By Dan Parkinson, Senior Planner at Coley Porter Bell


After the news broke that Co-op was selling its bank, Coley Porter Bell's Senior Planner, Dan Parkinson, questions whether ethical brands still matter in financial services, when The Co-op Bank has shown that it can’t make the finances add up.

Branding, first and foremost, is about trust. Brands exist because humans find it easier to committhemselves to entities that they’re familiar with and that they trust will deliver. Brands are a shortcut to a quick decision. Few things are more stressful than having to make choices, so anything that can help us decide quicker earns a favoured place in our day to day life.

In a world of increased transparency and feedback, brands need to have a clearer purpose than ever. Consumers don’t just need to believe in the end result of your product or service, they need to engage with why you’re doing it in the first place.

No-where is this more necessary that in the world of financial services, which deals with critical and significant aspects of our lives and our futures. We’ve been massively stung (emotionally and fiscally) by the financial shocks of the last decade, and trust in financial services is at a low ebb.

Brands and businesses with a consistent higher purpose do so well in other spheres (Nike, Google, Unilever), surely there’s mileage for integrity and purpose in what ought to be the most ethical sector of them all?

It’s surprising then that the Co-op’s staunchly ethical status looks like it may be a sticking point in their proposed sale, as this ethos is exactly the kind of transparency that “the people” have been calling for. It isn’t easy being principled, so it will be a shame if it proves a factor in the brand’s downfall.

It could be used as a brand point of difference than a point of contention – wouldn’t it be nice if there was good money in being good; if our banks could be commercial AND ethical, rather than one or the other?