Case study: Yorkshire Building Society
Bringing in-branch warmth to the written word
Giving their customers real help with real life: that’s Yorkshire Building Society’s brand purpose, and what gets them out of bed in the morning. If you wander into one of their branches across the UK, you’ll find plenty of people putting it into practice. Like Caris in the Nantwich branch, who arranged a grant for a customer who’d lost everything in a house fire so they could get new clothes. (She even got Clarks to donate some new school shoes.)
But that warmth and genuine desire to help people was totally missing from their writing. And they were struggling to balance needing to sound more human with getting things past compliance. So much so that one senior member of the building society described their customer letters as ‘bland, boring, automated, pre-paragraphed rubbish’. Ouch. That’s what we came to help fix when we created YBS’ new tone of voice.
‘Bottling the in-branch experience’
We set about swapping YBS’ more traditional, jargon-heavy writing with language that sounded like it was written by real people – for real people. Part of the challenge was figuring out what level of warmth was right for them. They weren’t trying to be down with the kids, and they certainly weren’t going to start calling anyone ‘mate’. And like a lot of brands trying to ‘do warmth’, they sometimes slipped into hackneyed, clichéd language that no one actually says – like ‘Thinking of jetting off somewhere sunny?’ or ‘After a better deal on your mortgage?’
We helped define their type of observational, relatable references – back to the real life in their brand promise. Less ‘your personal circumstances change when you’re a parent’, more ‘Swivel chair by day, highchair by night.’ Once their tone was ready, we trained a dozen of their teams in it – and won over some tricky customers in risk and compliance.
Winning over the sceptics – 71% preferred our new tone
When we rewrote the CEO and Chairman’s extracts from YBS’ AGM booklet in the new tone of voice, nearly ¾ of employees we asked said they preferred the new version. And along with big rewrites came training people across the business to get these kinds of results themselves. We’ve trained around 150 people at YBS so far, and 97% of them feel like their writing’s improved because of the training. A good sign that the in-person warmth they’re so famous for is finally getting through to their writing.
The Writer quickly got to grips with the writing challenges in our organisation. They developed a tone of voice that felt true to our brand, along with practical guidance. The training itself was exceptional and has helped our colleagues understand it and crucially be able to apply it in their day to day roles.Claire Bowes, Brand Strategist