Brand asset management: Lloyds’ black horse

Post by David Nichols, Managing Partner and Head of Invention

Lloyds is one of the big 4 retail banks in the UK and is an interesting example of brand asset management. It has had a black horse as its icon since 1890. This year Lloyds Banking Group is rebranding more than 1,300 of its branches back to Lloyds Bank from Lloyds TSB. Usually, the black horse is confined to its position in their logo, appearing on chequebooks, signage and letterheads as well as above whatever strapline they happen to be using in their communications. It’s a very strong icon and has been used consistently for 125 years:

Lloyds icon heritage
This year, they are bringing their black horse brand property to life. In their main ‘tentpole’ TVC, they have the horse galloping artistically through their history – and very lovely it is too. You can see it on the below below or here:

They have also used it as a simple, striking outdoor poster:

Lloyds Outdoor

It is being used to convey their heritage in a way that shows how they care about their customers and always have. Catherine Kehoe, managing director for brands and marketing at Lloyds Banking Group, said the campaign intends to communicate to existing customers “what matters to you matters to us”. She adds: “There has been a quiet revolution in the bank in the last two years in terms of improving service, digital channels and training of staff. We have been doing all of these things and our customers know that but we are now going to talk about it. We are restating to customers that we value them.”

We very much like this approach to brand asset management:

  • Taps into memory structure: If you live in the UK, as soon as see a black horse I advertising, you think of Lloyds Bank. This is gold dust for marketers – a visual shorthand for everything your brand stands for. We call this memory structure and it typically takes 2-3 years of consistent messaging to create. Once established it is a great asset for maintaining awareness and driving distinctiveness. Many brands try to build ‘cions’ by they change strategy, agency or campaign too often and they never reach true icon status like the black horse.
  • Makes heritage relevant – rather than using brand heritage as a dry sign-off ‘Since 1677’, bringing the horse to life in current communications takes Lloyds long heritage and shows how it is relevant to today’s world. This keep s the brand (and the property) fresh – building equity strength for the long term.
  • Enables Through The Line comms – a whole chapter of activity is underway from Lloyds. With TV, press, outdoor and digital around their theme of “Your next step”. The horse ties it all together across Personal, Business and even Private banking, not to mention their hundreds of products and services. It acts as more than just ‘matching luggage’ visual consistency, a true brand property conveys & connects on values.

Lloyds private Banking

Brand properties are hugely valuable assets but take years of patient consistency to build – that’s why there aren’t many good ones about. Lloyds is managing to strike a good balance here between freshness and consistency by using its age old black horse in this relevant contemporary way. I for one would like to see it come to life more in their Personal and Business marketing.