shareholder first. Now, even their largest stakeholders are challenging this, and realising that ethics and sustainability needs to be part of the equation.

Many brands and organisations have implemented a corporate social responsibility policy (CSR), and actively support a charity or support the community in some way, shape or form. The main issue with CSR is it is often seen as a side responsibility that comes after profits. The values that lead to a CSR policy should be shifted over to become part of the brand values rather than a side project.

Brand research

Brands who care about what their customers are thinking and feeling will engage in brand research or brand tracking. Asking for feedback and continually improving based on the feedback will help brands keep a pulse on the market and the needs of their target audience. It inevitably will help them make decisions about the future of the brand and how to stay relevant. NPS is a great way to measure consumer sentiment. Simply put, understanding the likelihood of your customers recommending your brand is a great benchmark of your brand equity and customer satisfaction.

Many businesses have adopted the Net-Promoter Score as their dipping stick into customer satisfaction - if they see the levels change, this can trigger some more intensive investigation or research and lead to changes in the brand strategy.

Examples of brands that have succeeded in demonstrating their authenticity


Airbnb’s brand positioning is ‘belong anywhere’. The idea behind Airbnb (people essentially opening their homes for strangers to share) was incredibly reliant on building trust. More importantly, the trust needed to be two-way. The owner of the property (host) needed to trust the customer (guest) and the guest needed to trust that the offering from the host was authentic and genuine.         

To many, this seemed like an impossible level of trust and convincing people would be no simple task. Airbnb demonstrated their authenticity by implementing a system of support, connection and safety.

Further to this, they are continually standing up and shouting out about the things they value and believe in. Examples of this were their support for marriage equality and also their protest of the Trump travel ban with their campaign #weaccept. Not only did support for these issues align to their brand, but the message of acceptance is one that underpins the trust they have built in their community (both guests and hosts). Airbnb’s entire business model relies on establishing this trust, building relationships between strangers, which is essentially what every brand needs to do.

Bank Australia 

When reading Bank Australia’s vision and values you may well disbelieve it. Bank Australia was established in 1957, originally as the CSIRO Co-operative Credit Union. In 2015 it was renamed Bank Australia and continues its’ focus on ethical and sustainable banking - which is 100% owned by its’ customers.

The timing of the launch of their recent campaign was precise and resonated immediately with consumers who had lost faith in the traditional banks and were looking for a better alternative.

The campaign highlights how the brand is turning its values into action - for example by only investing in renewable energy and affordable housing solutions and not investing in fossil fuels.


Trust is earned through authentic interactions

At BrandMatters, we believe relationships matter, a positive relationship between your brand and your customer is fundamental to success. In a world where consumers are bombarded with choice, as a brand, you need to stand for something - otherwise, the consumer choice has no critical path and will end up being about price. Living and breathing your brand values (both internally and externally) will help you develop a strong bond with like-minded customers.

Creating buy-in from your employees - who in turn will become brand ambassadors - is a great first step (read more in our recent blog employers guide to re-building trust in a disillusioned world). Living your brand values internally - with a strong employee value proposition - is a great way to establish how strongly it resonates and will result in your employees becoming strong brand advocates, working from the inside out.

Starting with a strong set of principles, we can help you develop and articulate your brand’s purpose, and most importantly provide the tools to bring this purpose to life through authentic interactions with your customers.

Wednesday, 05 June 2019 11:42

Traditionally, large organisations have gravitated to agency partners who match them in size and stature. In recent years, the need for a global presence and mass capabilities offered by the traditional full-service agency model has dissipated and there has been a trend for a more tailored approach - where organisations are seeking agencies who understand their niche or industry.

BrandMatters specialises in B2B brand research and brand strategy. In particular, we have worked with many organisations in the financial services and professional services industries.

The team of senior marketers at BrandMatters have all come from client-side brand and strategic marketing roles. Over the years, specialising has enabled the team to develop deep expertise in their specific discipline and become subject matter experts in specific industries and B2B branding. They have an understanding of the unique challenges faced by these organisations.

BrandMatters’ portfolio of clients showcases over 16 years of experience dealing with complex brand architecture challenges, huge changes in market landscapes and the challenge of communicating a brand’s purpose both internally and externally. 

