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Banks are becoming more popular despite crisis

Stephan Shakespeare
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AS a pollster, it&rsquo;s not so often that survey results fly in the face of your expectations, but preparing some BrandIndex data for a talk at the Association of British Insurers conference, I had two surprises. <br /><br />Looking at the &ldquo;buzz&rdquo; tracking for three baskets of brands &ndash; banks, utilities, and separately financial services (providers of pensions, insurance etc) &ndash; I was flabbergasted that price hikes among the utilities got more negative attention among consumers than the crisis-hit banks.<br /><br />Then switching my attention to customer satisfaction (CSAT), I was gobsmacked to see that banks and utility companies are on an upward trend, with only the financial services providers sloping downwards. <br /><br />It&rsquo;s all about the pennies in your pocket. So utilities go and up and down with prices, because that instantly appears on the bill, but the banking crisis didn&rsquo;t seem to affect the bottom line so directly.<br /><br />Turning to customer satisfaction, consumers are becoming more positive about brands in general &ndash; our basket of supermarket brands, for example, was plus 30 on CSAT two years ago and is currently at plus 40. <br /><br />Financial services companies buck this because they represent forced purchasing, whereas most brands represent discretionary spending. Consumers mostly buy products that give them some kind of fulfillment, while spending on insurance feels like a tax: you have to do it, and you hope never to reclaim.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s desire versus compulsion. Banks are unloved but they score better than insurance providers &ndash; after all, they help you shop.<br /><br />If they want to join the happy brands, insurers and pension providers will have to create more opportunities to interact positively in people&rsquo;s lives, or they may lose out as pleasers like Tesco become increasingly active in their game.<br /><br />Stephan Shakespeare is co founder and chief innovation officer of YouGov