Norwich Union can easily afford better marketing and branding people than me, but I can’t help but snigger behind my hand at both the name “Aviva” and the timing of it’s launch.
If there’s one trend in consumer relationships with big brands that’s become apparent over the last couple of years, it’s that there’s a great – and as yet largely unfulfilled – yearning for the chance to deal with real people in a human-scale setting. All those great, faceless corporations with meaningless, cod-latinate names that have sprouted like mushrooms over recent years… do you know anyone who’s warmed to them?
Once The Midland was a homely little high street institution – “the listening bank”… still a great strapline! Now it is HSBC – “the world’s local bank” whose adverts seem to be based on the premise that they are Fucking Massive. Well done you! You might remember your local bus firm with it’s distinctive livery an every day sight on the streets around your house. Now you’ve probably got “Arriva” and it’s ghastly, spiroform logo (can you hear the design company: “it says movement, continuity… travel…”) Maybe you remember Anglia Television, Yorkshire Television, Granada, Thames and a slew of regionally themed TV companies. Now you have ITV and its glossy Web 2.0 lozenge ident that claims to speak to everyone, whilst actually speaking to no-one. Sure, the old idents were often crappy, but you could identify with them for that very reason. If ITV goes belly-up, will anyone miss it?
Of course, consolidation is a natural part of the business world. Bigger begets Bigger Still, institutional costs are shaved off with each new amalgamation in inverse proportion to increased market share. But where does this end? As the lessons of the recent months have shown us, it ends with hollow entities who outsource so much that they have no idea who they are, what they are doing and where the end game lies. Who isn’t doing a little internal jig as HBOS lies in smoking ruins?
All the talk is of local business. Small traders. Farmers’ markets. Start-ups. It is here where innovation lies. Where customer service isn’t just a flow chart and the nature of the business hasn’t been outsourced to obscure third parties with even more meaningless names.
And it is at this moment that Norwich Union, a company rooted in a place and tradition, chooses to relaunch as Aviva. I’m not even going to look it up to see if it’s a real word. “‘Viva’ meaning life!” or somesuch nonsense. You know that was handed across a desk to someone on stiff-backed card at a cost of countless thousands. It’s vaguely positive… reminiscent of something else… it could be Spanish… Italian… French! Who knows?
More importantly: who cares?
Marketing is predicated on the basis of brand recognition. Of a connection between a customer, a brand and the values it represents. Companies are begging customers to feel that connection and yet move themselves further and further away from them through gimcrack rebrandings and mergers at a level so colossal that they are simple meaningless to you or I. The only good thing is that this means new opportunities further down the chain. And if, one day, Aviva vanishes up its own fundament it will be mourned by no-one but its shareholders and employees.
Will I buy my insurance from ‘Aviva.’ No. I won’t.