For Paul Nelson, BrandMatters’ Managing Director, it is clear that research is the key to brand strategy for B2B organisations. The role of brand in B2B organisations has often been seen as secondary. Over the years, B2B branding has evolved and has become more of a driving force behind organisational strategy and businesses providing value over and above their core product or service offering. Brand can act as an anchor that grounds the business in its values, beliefs and future goals. It defines a vision and a set of behaviours that drives the internal culture of a business and results in a consistent experience of clients and customers.

When communicating your message in a B2B environment, a brand needs to ensure the message is highly logic-driven rather than solely relying on the emotive levers pulled in traditional B2C marketing communications. In general, B2B marketing strategy needs to deliver a product or service that results in increased productivity or reduced costs for the target market. Undertaking both qualitative and quantitative research gives businesses the insight needed to make strategic decisions about their brand direction and it often brings out other underlying strategic business-related opportunities and threats that need to be addressed.

Through brand research, BrandMatters is able to distil valuable insights that delve deep into the customer psyche and uncover the truths about brand perception, market challenges and consumer needs which are often common across each industry but can also be unique to each organisation.

Independent research allows clients of B2B organisations an opportunity to be heard. This, in itself, is a valuable demonstration that their opinions matter, and that their needs are being addressed.

Choosing the right brand agency to work with can be a challenge; you need to consider your budget, but you should also feel comfortable that the agency understands your industry or niche. In a world of mass marketing and a one size fits all approach, consumers and businesses are thirsty for personalisation and a brand that truly understands their needs at all stages of the buyer journey.

Many larger agencies are starting to divide and conquer - realising the benefits of smaller, niche agencies to satisfy the demand of specialisation. At BrandMatters, we work with clients of all sizes and the general consensus, regardless of their size, has been that we punch above our weight. The strategic insight delivered via in-depth research has proven to be incredibly strong ammunition for success.

CEOs and CMOs of some of Australia’s largest and most successful financial services brands have said that having an agency such as BrandMatters as their partner has given them the confidence to make large and complex business decisions. These strategic decisions often guide the organisation forward in a new direction or confirm and cement their existing direction. In some cases, it has been clarity of direction that was sorely lacking.

The small but experienced brand consultant team at BrandMatters are experts in delivering research in a way that helps:

  • Shine a light on the current situation
  • Uncover the distinctive attributes that will make your brand relevant and attractive to your target market.
  • Articulate these distinctive positioning attributes in a way that is easy to communicate throughout the whole organisation and gain buy-in.
  • Execute the plan with confidence and drive success.

Across all industries, there is a trend for consumers to be attracted to a more distinctive brand that is tailored to their needs. Customer experience has become such an essential ingredient in your future brand strategy regardless of the size of your brand. Understanding exactly what customers want and need is the key.

Customers - whether B2B or B2C, want to be heard and appreciated. They also want to be understood, and in complex industries, this is the special skill of a specialised agency. BrandMatters helps businesses listen, learn and then demonstrate their understanding.

Since the Royal Commission Final Report and throughout the hearings Commissioner Hayne has repeatedly come back to two connected areas: remuneration and culture. The inwardly focused remuneration schemes that prioritised sales and profit over customer benefit have caused a great many of the sector’s systematic problems and created a ‘win at all costs’ culture. So what can they do now?

 We see four key factors that summarise the journey to the situation we now find ourselves in:

  • A consistent market and media focus on individual industry player market performance and shareholder returns.
  • A highly protected market with little competition and almost insurmountable barriers to entry.
  • A deeply honed and sophisticated sales infrastructure, with short term incentives layered right through the organisation.
  • An under-resourced and slightly intimidated regulator – ill-equipped or unwilling to detect or handle the sheer scale of potential malfeasance that has occurred over the decades.


In case you need some evidence that things need to change 

  • As reported in Mumbrella 22 January 2019, Brand Finance annual report highlights how Australia’s big four banks suffered a $1.1 billion drop in brand value, led by ANZ.
  • ClearView estimated it had breached the anti-hawking provisions, somewhere between 300,000 and 303,000 times in just over three years.
  • $6 billion of commissions paid to financial advisers with respect to life insurance over a five-year period.
  • In the past six months since the Banking Royal Commission commenced, consumer satisfaction ratings with banks has dropped from 81.2% to 78%, the lowest satisfaction rating banks have seen in more than seven years.


