When practicality beats personality

We’ve been at it again. Fresh from encouraging more people to fly again with The Writer Airways™ than Virgin, we thought we’d put our linguistic hunches to the test in the banking world.

Our airline test was all about sounding human and packing personality into writing. So we thought we’d see if those same rules applied to the banks’ words; specifically, a few lines of marketing designed to nudge you into applying for a current account.

So, do people want personality in their bank’s writing? Well, no actually. When we asked people which words they associated with snippets of each bank’s writing, they said:

  • Metro Bank was the most helpful (29%), useful (29%) and clear (30%)
  • First Direct’s (the most distinctive, and often the linguistic envy of the banking world) was condescending (14%)
  • Lloyds was boring (20%).

Pretty conclusive. Metro Bank’s writing was no great shakes; just a really straight description of their service. So is banking a totally different kettle of fish when it comes to language?

Well, trust in banks has taken a real dent in the past five years, and it looks like we’re seeing that in how people react to their writing. We want someone to make us feel like their business is stable, and that our cash is in safe hands. Helpful, clear and practical. (I’d bet that’s in some banks’ tone of voice guidelines.)

But if you’re a bank, the bad news is that won’t mark you out. And it won’t last forever. So once we’re all feeling safe and sound again, the canny ones will start putting the flair back into their writing to stand out from the steady eddies. Solidity was so 2013.

If you’d like to see what the press are saying about our research, click on these links below:

0 min read, posted in Culture, by Admin, on 12 Feb 2013