Corporate Storytelling to Rebuild Brand Trust

 -  6 min read

Less than a decade ago, Barclays was not only one of the biggest banks in the world finance but also one of its most recognizable names. It had an exclusive deal with the world’s most popular sports league, soccer’s English Premier League1, as well as naming rights to the hottest new basketball arena in America’s (then, and still) hottest city: Brooklyn. Barclays was omnipresent, but then, like most banks, it took a severe hit with 2008’s worldwide financial collapse, and further trouble even more recently, with allegations of interest-rate manipulation. (Aside from that, the English Football Association opted to discontinue Barclays’ sponsorship of the Premier League in 2016.) Trust in the brand—and brand awareness itself—had reached once unimaginable nadirs. It’d take something special for Barclays to redeem itself.

Barclays crucially understood that while trust and awareness are ultimately up to the consumer, those things extend from an internal positioning first. A brand must be lived from within before it’s positively accepted from without. And so the team at Barclays decided to reestablish their strategic framework. CEO Antony Jenkins wrote about a mission in which Barclays would do “business with [customers] in a way which meets their needs better than any of our competitors.” Along with this, the team instituted a new brand purpose and values. The values—Respect, Integrity, Service, Excellence and Stewardship—are clearly a response to the accusations that had nagged at the company. And the new brand purpose was equally consumer facing. “Helping people achieve their ambitions—in the right way.” spoke to a culture with a renewed emphasis on honesty and trustworthiness.2

Employees at Barclays glommed onto this new positioning, developing a number of social-wellness programs in its wake. One of these, Digital Eagles, grew to several thousand employees. The Digital Eagles’ (named after the eagle on the Barclays crest) initiative was simple: help more people build their online skills and literacy. These specially trained Digital Eagles have been “tasked to not only help Barclays customers that come into the branches and express an interest in its digital products, but also to go into the communities in which they operate and help citizens get online and help them become digitally active.”3

As high‚Äìminded as the new positioning and initiatives might be, they would eventually have to be seen and felt by consumers. Barclays came to the conclusion that stories were the best way to demonstrate the good that the company was now doing in the world—how it was acting out its new internal positioning and brand purpose. This overhaul in strategy required more than a press release; audiences needed to be able to see, understand, feel how Barclays had changed for the better. And stories were the ideal vessel for touting the new Barclays.

These stories would be told in a series of films. Video was identified as the best way to succinctly explain the Digital Eagles initiative and, even more important, emotionally connect with audiences. In these short films we were introduced to Digital Eagles and the people they helped. And it’s these stories—memorable, shareable, authentic—that helped to (re)raise the profile of Barclays across the world. Within a year, after a decade’s worth of bad press, Digital Eagles had helped the organization to garner over 5,000 positive mentions in the media. Even more incredibly, in a category that averages 5% trust among consumers, Digital Eagles helped raise Barclays’ to 35%.4

Corporate storytelling can take on many faces. Barclays, facing a crisis, changed its brand’s internal story, leading to employees who lived out a new internal mission. And then, to alert consumers to these driven, generous employees, it created stories that showed their altruism. These stories attracted attention, stuck in consumers’ minds and ultimately, critically, changed those minds. Where facts and numbers would fail, stories found great success. And so did Barclays.

1 A quick comparison to illustrate just how popular: in 2015, a midseason game between Liverpool and Manchester United secured a worldwide television audience of roughly 700 million; the Super Bowl that year garnered about 160 million.