I like Nationwide.
That’s not a sentence that comes easy.
Beer. Man United. Salted caramel. Doritos. Martha. Dorothy. Jim Gaffigan. They’re all on the list. But a building society?
Like many things, it’s based on personal experience.
The joy I get from beer is tasting it and the effect it has on me. Of course the advertising helps. And a personal recommendation is always welcome: “Try the Stella. It'll take your problems away”.
But it’s the actual experience of consuming the beer that counts. And will dictate whether I'll be loyal to the brand and return for a second. And a third. Although 2-pint-Todd should always stop at the second.
In this instance, I liked the the Nationwide ads. They feel real and honest and kind of different from all the other building societies out there.
I recently worked at the agency that created the Nationwide campaign and got to know the lovely Jim Thornton who CD’ed and directed the work in his unmistakably warm and witty style.
So I was kind of nodding and smiling with the brand already. But of course going into the branch is the real moment of truth. Good ads can only take you so far.
As I approached the brightly lit windows, I had that feeling of dread that I was about to experience 'brand lag' - or worse plain 'brand collapse'. It’s happened many times before. Where us ad folks have created a multi-million pound campaign on all sorts of platforms… that is completely at odds with the very real experience the public gets.
I walked in and my branding head was reassured by the blue & white graphics matching the TV, digital and poster work.
Next up the staff - Zoe and her manager Margaret - who herself had been in the TV adverts and was totally ‘on message’, as in she was just being her normal self, speaking to me like a regular human being. We had a brief chat about the Nationwide U18 account and it was all set up for me to return with my daughters.
In the middle of our chat we were interrupted by one of the ‘characters’ who sleep rough near their branch. He bumbled his way in pushing a wheelbarrow. Yes a wheelbarrow. And a great big grin saying hello to any and everyone who saw him.
Margaret obviously knew him. She turned and said to him in a quiet but stern voice - ‘keep it down Brian’ and like a well trained dog, Brian did as he was told, parking his wheelbarrow in the customer waiting area. And started singing to himself - but v quietly.
Two days later we returned.
It was a good moment for Nationwide to meet my daughters. They are of an age where they need to take charge of my money, err I mean their money, to spend on life’s essentials such as Zoella t-shirts and bath bombs.
If Zoe and Margret and Nationwide can get this right they may well have Martha & Dorothy's finances for life…student loans / mortgages / ISSA’s / business plans. Who knows what the future holds. With apathy still strong in this sector - on average we stay with a bank or building society for 17 years - this is a crucial opportunity to snare the kids. I mean welcome them in.
So the next genius thing that happened was we were ushered into a room with comfy chairs and cups of tea - like being at your Grandma's - to talk via Skype to another brilliant woman - Jenny in Dunfirmanine.
Young smart and savvy, she talked about school and clothes and YouTube. Oh and yes, the U18 account with Nationwide.
She basically spike to the girls on their level. Rachel and I didn’t really need to be there apart from signing up and handing over the cheque from Grandma.
It was amazing seeing a brand behaving the same all the way through. From TV ads to in-branch. And dealing with Brian and his wheelbarrow. It looks and seems so simple, yet few brands do it quite this well.
It’s easy to slag stuff off in the harsh culture we live in today. But equally we need to call stuff out when it’s good and works.
So today I salute you Nationwide. And more importantly so do my daughters.