Some suggestions as to how the financial services industry can respond

First and foremost, there must be a united front. What’s needed is a true and authentic commitment from the entire industry to work towards rebuilding consumer trust. A collective action and a collective promise made, shared and then kept. Admittedly much easier said, than done.

The industry would benefit from an entirely new approach, a new norm to be created where customer centricity is the key focus – in the knowledge that from truly satisfied customers profit will prevail, and shareholder returns will come. A new focus on serving and improving the lives of customers will prove they can be profitable and trustworthy at the same time.

Again, very idealistic, but that is how dramatic the shift needs to be.  An institution that can put its customers first, can have a broader purpose, can nurture and create a new and positive culture. One that focusses on delivering for customers and that isn’t all about internal remuneration.

The regulator and the Government also has a role to play, through ongoing relaxation around regulation and licensing allowing greater levels of competition in the industry. This will force the major players to be fairer and more responsive to their customers’ needs. We are already seeing new entrants and disruptors joining the market including neo and fintech banks, like Volt and 86400.

The regulator also needs greater resourcing and financial resourcing, so it can stand up to the fiscal might that exists in some of Australia’s wealthiest companies. The regulator could also lead a new shared vision, code of practice and industry wide charter to create shared value for a much wider group of consumers, investors, and the broader community. It could also lead an entire industry wide – as well as individual focus – around remuneration structures and incentive schemes. This needs to fundamentally consider the link between quantitative sales targets and compensation, to minimise misconduct and help individuals ensure that they prioritise the meeting of customer’s needs.


Some suggestions and guidance around culture

A key to success is recognising that organisational culture is constantly evolving. Embedding culture, reinforcing the right behaviours and aligning conduct and risk management practices need to be an ongoing and everyday practice within everyday business. We need to ensure over time that complacency does not creep back in when this moves from the headlines.

As always, leadership matters. Senior leadership must embed conduct and culture messages and expectations from the top down, and from middle management through to customer facing staff. Measures must be in place around how all levels of employees are trained, promoted, supported and measured.


Finally, at an individual brand level – it all comes down to purpose

Financial services brand research highlights the need to start with the biggest piece in the complex world of brand – vision. A reason to exist, a reason to get up out of bed, to serve customers. A vision that is compelling and drives a positive internal culture, doesn’t matter if you’re B2B or B2C. A focus on culture that serves and encourages the appropriate behaviours through every strata of the organisation – including middle management and especially client facing staff. For financial services brands that means creating a vision that creates buy in from all employees to say ‘hey, we are here for a broader purpose than simply profit’ – we must be here to do more than just create value for ourselves and for our shareholders.

Is the industry up for this level of change? Well, the jury is still out on this. However, there are already positive signs. The disposing of wealth and insurance businesses and other potential conflicts of interest, together with a renewed focus on their core functions should see the capacity to drive new and better outcomes for customers. This includes being far more sensitive to customers human needs.

In summary, this is a complex and daunting task for the industry and the individual brands, including Westpac, Nab, AMP and Commonwealth Bank. Simultaneously they have to re-build trust, along with managing new digital entrants, evolving customer needs, market expectations and overall competitive pressures.

For financial services brands, it is time to listen, learn and act. With significant rewards for customers, for brands and shareholders. In terms of a make or break moment for the industry, it feels like this is the moment to take positive action. If not now, when?

As the public hearings of the Banking Royal Commission conclude, and the level of consumer distrust can be seen to rise, we ask what financial services brands can do to survive in the future? What will consumers demand of them? What can they do to start rebuilding relationships with their clients?

BrandMatters' Managing Director, Paul Nelson, provides his insight into how financial services brands need to consider their next 12 months.

What factors led to the current environment in the financial services sector?

