08/08/2006 - 22:00

High flyers hit perception problem

08/08/2006 - 22:00

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Brands with distant owners have come under the spotlight as poor performers in WA Business News’ fifth annual branding survey, with BankWest highlighted for its lack of local focus.

High flyers hit perception problem

Brands with distant owners have come under the spotlight as poor performers in WA Business News’ fifth annual branding survey, with BankWest highlighted for its lack of local focus.

Owned by UK-based HBOS, which has its Australian headquarters in Sydney, BankWest had the dubious distinction of heading lists for both the waning brands (those losing their customer focus due to a lack of variation in their branding) and underachieving brands (those performing poorly).

Both of these categories are new additions to the survey, which was completed by almost 30 leading communications professionals.

Another poor performer in both lists was Burswood, which was taken over by Sydney-based Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd more than a year ago. One survey respondent described the Burswood brand as both invisible and one-dimensional.

In contrast with last year’s survey, when BankWest was number one of the most recognised brands, this year the bank came in for some strong criticism from the survey respondents, whose identity remains confidential.

“BankWest seems to have moved its attention to the east coast and is in serious danger of alienating it grass-roots customers,” one respondent told WA Business News.

“[The bank has gone] From an icon of WA business to just another financial institution, which may, or may not, be based in WA,” another respondent commented.

However, BankWest head of marketing and products David Rose said industry concerns revealed by the branding survey were not reflected by consumer research.

“Our customer satisfaction surveys indicate our brand is very strong on a national level and the HBOS ownership allows us to invest in our brand both in WA and nationally,” Mr Rose said.

“BankWest aims to be a national icon and the HBOS ownership continues to provide us with the opportunity to strengthen our brand.”

The Brand Agency managing director Steve Harris also disagreed with the survey responses, saying there had been no decline in BankWest’s brand dominance in WA, which still remained a very important market for the bank.

Another brand that is now largely run out of Sydney is Multiplex, which was ranked third in the waning brands category. Following 12 months in the headlines, due to its troubled Wembley stadium project, Multiplex did not make the top 10 corporate brands this year after taking first position in last year’s survey.

Another poor performer was Evans & Tate, which also has a corporate entity of the same name struggling with bad news.

According to respondents, confusion regarding RAC’s diverse product base brought it in at an unenviable joint fourth position in the waning brands category, despite a strong showing in the all important most recognised category.

A respondent referred to RAC as a: “Perfect example of not using the totality of their campaign to support an overarching brand position for the organisation.

“The communications are at the best disparate.”

RAC retail communication manager Carolyn Hall, appointed three months ago, believes that RAC’s listing as an underachiever is a consequence of the past success of the brand.

“Because of who we are, and unless we are 100 per cent out there, we do get held at a lot higher standard, and it shows that our brand is at a higher level,” Ms Hall said.

The survey respondents also ranked WA Salvage as fourth among waning brands. Perhaps this is less surprising, given moves by its owner, Perth-based Wesfarmers, to launch a second brand called HouseWorks.

Among the non-WA brands performing poorly were The Swan Brewery, owned for about a decade by the New Zealand’s Lion Nathan Ltd, and SGIO, which is the property of IAG Ltd.

“It was not long ago that Western Australians drank Swan beers and Swan was really the only beer around,” one respondent said.

“The beer market has changed dramatically with imported beers and boutique beers and then you have this fantastic brand that was there that has now been neglected.”

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