Four ways brands can avoid a Revolut-style reputational hit over data

Last week, digital bank Revolut was slammed for a "single-shaming" advertising campaign that was plastered across the London underground.

Revolut took liberties with its customers and now it is paying the reputational price, says Brendon Craigie
Revolut took liberties with its customers and now it is paying the reputational price, says Brendon Craigie

Though the bank has rolled out a number of thought-provoking adverts in recent weeks, the tag line – "To the 12,750 people who ordered a single takeaway on Valentine’s Day. You ok, hun?" – was the specific source of the barrage of criticism.

Not only have critics bashed one of the UK’s fastest growing start-ups for its lack of sensitivity around its customers’ relationship status, but it has also been accused of having plagiarised creative work and for frivolous use of personal information.

Worse still, under mounting pressure, the bank was forced to admit that the data it used in the campaign was in fact false, subsequently landing it in hot water with both the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

So, what can brands learn from the reaction to the campaign?

One, making your customers the butt of a joke is never a good idea

Though the advert was primarily criticised by singletons, women in particular took issue with it for implying that being single meant you were somehow inferior.

Given just how successful Revolut has been, why did it feel the need to take the risk?

Be it owned or earned media, brands should always avoid making jokes in any public-facing material.

We’re all wired differently and something that makes one individual chuckle, could just as easily rub someone else up the wrong way.

Two, don’t single customers out (quite literally)

Naturally, customers are very, very sensitive to how their data is used. For example, there’s a big difference between confidentially asking for their opinion on a matter and publicly hanging the details of their private lives to dry.

The former is an opt-in scenario; however, the latter feels a lot more like theft.

Three, falsehoods only ever make things worse

With the data used in the advert having been revealed to be fabricated, this only dug a deeper hole for Revolut.

In doing so, the bank not only made a mockery of single individuals who use its banking services, but its entire customer base.

Securely harbouring personal data is integral to the bond of trust between banks and their customers.

It doesn’t matter whether a bank is steeped in 400 years of history or one of the rising stars just four years into the game, these practices apply to everyone.

Four, use data to highlight issues and change, not gimmicks

If Revolut had used the data to, say, demonstrate how it had saved thousands of customers money that would otherwise have been lost due to foreign transactions, that would have been more than acceptable.

Yet the flippant manner in which it chose to leverage it, makes us wonder what else it would deem appropriate.

Until now, Revolut's profile and success has been built upon a combination of its customer service and its innovative new banking products.

Unfortunately, however, this campaign represented a departure from that approach.

Data was wrongly called upon to demonstrate customer usage, rather than convey the bank's merits for the end customer.

Brendon Craigie is co-founder and managing partner of Tyto PR

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