’I have the biggest in-tray in the marketing industry,’ says Graham
Leigh, group marketing director of b2, the financial services company
and brand launched by Barclays in May. Leigh is not being boastful, but
simply emphasising the huge number of business letters that have landed
on his desk over the past couple of months.
They are all from Johnny-come-lately below-the-line outfits offering
their services and making the bizarre assumption that Leigh has not
already put certain basic building blocks in place. ’It’s amazing how
purveyors of direct marketing don’t practise it when soliciting on their
own behalf,’ Leigh declares with obvious puzzlement. In fact, the long
and exhaustive pitch process is ancient history. The winner, Payne
Stracey, is working closely alongside the ad agency, Banks Hoggins
As with any major launch - and b2 is seen by many as the biggest
Barclays initiative since the bank pioneered cashpoint machines in 1967
- the initial marketing focus has been above the line. Banks Hoggins
created 20 or so different TV ads, some of which anticipate further
product launches later this year to complement the Advanced Savings
Account that got the ball rolling. TV work has been heavily supported by
press and poster ads, all continuing the creative theme of ’whisper
loudly’. b2 is trying to present itself as a revolutionary proposition,
but at the same time sounding intimate and familiar rather than
complicated and intimidating - the age-old financial services
Leigh is ’very concerned’ not to scare people away from his
savings/investment hybrid. His path has been paved to some extent by the
likes of the consumer-friendly First Direct, Virgin Direct and the
supermarket bank accounts.
But b2 claims to go one important step further by getting consumers to
approach investing in the same way they approach saving. For a country
still shy of the stock market, despite all the hype about privatisations
and demutualisations, this isn’t easy.
Although the first wave of b2 has been long on image and short on
hard-sell, the creative has nevertheless been umbilically linked to an
all-pervasive direct response element, in the form of an 0800 number.
’We need to be able to track consumer response right from the word go.
You have to use broadcast media to establish the brand but, once we’ve
achieved that, the marketing spend will be far better utilised below the
Leigh’s experience at several financial services companies - notably
American Express - has left him in no doubt about the value of direct
marketing relative to advertising. Asked which industry gong would mean
most to him, assuming b2’s launch proves to be as successful as he
hopes, Leigh replies: ’I’m only interested in one kind of recognition:
effectiveness. I couldn’t care less about creative awards and would
actually feel very bad about collecting one if it didn’t translate to
the bottom line.’
To date, about 600,000 mailshots have been sent out to a mixture of
Barclays and non-Barclays customers. The ideal b2 customer is younger
and more affluent than the average bank customer, and early indications
are that the b2 campaign is hitting the right note with a high
proportion of its target market. Divided into two parts, the direct-mail
campaign begins with a teaser mailshot, which invites recipients to
telephone for a fulfilment pack.
The impact of these initial mailings is still being assessed, although
with 120,000 responses already logged, the campaign would seem to be
working well. Barclays has a huge amount of consumer data at its
fingertips and the necessary in-house facilities to manipulate it.
’Managing our data, drilling down into it and interpreting it, is going
to be critical to our success,’ he says. ’Otherwise, we’re shooting
Payne Stracey will be ploughing a lot of resources into this
Although Leigh hadn’t worked with the agency before, he was impressed by
’its disciplined approach and its understanding of the direct-marketing
Phil Cragg, planning director at Payne Stracey, describes the account as
a ’fantastic project because it challenges you on so many levels:
getting the targeting right, the tone of your communication, the timing.
We’re trying to create a totally new customer mindset.’ Because of this,
he doesn’t expect to hear back from many mailshot recipients for some
A lot of the early direct marketing work, Cragg adds, is ’ultimately
about trying to measure people’s discomfort with the downside of
More than anything, the job in this first phase is to help us learn
what’s out there. It is an enormous challenge and certainly one of the
biggest projects I’ve ever worked on.’
Following in the footsteps of First Direct and the supermarket banks, b2
has targeted 600,000 potential customers, mostly young and affluent, in
the first phase of marketing Barclays’ financial services company.
This article was first published on Campaign