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Who are the top financial marketers in Britain?

Marketing Magazine has published its annual list of the 100 most powerful marketers in Britain. The list is filled with eminent names from fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) such as Phil Thomas at Reckitt Benckiser – the firm that sells Colgate, Cillit Bang and Dettol – to Jill McDonald of McDonalds (is that just coincidence?).

The list reflects the success of the marketer, rather than the firm, and the Top 10 looks like this:

#1 Phil Thomas at Reckitt Benckiser
#2 Gwyn Burr at Sainsbury
#3 Mark Lund at the Central Office of Information (UK Government)
#4 Rosin Donnelly at Procter & Gamble
#5 Jill McDonald at McDonalds
#6 Richard Hodgson at Waitrose
#7 Elizabeth Fagan at Boots
#8 Keith Weed at Unilever
#9 Dianne Thompson at Camelot (National Lottery)
#10 Amanda Mackenzie at Aviva (Insurance)

On that last entry, Amanda Mackenzie, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for Aviva, gets the prize as her "epic campaign to rebrand Norwich Union as Aviva was not without risk – after all, changing a venerable and beloved UK brand name to a global, rather more anonymous moniker is no task for the faint-hearted. As one of the country's most prominent and respected marketers, the question now is whether there are sufficient challenges left at Aviva to keep its current chief marketing officer there."

Strangely enough, it’s not until you get to #25 that you find a banker: Eva Eisenschimmel, CMO of Lloyds Banking Group. And she’s new and not a banker. Here’s what they have to say about her:

The new chief marketing officer at Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) is well-practised in wooing sceptical consumers. As chief operating officer at EDF Energy, Eisenschimmel was instrumental in the development of the utilities company's CSR-led marketing strategy. The former BA marketer came to the attention of LBG chief executive Eric Daniels via Lloyds TSB and EDF's backing of London 2012, when she was identified as a contender to replace Nigel Gilbert and steer the Lloyds TSB and Halifax brands to safety. However, she has had to contend with European intervention; LBG is preparing to sell more than 150 Cheltenham & Gloucester branches and the TSB brand to appease the competition authorities.

At least she might improve Halifax's advertising.

Further down the list, at #50, is Keith Moor of Santander:

The past 12 months have been seminal for Moor, who extended his influence to a wider Santander UK remit, following the bank's takeover of Bradford & Bingley and Alliance & Leicester. Adspend fell significantly in 2009, down by 45% to £15m, but this year he has run a flurry of activity officially launching Santander as a high-street brand and retiring the Abbey name. However, as important as generating consumer awareness has been, brand and communications director Moor's biggest challenge has been internal, in aligning the marketing cultures of the three banks into one cohesive unit. He received a huge boost when Santander executive chairman Emilio Botin allowed him to continue the former Abbey association with Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton and the McLaren team under the Santander brand, despite the bank becoming main sponsor of rival team Ferrari F1.

At #57 is Pete Markey from More Th>n:

Markey's industry stock has rocketed in the past 12 months, following his capture of the Marketer of the Year title at last June's Marketing Society Golden Jubilee Awards for Excellence. The fact that this came amid one of the grimmest and most prolonged slumps for the financial-services sector was testament to the innovation and insight he has brought to the insurance brand as its marketing director. The award recognised the fact that, under his marketing leadership, the brand delivered double-digit year-on-year sales growth and reduced cost-per-sale by more than 15%. The 37-year-old Portsmouth FC fan and roller coaster addict spent nearly three years as head of marketing at More Th>n, the direct arm of RSA, before being handed the role of marketing director in November 2008. His recent success is a far cry from his first job as a part-time waiter and dishwasher at a Swedish restaurant in Bath.

Slipping down the list to #59 is Helen Page of RBS/Natwest:

As managing director for marketing and innovation, UK retail, at one of the country's most unpopular brands, the fact that Page has avoided the spotlight over the past 12 months points to her success in the role. Her job has been twofold: to repair the RBS brand, savaged in the wake of the government bailout 18 months ago, and to increase the prominence of NatWest. In the case of the former, Page led the development of regional TV activity begging the forgiveness of the Scottish public. Meanwhile, marketing investment in NatWest rocketed, with adspend up 64% year on year to reach £27m in 2009. Page has also continued to push the development of the brand's 'Helpful banking' positioning. This year, she will have to cope with the forced sale of more than 300 RBS branches, following a European Commission competition report.