In hindsight, the reasons why this occurred become obvious:

  • a consistent market and media focus on market performance and shareholder returns
  • a protected market with little competition and almost insurmountable barriers to entry
  • a highly sophisticated sales infrastructure, with short-term incentives, layered right through the organisation
  • an under-resourced and slightly intimidated regulator – ill-equipped to detect or handle the sheer scale and number of scandals that have occurred over the decades.

At the heart of it all, has been a culture of self-preservation (either market or personal returns, or both) at the expense of the individual customer or client. It has taken some time for the Commission to delve into how deep this all goes.

Looking back on the timeline, it was as early as 2008 when Jeff Morris first blew the whistle on a CBA financial planner who was clearly taking advantage of several elderly and vulnerable clients. This was only scratching the surface of the scandals that were about to appear. Even the regulator ASIC was brought into the spotlight in 2014 when in a series of investigations by Fairfax Media and Four Corners further uncovered facts that ASIC had failed to act on several whistleblower complaints – it was this scandal that then led to the Senate inquiry.

With the Senate recommending a Royal Commission into Australia’s banking and financial services industry, it was clear there was the potential to uncover misconduct in an industry deemed as one of the most trusted – the one that manages and controls our money, our superannuation funds, our hard-earned investments and life savings.

So, as the hearings continue, and more truths are revealed, it appears that the customer and their needs have become very much sidelined. The main game has been played at the customer’s expense as the industry’s profits, bonuses and shareholder returns kept soaring. The focus on risk management, was around risk to future revenues including incentive schemes and remuneration structures rather than protecting customers.

Throughout the entire 70 or so days, the commission has repeatedly come back to two connected areas: remuneration and culture.

There is widespread agreement that inwardly focused remuneration schemes that prioritised sales and profit over customer benefit, have caused a great many of the sectors problems, and created a ‘win at all costs’ culture.

What will consumers demand of FS brands in the future?

In the past 6 months since the Royal Commission commenced, consumer satisfaction ratings with banks has dropped from 81.2% to 78% as reported by Roy Morgan. A 4% drop doesn’t seem so bad and would indicate that the clear majority of customers are still relatively satisfied with their bank. However, it is important to note that this is the lowest satisfaction rating banks have seen in more than seven years. Are customers resilient or feeling completely disempowered across the whole situation?

In terms of what consumers are expecting or will demand from FS brands, in this situation, it certainly needs much more than just an official mass produced letter from the corporate communications team, or a press release issuing an apology. There needs to be fundamental evidence of change, including a meaningful change in the business model and evidence of positive brand values.

The top 10 brands consumers trust in Australia at the moment do not include the top 4 banks – ING and Bendigo Bank are the only brands from the financial services industry to make the list.

There is no doubt that trust in brand is difficult to earn, very easily lost and once lost even more difficult to regain.

As inconvenient as it might be, a recent report indicated that 1.3 million Australians are considering opening new bank accounts in the next 6 months – so there is no room for complacency by any of the banking brands. Brands in other sectors are demonstrating customer service excellence. FS brands can learn from other industries and put technology and transparency first.

What immediate and long terms changes need to occur for the industry and the industry’s brands to move forward in future?

First and foremost, there must be a united front. A true commitment from the entire industry to work towards rebuilding consumer trust. A collective action and a collective promise made, shared and then kept. Admittedly much easier said, than done.

What’s needed is an entirely new approach, a new norm to be created where customer centricity is the key focus – in the knowledge that from truly satisfied customers profit will prevail, and shareholder returns will come. A new focus on serving and improving the lives of their customers will prove they can be profitable and trustworthy at the same time.

Again, you may think this sounds very idealistic, but that is how dramatic the shift needs to be – a bank can put its customers first, can have a broader purpose, can nurture and create a new and positive culture. One that focusses on delivering for customers and that isn’t all about internal remuneration.

This needs to be a significant transformational change that creates a culture of putting customers first.

For financial service organisations, this needs to be a massive cultural shift. One that is driven both from the top down and the bottom up. And a new employee value proposition is needed to bring meaningful purpose back into the equation.

It needs to be everyone’s responsibility. Gail Kelly, former Westpac CEO reflected on her time stating, “I wish I’d done more personally to identify some elements of poor practice. You can no longer look at averages and make assumptions. You need to look into the detail, at the entire bell curve, particularly at the areas that have gone really wrong, where the most vulnerable are being impacted, and learn from that.”

