abrdn Head of Investment Marketing: “With any rebrand you expect some kind of backlash”

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

The recently rechristened abrdn is gearing up for a major brand campaign as the firm looks to build recognition of the new name, says the company’s Head of Investments Marketing.

The decision to consolidate the firm’s investments, platforms and retail offerings under ‘abrdn’ was expedited by the sale of the Standard Life brand to Phoenix Group in May, Kathryn Pinner explains.

The rationale for the ‘abrdn’ idea was that it could retain the heritage of the old brand whilst signalling that it is now a very different business, with a different offering for our clients. Importantly the company can legally and digitally own the name, something that it couldn’t do with Aberdeen as it’s a city. This is a critical factor in operating effectively across digital channels.

Retaining the ‘ab’ upfront is also incredibly useful when it comes to fund platform and supermarket listings, Kathryn explains.

She acknowledges the announcement of the abrdn name generated a “lot of ribbing” on the likes of Twitter. However, she is sanguine about the impacts of that.

“I think with any rebrand you expect some kind of backlash,” she says. “The BBC recently changed their logo in terms of the font size and spacing between bars, not huge changes, but there was still a lot of conversation around that too.

“We were prepared for the fact, some of it was quite fun such as salespeople getting emails which jokingly left the ‘e’s out of words. But at the end of the day we were just announcing our new name and not the full brand narrative and positioning. Names need substance and clients’ reactions need to be judged when we deliver our full revised proposition.

“We knew we were going to be provocative with our new name, and this would generate publicity. Previously as an organisation we were not part of the conversation and our business model was perceived to be outdated. Now we were generating interest and intrigue providing us with a platform to tell our revised ambition and focus.

“People now recognise the name, though they may not like it or agree with the truncation.”

The impact of the change in the UK was greater, she adds, due to the sale of the Standard Life brand.

The new brand was first announced in April and implementing it has since been “a massive undertaking at speed”, says Kathryn, with the brand rolling out from the end of August.

Kathryn says the rebrand required “minimal” communications on the investment side of the business due to the widespread publicity accompanying the April announcement.

“What we’re finding is a majority of people like the new branding now they are starting to see it being implemented across the business. It’s much cleaner and clearer and as we build out our messaging framework, we hope this positive recognition continues to grow.”

The firm is running a full brand campaign during November, with efforts currently focused on the UK before expanding globally in 2022. The grouping of multiple business lines under the ‘abrdn’ name allows the firm to throw all of its efforts behind the one brand and articulating what it actually stands for.

“A big part of the work has been redefining the business and coming up with a proper messaging framework,” says Kathryn. “What do we want to be known for and what do we want to bring out across all our touch points with clients and customers?

“The new brand brings together all of our different business lines. There’s no delineation between audiences at this level   – the differences people will see in content and messaging are based on the route they take to access the broad range of products and services we offer under the single brand.”

The ad, which premiered earlier this week (15 November), focuses on “The Power of Investment”. It leans heavily into the idea of purpose, showing the tangible good causes that investments can go towards.

Explaining the brand positioning, the company’s website says: “At abrdn, we help our customers work towards their savings and investment goals. And that means creating outcomes that are more than just financial.

“Because done properly, investment creates opportunity – the opportunity to change things for the better. To not only create a better future for you and your family, but also for the communities around us, the environment we live in and the industries that shape our society.”

Watch the ad here:

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