Why Yorkshire Bank is wrong to change its name - Stewart Arnold

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After its recent takeover of Richard Branson’s Virgin Money, Yorkshire Bank will be rebranded. By the end of 2021, the bank, as a distinct high street presence, will be no more.

Should it matter that Yorkshire Bank will be subsumed into the Virgin Money brand?

Yorkshire Bank - Leeds

Yorkshire Bank - Leeds

Read more: Yorkshire Bank brand will begin to vanish from today

I would argue it does and, that rather than replacing the brand, due to Yorkshire’s positive image, the company has missed an opportunity to build the brand.

This loss of a Yorkshire Bank brand is in comparison to the hundreds of companies across the region which use Yorkshire in their company name.

These range from food and drink companies to suppliers of fence panels. Many will have markets in the UK beyond Yorkshire and, indeed, many will export overseas.

Stewart Arnold

Stewart Arnold

Lord Heseltine in a speech in Leeds in June 2019 said: “I would support a greater Yorkshire. It’s a world brand – you can sell Yorkshire across the world and so you should.”

There is no denying that brands have become prevalent in our modern world. We are surrounded by brands and, in many cases, they have become short cuts to telling us something about their ‘offer’. For example, Rolex, TAG Heuer and Tissot give us cues about the perceived superiority of Swiss watches.

There are very many definitions of what a brand is. However, what is broadly understood is that a brand is complex. One definition (and one which is as good as any) has a brand having both intrinsic and extrinsic cues. Intrinsic cues would generally refer to physical product attributes, such as shape, colour, weight, taste and performance.

On the other hand, elements of the product which have nothing to do with its physical properties are referred to as extrinsic cues. These include brand name, the packaging of the product, price, promotional support, country of origin, consumer evaluation, the provision of a guarantee and servicing and certain more indefinable qualities.

Yorkshire Bank CEO David Duffy

Yorkshire Bank CEO David Duffy

Olsen and Jacoby (1985), say that as these extrinsic cues are external to the product, changing them does not affect the physical product. Their studies show that the brand name (extrinsic attribute) is selected more frequently by the consumer than any other intrinsic or extrinsic attribute, including price. In their view, this provides information to the consumers, so it saves time when searching for a product.

Read more: Why I am leaving Yorkshire Bank over name change

If this is true and the Yorkshire ‘brand’ does indeed comprise certain extrinsic attributes, what are they?

My research to find out what makes up these extrinsic Yorkshire qualities found them to be, in descending order: friendly; welcoming; honest; unpretentious; quality; good value; trustworthy; natural.

The bank is set to leave its Leeds HQ

The bank is set to leave its Leeds HQ

When asked, over one third of people said they would be more likely to purchase a product with ‘Yorkshire’ in the brand name of the product. We know that Yorkshire’s food and drink exports are worth close to £1bn. Yorkshire is seen as a reliable indicator for products in this sector.

There is no doubt that having ‘natural’, ‘quality’ and ‘good value’ are key values when it comes to selling our food and drink products globally.
Some of the other attributes might lend them themselves more to different product areas.

Read more: 500 jobs at risk as Yorkshire Bank prepares to leave its Leeds HQ

For example, ‘honest’, ‘friendly’ and ‘trustworthy’ could provide a company in the financial sector with the positive attributes they surely need after such a battering in recent years.

For this reason, it is a pity that the Yorkshire Bank brand will be lost.

Yorkshire is a globally accepted name with a huge range of positive attributes which, with the best will in the world, the city regions will never have.

Yorkshire Tea leads the way in gaining international brand recognition and we can see the renaming of Leeds Carnegie as Yorkshire Carnegie and the branding of Leeds-Bradford Airport as Yorkshire’s Airport as part of the same trend.

Yorkshire sells and we should be making the most of this given the changes in the commercial landscape that Brexit brings.