Magazine article Marketing

Invader from Mars

Magazine article Marketing

Invader from Mars

Article excerpt

Sara Weller has swapped Mars Bars for bank marketing and is clearly still coming to terms with the change. For one thing, her office in Abbey National's Baker Street headquarters is freezing, as she hasn't yet worked out how the heating works.

Ironically, Weller has been brought in from confectionery giant Mars to turn the heat up for Abbey National's brand until it is as recognisable as the chocolate bar she knows so well. To that end, Abbey National this week centralised its entire [pounds]40m advertising account into Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper, which will now look after all television, press and poster work.

Weller is just six weeks into her job as director of customer marketing, a post which was created when the company restructured its marketing operation late last year. The position of marketing director, previously held by Ambrose McGinn, who now heads the retail savings operation, was done away with.

After 14 years at Mars - a company known for playing its cards close to its chest - Weller does not like to give too much away. Her office is spartan, except for some colourful art work by her young son, and the environment is businesslike.

Weller's responsibilities include above- and below-the-line advertising, developing the bank's branches and building ties with its new co-branding partner, Safeway.

The task of presenting a bank as a consumer-friendly operation could be daunting, but Abbey National has a better record then many. A recent report placed Abbey National as the third most valuable financial services brand in the UK, behind Barclaycard and Halifax.

But Weller says banks can still learn about marketing and make their brands and approach more consumer-friendly. "One of the big prizes is finding a way to make financial service accessible," she says.

"We need to be clearer about what the brand stands for, more consistent about how we deliver services, and more astute about ensuring the brand proposition matches what customers ask for."

Weller began her career at Mars as a management trainee, having completed a degree in chemistry. After two years' training in sales and marketing, she followed the usual Mars management route, doing stints in a number of general management roles, before returning to the marketing department in 1989 to work on a range of Mars brands, including Mars Bar and Twix. …

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