Hit to bank’s reputation is instant and damning

Stephan Shakespeare
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LAST week the NatWest computer glitch; this week another bank, another crisis and more damage to a brand.

The Libor scandal has hit Barclays’ brand hard and fast and while the impact on customers may be less obvious than with NatWest’s difficulties, the trajectory of the crisis on brand perception was very similar.

Let’s look at daily buzz scores on YouGov’s BrandIndex first. Both firms were moving along at just below zero (heard positive minus heard negative) and then dived – NatWest to -63 on 25 June, Barclays to -59 on Monday. Hearing bad news is one thing but does it also impact on brand perception? Index scores (a composite of six key image measures) get at that and show a similar pattern.

Here, the two brands don’t fall as far but hit lows of -22 for NatWest and -24 for Barclays. Declines in perception were inevitable but these scores should be put into context. At the height of the oil spill disaster in 2010 the lowest one day scores that BP had were -78 for buzz and -19 for index, so the noise around the oil firm’s crisis was worse.

But BP never got as low on brand perception (in the UK) as either of the two banks have.

Much ground to recover, therefore, and the long term impact on them will be determined to a large extent by how quickly they do recover.

The brand perception story will develop quickly and Barclays will hope that Bob Diamond’s resignation will be the cleansing they need (our social media research reveals that news had reached 41 per cent of UK Twitter feeds by midday yesterday).

One interesting final point. It appears the sector as a whole is being tarred by association; HSBC and Lloyds have seen their index scores fall at the same time.