Profile: Jeremy Gilley

The man marketing world peace

NatWest pulls ads as brand hit

NatWest has pulled all advertising for its “helpful banking” services until it can be sure the thousands of customers hit by a technical fault are dealt with, a move that comes as data shows that the crisis has hit perception of the bank brand.

Natwest

Campaigns have been suspended until “things get back to normal” according to a NatWest spokeswoman. “It is not appropriate to promote our wider offering until then”, she adds.

She declined to comment on when ads would run again.

Many customers of the RBS Group owned bank have been unable to draw cash from their accounts for five days since the problems began last Wednesday (20 June) because a computer problem meant their balances were not updated. A smaller number of RBS and Ulster Bank customers are also affected.

Despite the bank claiming that many services are returning to normal today (25 Monday) some customers are continuing to report problems and express anger on social media sites.
Perception of the brand has already taken a hit, according to YouGov BrandIndex metrics.

Its Index score - an average of how customers rate the brand in terms of impression, quality, value, reputation, satisfaction - stood at 2.3 on 22 June, down from 3 a day earlier. Its Buzz score - a net balance of people that have heard positive and negative things about the brand - fell to -3.3 on 22 June, from -0.4 a day earlier.

NatWest has taken several steps to try and reassure worried customers including sending millions of emails to customers, extending opening hours and updates through a variety of online channels.

PR experts, however, argue its failure to inform customers first could permanently damage the taxpayer owned bank.

Fancis Ingham, director general of the Public Relations Consultants Association, says: “Like so many companies in crisis mode, it failed to remember the golden rule - let your customers know first. For millions of customers (including me as it happens), the first communication they had was via the media, not via their bank. When you’re talking about such a fundamental issue as being able to get hold of your own money, that just isn’t tolerable. When it’s a bank that had to be bailed out by the taxpayer, and is still 80% publicly owned, it’s even worse.”

The bank needs to be flexible and proactive in its approach if it is avoid serious reputational damage, Ingham adds.

“Having made a mess of their initial response, NatWest now need to be generous with their customers (a little less of ‘prove to us you’ve lost out due to our incompetence’); and cast iron in providing evidence such mismanagement won’t happen again.”

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