How Deep Is the Lloyds Bank Brand Thinking?

10/10/2013 15:31 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 23:58 GMT

You would imagine that a business that spends nearly $50m (c. £30m) on a brand campaign would have a pretty sound proposition? At the very least, it would know what makes it special, different and appealing.

That said, it's a curious thing that Lloyds Bank, part of Lloyds Banking Group - the UK's largest retail and commercial bank and the generous perpetrator of this splash spending - should get no further than the first base statement - "BECAUSE YOUR home/family/business /mortgage/British Industry/cat/dog/granny/goldfish (you get the gist) - MATTERS".

Forgive me Lloyds, but in the scale of things I do in my working day, why would a bank telling me the obvious give me any comfort, or better still, provoke me into swapping my financial allegiances?

If reading this, Lloyds and its creative agency may feel I'm judging too harshly the rather queasy, blue-green-ish billboards that greet me at every turn on the streets of London. So let us dig a little deeper by going online.

Arriving at the sparkling new Lloyds bank home page, surprisingly I see no mention of 'WHAT MATTERS?' at all. Just a few disconnected words such as 'home', 'driven' and 'tomorrow', paraded to stimulate my interest, but with no explanation of why the other stuff MATTERS so much.

So in fairness and in the true spirit of brand adventure, let's dig even deeper, because (to use the new Lloyds vocabulary) the complete brand story starts not with a flashy multi-dollar/pound spend, but from the inside. If Lloyds really does know what MATTERS to us, it will have interrogated, trained and drilled its staff to drive the customer dialogue forward.

Following a quick click upon the 'Careers' button and voila, the root of the campaign idea is revealed: "BECAUSE YOU MATTER TO US". It's a call for enrolment as innovative and compelling as the hindsight reality behind 'Your Country Needs You'.

Of course I matter to you Lloyds. Without me your market share will shrivel and disappear while the banks with greater believability and a good dose of humility - NatWest ('helpful banking'), Virgin ('on a quest to make banking better') and first direct ('the unexpected bank') - will eat you for breakfast.

Lloyds has a history of cardboard facades. Its previous joint Lloyds TSB incarnation had cutesy animation but also had at its core a sound idea, 'for the journey' - a statement that suggested it was in for the long haul and understood that every one of life's highs and lows requires some financial input.

Alas, beyond the quirky but passionless computer-generated personalities, the Lloyds journey was an empty timetable. I hate to draw a comparison with a town in a cowboy movie, but the lack of depth was as conspicuous as the ubiquitous tumbleweeds.

So hands up the brands who would like to spend £30m on brand awareness? Yep, everyone. But let me add a caveat to your enthusiasm before you play the game like Lotto-winning dreamers - if your central brand idea is woefully thin and your staff are not 100% clued-up badge-wearers, it will be money down the pan. Big brand philosophies take years to embed.

Just how much of £30m was spent on rigorous brand thinking and how much on media spend vanity? Lloyds has already blown one load on a busted journey, but now it is shredding another to turn meaning into MATTER.