This is the third in a series of three articles looking at the issue of trust in financial services. The basis of the article comes from a report into FS brand body language by Brand Edge, published in March 2014 in association with Whitecap Consulting.

In the first two articles in this series, we looked at what trust is and how financial services (FS) brands have positioned themselves through a variety of communication mediums to connect to the consumer’s trust instinct.

Consumer demands are evolving though and there is a tangible need for brands to go deeper to secure a meaningful long term relationship.

We believe FS brands should consider seven critical codes when attempting to create and improve consumer trust. In this article we’re looking at examples of innovators within these codes who add value to their consumers.


Consumers are much more likely to trust a brand whose values they can clearly identify and relate to as similar to their own. Therefore, it is critical that brands stand for something and then communicates and enacts this in everything it does.

Volvo has always put safety at the top of its agenda, so consumers understand that it stands for a particular value, to which it is totally committed.

Safety feels like the brand’s way of respecting people and in line with that value, it is now developing an airbag for the front of the car that protects pedestrians. It might not win the business of those that want pure excitement in their cars, but it has a very strong and enduring presence in the family car market.

Pushing the Benefits

This is a code that actively encourages consumers to expect and get more from the brand as certain functional capabilities are a given.

Durex re-defined the contraception category, moving it from protection to a whole new discourse around sexual wellbeing. Consumers can take safety and protection as a given (making condoms for 80 Years), and can expect more – the category is about fun, excitement and the right to good safe sex for all.

They are moving the co-ordinates of trust forward, to position a brand that is trusted to deliver pleasure rather than just protection. Importantly, Durex’s positive position in the public conscience makes consumers feel comfortable in a situation that can be notoriously nerve-wracking! Although FS brands will never need to operate in such an intimate environment, they should make note of the brand transition from a basic product to a life-defining moment, which might be adapted for products like financial planning.

Independence and Control

This code is a commitment to empowering individuals to plan better and achieve the change they want. It evolves the ‘right for me’ code, bringing it closer to the idea of freedom. If a brand can promote and enable greater independence and control for consumers (and align to a human desire for freedom), then they are a brand to trust.

Weightwatchers flexible plan is designed to ‘fit around real life so that you can keep on losing weight whatever situation you find yourself in as you get on with living your life’.

Weightwatchers differentiates itself against diets that dictate ‘rigid rules’ and ‘show little concern for you as an individual’. The brand offers a compelling future of being ‘who you want to be’, by helping to achieve and support long term change. This is often communicated through case studies in the media.

The Endstate

This code breaks category obsessions with performance, which has been prevalent in the FS industry. It focuses less on what the brand makes, and more on what the brand makes you feel – the desired emotional end state. Exploring the psychology of trust tells us that it is all about the idea – ‘how will this make me feel?’

The BMW “JOY” campaign marked a shift from positioning in performance to a focus on the happiness this can bring because it broke down functional benefits and technical language into the fundamental human happiness found in driving. Communications focus on the emotional impact the product has on users and drivers as they interact with their cars.

It could have been the inspiration behind its rival Mercedes’ “emotion suit” – dramatising the emotional impact on certain noises and sounds to make their drivers feel powerful and in control of a fantastic product.

Employee Care

This code is about generating trust because consumers know this is a brand that treats its employees fairly. It is a code about equality, respect and fairness.

Consumers are now looking (because the media network makes it available to see) more forensically at how brands behave at all levels, including what kind of brand they are to their employees. This can create a dichotomy for some brands, especially those that compete on price – how can the public be reassured they’re not cutting corners in areas like staff?

John Lewis is one of the UK’s most trusted brands, in part because it remains a partnership rooted in the founders’ ideology, where all employees share in the profits. This ideology was reinforced in a popular TV documentary about the company, ‘Inside John Lewis’ where the company allowed ‘us’ to see its ideologies of equality at work.

Time / Task Efficiency

This code is about brands helping consumers maximise and optimise time. It shows the Brand really understands and respects the consumer, can anticipate their needs and ultimately be trusted.

It is about brands working to truly maximise customer satisfaction and build trust by enabling consumers to use the time spent with the brand more effectively.

Car dealerships and garages are offering consumers a range of added services while they wait (QuikFit ran a TV advertising campaign on this theme) while Shell petrol stations have partnered with Regus business office space suppliers and created Shell business centres at selected sites.

Breaking Category Norms

This code focuses on products that can be trusted to be flexible and adaptable solutions. It is an evidence based code; it is not enough to say that you do this, you have to show it through clear product innovation.

Brands feel responsive and innovative, nimble and enterprising as they communicate via a language of ‘accommodate change,’  ‘adapt when needed’.

The Co-op’s innovation in young drivers insurance rewards drivers for careful driving by monitoring speed and the times that drivers are on the road. It might be perceived as invasive, but it is sold as personalised, flexible, adaptive and responsive, which captures the modular adaptive essence of the code and feels very innovative, bold and category breaking.

Most importantly, it is winning the trust of young drivers who will need many other products over the course of their lives – they will view the Co-op as a brand that was ‘there for me when others were not.


Brand Edge’s report, published in March 2014 in association with Whitecap Consulting, is based on a semiotic study of brand communication / body language within the FS industry. Read the other articles in the series here.

To discuss the full report further please contact us.