Surveys' Mixed Results Show Consumer Ambivalence toward Banks

By Peters, Andy | American Banker, May 28, 2014 | Go to article overview

Surveys' Mixed Results Show Consumer Ambivalence toward Banks


Peters, Andy, American Banker


Byline: Andy Peters

Depending on which branding survey you believe, consumers view global banking giant HSBC as either one of the world's top corporate brands or have little opinion of it at all.

In a recent report from the New York marketing research firm Millward Brown, HSBC was deemed the world's 28th most-valuable corporate brand, the highest rank of any bank with global operations. It also ranked No. 20 among all global brands in a report issued this year by Brand Finance, a British firm.

But in a March report issued by CoreBrand, another New York marketing research firm, HSBC ranked number 232 out of the world's brands. That trailed such brands as the beleaguered retailer Sears and oil producer BP, which was responsible for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

These widely disparate results are not unique to HSBC. In surveys asking consumers how they view corporate brands, ranking for banks such as Citigroup (NYSE: C), Bank of America (BAC) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) are all over the map.

Survey designs partly explain the lack of consensus -- one survey might focus on things like convenience and price, while another might look at emotional attachment or familiarity -- but the biggest reason for the disparity is an overall ambivalence toward banks, observers say. Consumers don't like or dislike their banks, they just don't see much difference between them because they generally all offer the same products and services, observers say.

Chris Nichols, the chief strategy officer at CenterState Banks (CSFL) in Winter Haven, Fla., adds that even though banks are essentially offering commodity products, they have done a poor of distinguishing themselves through expert marketing or branding.

"Banks have not invested in their brands and the customer is left with nothing but price for comparison," Nichols says. "A bank without a brand becomes just a provider of products instead of a trusted financial advisor. Brands can mean different things which is why survey results differ so much."

To be sure, some banks fared well in the surveys released by Millward Brown, CoreBrands and Brand Finance, all of which looked at the value of corporate brands around the world. Wells Fargo (WFC), for example ranked No. 13 in Millward Brown's poll and No. 15 in Brand Finance's survey.

Credit card networks also performed well when compared with firms in other industries. In CoreBrand's poll, American Express (AXP) Visa (NYSE: V) and MasterCard (MA) all ranked among the top 20 most-valuable brands in CoreBrand's survey and in the top 25 in Millward Brown's poll. …

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