The marketing industry in WA is operating in one of the toughest markets on record. In these difficult times it’s easy to lose sight of the fantastic work produced here in Perth. WA Business News has undertaken a survey of marketing industry players to find out what the big brands are in WA. The response to the survey highlighted the passion for intelligent effective advertising, and the commitment of clients to seek new approaches and better outcomes, as Catie Low reports. See our full list, page 16.AGAINST the backdrop on an industry besieged by bad publicity, BankWest has emerged as the market leader in the battle of the brands in WANot only is it one of WA’s most prestigious brands, according to the survey undertaken by WA Business News, it also is the State’s highest profile brand.A $10 million marketing budget makes BankWest one of the most fiercely contested accounts in WA.Last year the BankWest account was won in a competitive pitch by industry heavyweight The Brand Agency.In June this year BankWest will launch the next stage of its brand marketing strategy, an anthem-based campaign developed to capture more than just the local market.The strength of the BankWest brand in WA is proof that individual players can differentiate themselves in an aggressive market.The Australian banking sector suffers from a very poor public image.The combination of massive profits and poor customer service has eroded the public’s faith in the banking sector, with Federal politicians at times adding their voices to the chorus of complaint.In this environment the BankWest brand has sustained its strong core values, even as the industry and marketing strategy has shifted around it.BankWest director communications Don McLean said the story of the BankWest brand was rooted in the Rural and Industries, or R&I, Bank.The change from the R&I Bank to BankWest presented the corporation with a major re-branding challenge.In the initial stages of the brand the push was for public recognition and the positioning line, ‘Helping More West Australians Than Any Other Bank’, reflected this strategy.BankWest has a strong regional presence and this underpinned the development of the brand.In 2002, BankWest is looking towards building its profile in the business-banking sector in the eastern States.As the bank moves into these new markets the focus once again is on the development of the brand.It’s goodbye to Harry, made famous by the ‘We Hear You’ television campaign, and onto the launch of the next marketing assault.The BankWest brand has evolved as the banking industry has undergone changes to keep in step with the massive shift in the way the community uses banking.“Our strategy now encompasses the national market and we’ve also found that the parochialism is not a strong factor in choosing a bank,” Mr McLean said.“The driving factor for most consumers is convenience and access, people are looking for stress-free banking.“It’s not necessarily a strong emotional attachment.”From a theoretical perspective, brands are all about emotions. The challenge for marketing departments is to nurture the positive emotions associated with the brand and reinforce those values through the marketing material.“For the average person banking is just a part of life. Most people just want to do it in the most uncomplicated way,” Mr McLean said.“This is the reason why we changed the positioning statement. ‘We Hear You’ is the result of customer input.”Building a strong brand is only one part of the story. Maintaining those positive values is still a daunting task.BankWest has a rigorous research schedule that ensures it is aware of any shift in the brand.Customers are asked to provide input and, together with staff, BankWest works hard to maintain its market position.“A lot of the decisions we make are made in direct response to what customers want,” Mr McLean said.“We offer customer feedback mechanisms on the net and over the phone and we do a lot of customer research.“We track the brand equity to see what the view of BankWest is in the marketplace.”The ‘We Hear You’ relaunch is only the first stage of the marketing strategy and, love or hate the character Harry, it has produced a pleasing result for the bank.“Now that there’s strong take-up of the positioning line ‘We Hear You’ the proof will really be in the eating,” Mr Mclean said.“People still need to be convinced that we can back this up.“The next stage is about a strong demonstration that we can actually do that.”Many brands undergo a series of revisions or revitalisations throughout their lifespan.In an industry such as banking, which has undergone considerable change, the brand needs to keep up with community expectations.“A brand can last forever if it’s still important and a key motivator for customers,” Mr McLean said.“I think you look down the track five to 10 years.“A brand is not just about advertising, it’s about how the whole organisation interacts with customers.”For BankWest, the challenge in the eastern States will be to build the profile of the brand in the small to medium size business market.It’s a big positioning line for any bank to live up to, but BankWest is confident it can seize a piece of the business market.“I don’t think anyone would deny that the industry has suffered a lot of criticism,” Mr McLean said.“What you have to do is differentiate yourself from the major competition – with an advertising character like Harry, we’ve done that.”
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