I walked into the National Bank yesterday to sort out something for Dad—years ago, we gave each other signing authority on our accounts. They had misplaced that authority—a bit worrying if a bank doesn’t hold on to things over 10 years old—but, with the transition of the National Bank branding to ANZ, it reminded me of an interesting phenomenon.
Most folks know that ANZ has owned the National Bank since the early 2000s. There were always rumours that the Lloyds horse would be retired as the licence would expire, and that eventually, everything would bear the ANZ brand collateral. ANZ had sent out letters in the past talking about the acquisition, but that everything would stay the same—until last year, when it said that it would finally take the best of both organizations and combine them under a single ANZ brand.
Fair enough. It might mean the closure of branches where both banks existed, for cost savings, but it was inevitable.
The surprise was this: the announcement of the rebranding of the National Bank brought mass defections to other banks. Westpac, Kiwibank and TSB mounted campaigns to attract departing National customers. My friends at TSB, where I have banked happily since the late 2000s, said potential customers came in, with at least one commenting (ironically to the Australian-born staff member there), ‘I hate Australians.’
But to those Aussie-hating National Bank customers: you have been banking with Australians for the good part of the past decade, and the only thing that will be changing is the logo on the façade.
There was no ownership change, no change on the board of directors, nothing.
It brings home that people can be loyal to an organization simply of how it looks to them outwardly, even if, inwardly, it’s owned or run by people they might “hate”.
There’s nothing wrong with this behaviour, but it’s something for branding consultants and advisers to bear in mind: never underestimate the effect of brand loyalty even in an age where we advocate transparency. There are some that opt not to peer behind the corporate veil.
This is the reason that certain publications are still seen as locally owned even when their share holding in the Companies’ Register says differently, or that no one seems to mind that the vast majority of our New Zealand fruit juice brands are in the hands of Japanese and American companies. Just Juice and Fresh-up aren’t really competitors, just as ANZ and the National Bank have not been for years.
At the end of the day, does any of this matter? A little, if “Aussie-hating” stems from an opposition to profits heading offshore rather than, say, TSB’s community trust. It’s not very ANZAC of anyone to hate our neighbours, but if folks truly think this way, it’s worth understanding just whom owns what, and do your business or shopping accordingly.
The same rule, I might add, applies to political parties: does “your party” actually stand for the values you think it does? Or, for that matter, does your preferred political candidate?