A deeper understanding of the issues would enable both policy and behavioural change with reforms which need to be communicated to all stakeholders in order to achieve the desired outcomes.

In the recently released G30 Report on Banking Conduct and Culture, titled BANKING CONDUCT AND CULTURE A Permanent Mindset Change, of which Ms Kelly co-chaired, many additional recommendations can be found, within the Executive Summary and throughout the entire report. There are a great many observations in the report together with 12 separate recommendations.

From a far more personal point of view, we suggest a few immediate changes and recommendations that would bring about positive change which include:

  • Ongoing relaxation around regulation and licensing allowing a greater level of competition in the industry. This will force the major players to be fairer and more responsive to their customers’ needs. We are already seeing new entrants and disruptors entering the market including neo and fintech banks. ING seem to be leading the way in putting the customer first, and they are being rewarded for it. Obviously appropriate regulatory oversight of this expansion goes without saying.
  • In terms of the official regulator – change needs to occur, including resourcing – but beyond that what the new form or system of regulation will look like, remains to be seen.
  • A new shared vision and code of practice to create shared value for a much wider group of consumers, investors, and the broader community.
  • An entire industry-wide, as well as an individual focus around remuneration structures and incentive schemes. This needs to fundamentally consider the link between quantitative sales targets and compensation, to minimise misconduct and help individuals ensure that they prioritise meeting customer needs.
  • A new code of conduct, or an industry-wide charter. Clearly, it will be very difficult to align competing interests, businesses and brands, but if not now, with this burning platform, then when?

Finally, FS brands need to start with the biggest piece in the complex world of brand – and that is a vision. A reason to exist, a reason to get up out of bed, to serve customers and do what you do. A vision that is compelling and drives a positive internal culture. A focus on culture that serves and encourages the appropriate behaviours through every strata of the organisation – including middle management and especially client-facing staff. For financial services brands that means creating a vision that creates buy-in from all employees to say ‘hey, we are here for a broader purpose than simply profit’ – we must be here to do more than just create value for shareholders.

Is the industry up for this level of change? Well, the jury is still out on this. However, there are already signs of change. The disposing of wealth and insurance businesses and other potential conflicts of interest, together with a renewed focus on their core functions should see the capacity to drive new and better outcomes for customers. This includes being far more sensitive to customers human needs.

For financial services brands - it is time to listen, learn and act. We believe the time is right for change. With significant rewards for customers, for brands and shareholders. In terms of a make or break moment for FS brands – it feels like this is the moment to take positive action. Be bold, make the first move.

In any successful relationship, trust is built up over time, and every interaction can have a positive or negative impact on the level of trust in that relationship. The relationship between customers and brands is equally built on trust and determined by every interaction a customer has with that brand. Customer loyalty is a key measurement and driver in brand building - understanding what brings the customer back is at the heart of success. Brands need to focus on their interactions with customers, throughout the customer journey, so as to ensure they build trust and loyalty.

When it comes to analysing your brand’s customer experience, it is important to first understand your brand: what you stand for, what is your offering and what sets you apart from your competitors. BrandMatters has developed a simple Brand Diagnostic Tool to help you get a clear picture of your brand and identify the areas you need to improve upon.

Simply satisfying your customers is no longer enough, brands need to create strong and long-lasting relationships with their customers. To demonstrate how brand and CX come together, BrandMatters have developed a diagnostic system to measure how these components come together.

The following 6 criteria were used to evaluate a brand:

  • Customer is in control – Customers feel that they’re in control of their journey and able to make their own decisions along the way.
  • Provides good value – Customers receive what they expect, with no hidden fees or surprises, ensuring all service goals are reached.
  • Available and accessible – Customers can reach the service/product through the channels its customers expect, as well as being available at all expected touchpoints.
  • Easy to use – Information is easy to find and where you expect it to be, ensuring the CX is as intuitive as it can be.
  • Supportive – The brand provides the right information at the right time, explaining each of the steps and helps the customer along the CX journey, making the customer feel supported.
  • Tailored – Information is relevant to the audience and its expectations - it anticipates its needs and design its interactions to meet these.

