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Vowel movement: ABRDN is worst rebrand according to survey

Investing Reviews Survey

STANDARD Life Aberdeen’s rebranding as abrdn has been ridiculed as a “bland” and “uninspiring” marketing failure in a survey of potential investors carried out by Investing Reviews.

We surveyed 2,000 UK adults* about the way financial services companies present themselves and found abrdn was the brand they disliked the most based on a combination of messaging, tone, imagery, strapline and language used.

Worse still, many of those quizzed by pollsters made comments that were scathing of the company’s new name, calling it “ridiculous”, “embarrassing” and “an act of corporate insanity.”

Today’s report is the first published sample of potential customers since July 5 when it controversially dropped a name whose history stretches back 200 years.

It comes after the company was widely mocked on social media as well as BBC1’s Have I Got News For You over its relaunch which has been backed by a multi-million pound advertising campaign.

Those surveyed were unimpressed with abrdn’s lacklustre looking website, which featured a lifeless-looking logo alongside the words, “Let’s Create More.”

Around one in seven said abrdn was the brand they disliked the most, with 65 per cent of those saying they found its website “too bland” – and 55 per cent saying it was “uninspiring.”

Other comments included:

  1. “Vague wording. What is the product?”
  2. “Two very good brands that have destroyed their value with this act of corporate insanity.”
  3. “A stupid rename. And I’m a shareholder. I find it embarrassing.”
  4. “The message is meaningless.”
  5. “The page doesn’t really give an indication as to what they actually do. Very stark.”
  6. “Stupid name.”
  7. “It’s hard to tell what the company does and what they’re advertising.”
  8. “I wouldn’t know it was a finance brand if I wasn’t told”
  9. “I dislike them leaving vowels out of their name.”

In 2017 Standard Life merged with Aberdeen Asset Management before later selling much of its business to life insurer Phoenix. The new name abrdn now sees all the group’s five remaining brands come under one name – though one which many customers are unsure how to pronounce.

Bosses have explained that the correct pronunciation is “Aberdeen”, though the company could not call itself Aberdeen because the Scottish city of the same name has the domain rights, while Aberdeen Football Club and a similarly named undertaking business have branding rights.

Chief executive Stephen Bird has dismissed criticism of the relaunch, saying it amounted to “fresh advertising” and insisting the new name was “something that looks financial.”

He is not the only Master of the Universe to get a hammering from the public for lame marketing gimmicks.

Rathbones and Baillie Gifford were the second and third most disliked brands based on their website design and wording.

Rathbones manages around £50billion of assets, but was criticised in the poll for a website which had “too many words”.

Meanwhile, Baillie Gifford – which manages or advises on portfolios worth around £350 billion – was criticised for a website which respondents found “dark”, “sinister”, “creepy” and “menacing” – adjectives normally reserved for low-budget horror movies.

The survey also explored the public’s attitudes towards the recent trend of financial powerhouses cosying up to woke politics.

Jupiter Asset Management was lambasted for a website which features a hermit crab crawling along an ocean bed next to the strapline “Living and breathing sustainably.”

Almost half (45 per cent ) of those who disliked the Jupiter brand complained of it being “too woke” while a similar number (48 per cent) accused the company of “pretending to be something they are not.”

Their site also features a poem in support of the LGBT community as well as a turtle swimming alongside a shoal of fish.

Among the other brands disliked for being too woke were Scottish Widows (29 per cent) which features 30-year-old model Amber Martinez – the fourth woman to play the part since the role was introduced in 1986.

Though dressed in a velvet hood, her demeanor suggests she is not as grief stricken as one might normally be at the death of a spouse.

Simon Jones, CEO of Investing Reviews, said: “From hermit crabs to company names that no one can pronounce, the public is well and truly fed-up with corporate spin and marketing gimmicks.

“Standard Life’s relaunch as abrdn has clearly hit all the wrong notes and should serve as a salutary lesson for financial platforms everywhere.

“With all the millions that the big beasts of finance spend on their digital operations, they would do well to remember that customers are far more interested in making returns on their investments than they are with lame PR stunts.

“It looks like it’s time for the marketing gurus to go back to their drawing boards.”

*One Poll questioned a representative sample of 2,000 UK adults.

Survey results are available on request via Gary at Rhizome Media.

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