Whilst Gill Barr of MasterCard gains a re-entry at #61:

What a difference a year makes. In March 2009, Gill Barr was made redundant from her position as marketing director at John Lewis as part of a wider management shake-up. A year on, almost to the day, it emerged that she had bagged the new role of head of marketing, UK and Ireland, at credit-card provider MasterCard. Her boss, UK and Ireland general manager Hany Fam, says the ex-Woolworths, Superdrug and Wickes marketer will help MasterCard's transformation into a wider payments brand. Her retail nous will certainly be useful – Barr's brief is to develop innovative customer propositions that work across the retail sector. However, it could be argued that rival brands have stolen a march in this area, with Barclaycard promoting its contactless payment system. Barr certainly faces a challenge.

A new entry at #75 is Michelle McEttrick at Barclays:

McEttrick may be new to Barclays, but few have a better knowledge of the business. Prior to joining the bank this month, the personable American headed its account at ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty. She played a pivotal role in the development of the light-hearted 'Take one small step' campaign – Barclays' first TV work in 18 months, which broke in March. McEttrick reports to Deanna Oppenheimer, vice-president of global retail banking.

Hmmm … methinks they are missing out on Katherine Whitton, the Head of Marketing at Barclaycard who, imho, are one of the better financial marketing firms in the UK.

Lower down Tracy Britton of HSBC at #82 is falling down the list this year:

Unlike so many financial-services marketers, US-born Britton has not been overly concerned with the impact of the global recession. While marketing directors at RBS and Lloyds Banking Group have been constructing brand strategies based on trustworthiness, the former HSBC North America marketing director has sought to strengthen HSBC's position as the bank of choice for affluent consumers. A review of the bank's marketing launched by WPP's teamHSBC agencies, including JWT and Fitch, led to the development of a strategy focusing on six sub-brands to target consumers and busine
sses according to their level of wealth. The bank rolled out the first of these propositions, HSBC Advance, earlier this year.

Mind you, she does have a big budget.

Finally, towards the end of the list, are a couple of new entries:

# 88. Mariano Dima, Visa

The Italian-Argentinean executive vice-president for marketing and products has lofty ambitions, but his reputation is already assured for having led the development of Visa Europe's 'Running man' campaign, created by Saatchi & Saatchi. With the forthcoming World Cup and London 2012 Olympics, much of his focus is on achieving the best ROI from Visa's expensive sponsorship portfolio. With rivals American Express and MasterCard increasing their adspend, Visa will be hoping to retain Dima's services.

And last but not least, in at #94, Metro Bank Chairman Anthony Thomson gets a namecheck:

Thomson's role at the heart of one of the year's most interesting brand launches marks him out as one to watch. The bank chairman, known as 'AT', established his reputation with marketing advisory body The Financial Services Forum, which he co-founded in 1987. A chance meeting with Commerce Bank founder Vernon Hill led to the conception of Metro Bank – a high-street brand with branches open 8am-8pm and at weekends. Two branches are due to open in London in the coming weeks, with plans for more than 200 over the next 10 years if they prove a success. Thomson will have the final say on all marketing and advertising.

Mind you, beyond all of this, I am wrestling with one simple question: why do banks advertise on TV?

I was asked this by one of the family over the weekend, and honestly couldn’t answer it very well.

The conversation went something like this:

Q: Why do banks advertise on TV?

A: Like all firms, to get new business and to reassure you about their brand.

Q: But in these times of cutbacks, what’s the point?

A: As I say, to get more business.

Q: But no-one changes their bank account. You told me that.

A: Sure, but there’s always new people coming onto the market and new businesses who need bank services. So they need to make sure you think of them first.

Q: But you told me that bankers believe you will only bank with a bank that has a local branch. So the adverts don’t matter ‘cos you’re going to go to the local branch aren’t you?

A: Yes, but it’s not as simple as that.

Q: Why?

A: Because you won’t just go into a branch of bank that never advertises.

Q: I would.

A: But you’re not like everyone else.

Q: So everyone else needs some spoonfed gobbledygook of nonsense advertising at top dollar on TV to use a bank do they?

A: Some.

Q: So why don’t banks engage me over the internet?

A: Some do.

Q: Name one.

A: First Direct.

Q: Well I’ve never seen them on Facebook or Twitter or emailing me or anything like that.

A: They probably don’t want to spam you.

Q: Hmmph.

We ended up in a stalemate with me being unable to convince my obstinate household mate of any justification for banks to advertise.

C’est la vie I guess.

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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