To understand how this works, the BrandMatters' team have selected some of the brands they believe succeed in creating positive customer experiences in various ways. We applied scores across each of the 6 criteria to see how each brand scored in relation to each other across the criteria.

Our team chose a cross section of brands in various sectors with a few Australian brands included.  The brands we assessed include – Airbnb, SBS, Uber, Birdsnest, Service NSW and Harris Farm were charted across a CX Circumplex Summary.

Screen Shot 2018-11-26 at 1.15.03 pm.png

The above circumplex depicts all of the brands we assessed and how they rated against each of the attributes.

When drilling down on each brand – there were a few highlights to be mentioned in terms of customer experience for each of the brands

Yasmin’s CX review on SBS

Compared with all of the other free to air channels, and even compared to Netflix and Foxtel, I find SBS exceeds my expectations as far as educational, inspiring programming is concerned. The fact that is free to air, as well as available on demand (with not too many commercials), means it is accessible to all Australians regardless of geography, age or cultural background. 

Summary of positive CX attributes:

+ I can choose which shows to watch and how I watch them (live vs SBS On Demand)

+ Their programming is all free (compared to Foxtel, Netflix etc) there is a range of varied programming that appeals to many diverse consumer groups. It is also tailored and addresses minority groups, special interest and educational subject matter.

+ Online content (such as email, blogs etc) is also great – lots of value-added content relating to subjects of interest to their audience (eg: recipes, interviews, news articles, business articles).

Belinda’s CX review on Harris Farm Markets

There are many reasons why I love Harris Farm Markets. They have recently upgraded the store near where I live, and it has exceeded my expectations as far as a grocery shopping experience goes. Competing with Coles and Woolworths can’t be easy – especially from a purchasing power perspective.

Summary of positive CX attributes:

+ The store is interactive, lots of staff roaming around allowing you to try before you buy.

+ Freshness and quality wins over price in terms of value. The Imperfect picks is also a good option for price sensitive customers.

+ The offering of extended grocery options (all environmentally friendly alternatives are great).

+ Their focus on sustainability – they were the first to ban the plastic bag.

Paul’s CX review on Uber

Slightly predictable and cliched, but I can’t go past Uber – especially in the context of their competition, traditional taxis. They do have alternative ride sharing competitors, but I haven’t found a reason to trial them yet.

Summary of positive CX attributes:

+ Price estimates, wait times advised, rating system allows quality control. Conversely, with taxis, I have no idea on anything – wait time, car quality, driver quality.

+ In terms of value for money – at least it is transparent (the surge pricing can sometimes mean the value for money attribute can become an issue).

+ Easy to use, intuitive app. Automatic payment post service completion.

Mikaela’s CX review of Airbnb

I have personally used Airbnb on multiple occasions, and it has always exceeded my expectations, from the moment I start searching for my next ‘home’ to the moment I am asked to review my stay. When we break it down into the six attributes it’s easy to see why:

Summary of positive CX attributes:

+ Airbnb provides an array of filters from number of rooms and price range, to whether you’d like a spa and fireplace – allowing users to feel in control of finding the exact personalised experience they are searching for.

+ Extensive range for all occasions.

+ Notifications of your up-coming trip and reminders all through the app,

+ Airbnb has recently extended their offering into experiences which is a natural extension.

Edwina’s review of Birdsnest

I have recently discovered the Australian based online clothing store, Birdsnest. I purchased my first item a few months ago and was extremely impressed with the experience - it really felt like a personalised shopping experience and even down to how the items were delivered felt tailored and exceeded my expectations. 

Summary of positive CX attributes:

+ An easy to navigate website, with outfit “suggestions” linked to specific occasions, eg travel, work, weddings. Style “capsules” recommend outfits for specific looks, eg casual looks, boho looks, weekends away.

+ Clothing value is matched by the quality which is often not the case with online clothing brands. A bonus surprise was a bunch of discount vouchers that arrived with my purchase – a smart marketing initiative to encourage repeat business.

+ Stock is regularly refreshed, kept in a central location which means it is all shipped together.

+ Interactive in terms of online shopping experience – recommends clothes for your body shape as well as matching accessories.

