Brand positioning in financial services: DISCUSSION

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Brand positioning in financial services: DISCUSSION

This paper aimed to establish if there were any positioning attributes that could be considered ‘better’ than other attributes for brands in the market place. The method used to assess this was to identify if there were any positions that had a consistently stronger relationship with customer vulnerability. The strength of the relationship was assessed using the customer vulnerability difference (CVD). This is the difference between the mean vulnerability of those who associated the brand with the positioning attribute and the mean of those customers who did not associate the brand with the positioning attribute. The consistency of the size of the CVD was tested through repeating this analysis over three cross-sectional waves drawing from the same sampling frame from 1996 to 2000. Attributes with a higher CVD across time periods were considered to be ‘better’ than other attributes for the brand to position itself upon.

Two positioning attributes, ‘responsive to needs’ and ‘suitable fees and charges’, were consistently stronger both across brands and across time for each brand. Customers who associated a brand with these attributes had a lower vulnerability compared to other customers who did not link the brand and the attribute. They also had a lower vulnerability than the segments of customers who associated the brand with other attributes.

There was no evidence, however, that these ‘more important’ positioning attributes were unique to any specific brand. The CVDs were similar across brands and approximately the same proportion of each brand’s customers associated the brand they used with these attributes. Thus, these attributes can be considered to be indicators of customer loyalty for all brands, rather than more important for any one brand. Therefore, in this research, it was the attributes where brands were perceived to be similar to competitors that were ‘better’ in terms of the relationship with customer vulnerability over time, rather than attributes that were unique to a brand.

There were also some patterns within each survey across brands. In 1996 there were stronger relationships evident for security attributes of ‘safe’ and ‘responsible’ and the performance attribute of ‘good at financial management’. However, in 2000 the user-based attribute of ‘supports business community’ (respondents were answering on behalf of their business) was more prevalent among the strongest attributes. These trends appear to be consumer rather than brand based, in that they reflect consumer concerns at the time rather than the pro-active marketing activities of financial institutions. For example, just prior to the 1996 wave there was a great deal of concern about the lending practices and viability of several financial institutions. In 2000, with the regulation of financial institutions more evident, customer attention appeared to be more focused on the brand’s support of the business market/community.


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