+ Good return policy plus offers secret discounts for repeat business.

+ Showcases a variety of models wearing the clothing (rather than just size 6 catwalk models).

Purvi’s review of ServiceNSW

I normally don’t look forward to dealing with the admin work I need to do for government agencies as they tend to be unintuitive, bureaucratic and take up a lot of my time - but I was pleasantly surprised when I recently renewed my license at ServiceNSW.

Summary of positive CX attributes:

+ I could choose multiple service offerings and choose whether to do them myself or with some assistance or completely assisted and over the counter. Every point was explained, and I could opt-out at any point.

+ Allowed me to easily compare the different price options and choose the best one for me.

+ I can use the service digitally, over the phone with a translator, in a branch, in a branch – but online with someone walking me through the process. It is very accessible, and the in-store experience is designed to help me learn how to use it online.

So, what do brands need to do in order to deliver on, and exceed their customers’ expectations?

Get to know your ideal customer

Uncovering powerful consumer and market insights and building your brand strategy from there means you will be one step ahead when it comes to building out customer experience and ensuring your brand remains consistent and clear. Through brand research, you can uncover your consumer’s preferences, their habits, their emotions and their desires.

Once you have a deep understanding of your customer, you can develop customer personas. A customer or buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer – based on the facts you have gathered from research and understanding of your real customers. The development of personas helps you continue to attract and appeal to your ideal audience and build a deeper connection.

The more in-tune you are with your target audience the more likely you are to build a strong relationship with them and develop loyalty and advocacy.

Prove yourself and be consistent

A brand is a promise kept, so ensuring your brand delivers on the promises you make is critical. Developing and implementing proof points that resonate with your customers is vital. Consistently demonstrating these proof points to your customers is an important part of your brand strategy.

Measure and evaluate your success

Continual evaluation of your brand’s performance across these key customer experience drivers is essential. The best brands don’t just make good products or provide good service, they exceed expectations along the entire customer journey. 

This is not something exclusive to big budget, long standing brands - in fact many new brands such as Netflix and Spotify are really paving the way in putting CX first and considering the ease, accessibility, customer-centric drivers to propel their brands forward and win the heart of their customers.

At BrandMatters, we specialise in helping you get to know your customers. Through our proven methodology where customer, market and competitor insights are gathered, analysed and then utilised to develop winning brand strategies.

BrandMatters are experts in brand strategy and have a deep understanding of the interactions between brands and CX.  Get in touch to discuss how you can truly understand your customer and drive deep brand loyalty.

As consumers, it is important that the purchase decisions we make have a positive impact on the environment. In fact, according to a 2015 Nielsen report, 66% of consumers surveyed said they would pay more for sustainable goods. With two out of three consumers valuing brands and organisations that are sustainable, it’s time for businesses to make sustainability a mandatory consideration when planning their brand strategy.

This is not a new revelation; however, there is confusion around how brands can best represent their commitment to sustainability. In addition, if a brand is well established, making the necessary changes can be daunting.

To amplify sustainability through your brand, you need to first consider the following:

1. Are you committed to it?
2. Can you prove it?
3. How can you make your message believable?

In terms of commitment, your sustainability strategy must be embedded into your overall business strategy, not just your brand strategy. It should be part of your future investment strategy and weave through your company objectives. It needs to be embedded into your organisation’s culture – be part of your employee value proposition, have buy in from the team, which will in turn flow through to your consumers.

In terms of proof, you need to identify proof points that demonstrate your commitment to sustainability. Which elements of your product or service reflect your commitment? What are you doing to lessen the impact of your product or service on the environment?

When it comes time to communicate about your sustainability efforts through your brand and marketing channels, messages need to be clear and consistent, talk to consumers’ environmental concerns and deliver with integrity and authenticity.

As brand experts, we have seen many brands do sustainability well, and some that have failed. There is definitely a recipe for success when it comes to the brands that have succeeded in positively presenting their sustainability focus through their brand strategy, brand story and communications.

In terms of building sustainability into your brand and communicating this to the market, there are 5 key ingredients for success:

1. Integrity
2. Quality
3. Positivity
4. Simplicity
5. Visibility


Consumers are savvy and cannot be fooled. Demands for transparency and authenticity by consumers mean companies need to be honest about the claims and promises they make. It’s no longer good enough to just talk the talk. A brand is a promise kept. You must prove to your customers, and to your employees, that you are working hard on keeping and living up to your brand promise.

A great example of a brand with integrity is IceBreaker. Not only do their products live up to their promise, they also commit to sustainable agriculture. They use merino wool from New Zealand and promise that the wool can be traced back to the farm it came from. They are dedicated to supporting the farmers and creating a sustainable business model, based on genuine trust and mutual concern for animal welfare and protection of the natural environment.


The quality of a product is usually judged on one thing - does it stand the test of time? Brands renowned for good quality products are also seen as sustainable and environmental purely because you only need to buy their product once in your lifetime – the product should outlast you and even be passed on to the next generation. In today’s throwaway society, this is not often the case and therefore brands that produce high quality products are highly valued by consumers.

An example, which you may have been lucky enough to inherit from your grandparent, is Le Creuset. Recognised around the world as the market-leading, premium quality range of cast iron cookware, Le Creuset was established in 1925. For almost 100 years, their brand promise has come with a lifetime warranty - and even though they have innovated over the years, their core brand promise of a quality, long-lasting and chef-preferred product has been upheld.


A lot of what is heard in the media about the state of the environment and the world is often doom and gloom. In terms of brands, focusing on the positive ways in which the brand or organisation is being sustainable or ethical is a much more palatable approach. We don’t want consumers to be guilted into not purchasing. We simply want to make them feel good about purchasing - and having a positive impact on the environment at the same time.

An example of a brand that promotes and celebrates positivity is TED. TED is a non-profit organisation dedicated to spreading ideas in a really easy-to-digest form of short talks (10-18 minutes). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. TED’s mission is to “spread ideas” by tapping into the knowledge and diverse opinions of passionate individuals. At their core, these ideas are usually all positive, which means the tone is set for the TED brand through every individual who presents a talk.


Many brands and organisations are dedicated to sustainability, however it is not their core focus, and so they don’t tend to talk much about it. It is important that consumers are aware of your efforts, so you need to make sure the good you are doing is visible and talked about by consumers. This can be achieved through sharing positive stories via your social media or blogs, publicly announcing new initiatives via PR channels, and asking employees to share stories.

Another way to increase visibility of your brand’s sustainability is through the products or services themselves. An example of this is Who Gives A Crap toilet paper. Not only is the product and packaging made from environmentally friendly materials, the company also donate 50% of their profits to help build toilets for those in need.


Sustainability issues can be complicated and often grey in terms of fact or fiction. Especially when it comes to scientific claims, brands can risk providing too much and too complex information for the consumer to take in. This can result in consumers switching off to the good that you are doing. The KIS (Keep It Simple) rule applies in your brand messaging when it comes to the positive impact you are making. Consumers need to understand it, trust it and want part of it.

Sukin is an Australian, all-natural skin care brand. Their promise - “what we leave out is what makes us special” - is the essence of a simple message. Their packaging is also kept simple, effectively communicating all the ‘nasties’ that they leave out.

If you google ‘best sustainable brands’ or ‘ethical and responsible companies’, you will no doubt find that Patagonia makes every list. Patagonia’s mission statement, “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” says it all. Sustainability and the environment is at the heart of everything they do. They tick all the boxes when it comes to these key ingredients of building a sustainable brand.

An increasing number of organisation leaders are finding ways to transform their brands through incorporating sustainability into their brand and overall organisational strategies. You don’t need to be saving the world as many of the examples we pointed out in this article show - even a toilet paper brand can make a difference.

Ultimately, no matter who your target market is, it is important to base your strategy on insights over instinct. A deep understanding of your consumers and what matters to them is at the heart of choosing how your brand will tackle sustainability. Brand research can help. And ultimately, to build a strong, credible and loved brand, your sustainability initiatives must align with your brand’s positioning and values.

To learn more about how to apply these principles to your brand, don’t hesitate to contact us.


As part of our brand commentary series, each week members of the BrandMatters team will discuss some of the week’s biggest, and most newsworthy, brand challenges.