For all our Affino customers - "how do you relate to the Affino brand?" We hope that it underlines that you are adventurous, confident, creative, innovative, pioneering and smart in your decision making, forward-thinking, yet secure in the knowledge that we at Affino wholly practice what we preach and apply due care and attention to what we do. What about your relationships with other leading brands, what defines and builds long term loyalty and affiliation - which brands are more you than others? The thing is that these decisions are usually much more evolved than simply a matter of cost or convenience ...
I joined Lloyds Bank when I entered University in 1988, my branch at Aston University was later folded into the nearby Priory Branch, but I was lucky to have a great Account Manager in the form of Jon Healy - whom I had the pleasure of dealing with for a number of years thereafter.
Then the bank consolidated / changed, expanded and shifted its focus, acquiring TSB and HBOS along the way - to eventually become the bloated PPI and Libor Rate scamming behemoth it is today. Of course the EU does not like the current shape of Lloyds TSB etc. and has ordered it to divest itself of a number of branches / customers as a counter-monopoly measure.
Early this year I was informed that my account would be one of the many moving across to TSB (without any consultation process and certainly without my consent), as the Priory branch would be changing to become a TSB branch. I’ve not been to Birmingham for nearly a decade now, and my local Lloyds branch is actually on Edgware Road, and this branch is definitely remaining Lloyds. I nevertheless had to go through a tortuous process to apply to stay with my original bank of choice. I’ve been told along the way that if I did not move my account to TSB, I would lose my credit rating, all my current facilities - overdraft etc. and would in fact be treated as an entirely new customer with no privileges retained!! That’s a bit of a slap in the face for 25 years of loyal custom.
In the true legal sense, Lloyds is in breech of a number of banking covenants in behaving in this manner, let alone contract law, or even basic customer care. The UK banking sector has changed a lot in the intervening 25 years, Spanish bank Santander is a major force on the High Street, as is HSBC - both foreign banks, with no particular loyalty or affiliation with Britain. There seem to be only 2 proper British Banks left - NatWest, which is still owned by the Government / people of Britain, and Lloyds. I discount the Co-op for its financial problems, and Barclays seems to have been exposed as the shadiest of all the high street operators.
I guess that growing up I was influenced by the the Black Stallion ads of the 70’s and the slogan of the ’Thoroughbred Bank’ - I also associated it with the magnificent Lloyds of London, even though the two are not at all related. There seemed to be a Britishness, a homely, yet professional, safe quality that held appeal for me. The recent animated advertisements for Lloyds too have helped retain the quality feel of the bank. In truth though, the service is not the same as it was, but Lloyds is still my first choice of bank, even though I do not seem to be their first choice of customer.
I find it quite bizarre in this age of increasing importance on customer service and care, that my own bank should fall so far from the acceptable limits of reasonable behaviour. It’s only a few weeks ago now that someone phoned from a TSB branch to offer me a loan, even though I’m supposedly in the system as someone who has vehemently demanded (requested) to stay with Lloyds. I was told this would all be cleared up by the end of August - which is nigh approaching, yet no final clarification has been received, no one phoned me to see if I was in anyway OK about any of this, they only phone to fleece me with unnecessary loans and other financial services that I have not registered an interest in / for. The only request I have made recently is to stay with my original bank of choice. My mind actually boggles somewhat in regards to how I feel about brand loyalty and affiliation right now - It’s definitely a case of ’better the devil you know’ in this instance. All the small banks are currently struggling, and anyone who thinks to switch willingly to TSB will probably be changing their bank account again within a year or two when that has folded!
I was a long-term loyal Vodaphone customer - moving through pretty much the entire high-level Nokia and Sony Ericsson mobile ranges. When Smart Phones were first introduced, I did my usual due diligence to decide which device and service would be best for me, in terms of lifestyle choices, my number one love as such is music - which is why, and after some deliberation, it became clear that iPhone + iTunes would be the perfect match for my needs. Vodafone was on the brink of supporting iPhones too, after O2 had enjoyed a significant time of monopoly. I was ripe for changing to a smart phone, and then Vodafone delayed their introduction of the iPhone, so that they could flog their own inferior rip-off - the ’Smart 1’ I believe it was called.
Having waited a number of months for Vodafone to get in the iPhones I was totally infuriated by this crass delaying tactic - which was really just an excuse for Vodafone to fleece unwitting customers with an inferior device - the iPhone introduction was delayed for at least 3 months, possibly 6 they said!
I of course marched straight over to O2 to switch over to their service. O2 you see is a perfect fit for a music fan like me. Orange was about Movies (2 for 1 Wednesdays) and Vodafone at that time was Formula 1 and Rugby. O2 has the most significant global music venue in the form of the O2 (Dome) and several smaller venues. And whereas Vodafone are still pretty much all over the place, O2 and Orange (now EE) have pretty much stuck to their guns and retained their same values. Even though Vodafone has better coverage, I know that O2 offers a better service for me.
British Gas is aptly named here as the only major British energy company - Centrica. EDF (Électricité de France) is French, and both Eon and Npower are German, the latter belongs to the RWE Group as does Thames Water, my water supplier. It’s somewhat bizarre that the majority of British Utilities companies are in foreign ownership.
Almost out of the same principle that I support Lloyds, I have somehow found myself in bed with British Gas for my gas supply and boiler support. Electricity is provided by EDF though; let us not forget that William the Conqueror came from France (via Norway), we can treat this as his legacy. Also, EDF is the world’s largest electricity generator, and if we start running into problems in the UK, I’m sure they can slip us an extra power line across the Channel, possibly via Chunnel. After all, there are about a million French in the South East of England who need power too ...
Buying a car is one of the most complex brand affiliation exercises there is, and the one which leads to the greatest post-purchase dissonance for those who are not sure they made the right decision. As Jeremy Clark is wont to say, nothing says more about you really than your choice of car.
In Iceland, a souped-up Toyota Landcruiser used to be our Rolls-Royce-equivalent status symbol - when you genuinely needed a 4-wheel drive jeep to get around said fair island. Since the economic boom and bust, the Landcruiser has been somewhat ousted by Range Rovers and Porsche Cayennes. During the height of the silliness, more Range Rovers were being sold in Iceland (pop 300,000) than in the rest of Scandinavia combined (pop 25,000,000)! Anyway I digress - as the main choice here comes down to the most classic selection of all - the executive saloon. (Next time we will discuss Ferrari vs Lamborghini vs Porsche!)
For a long time the choice of executive saloon has largely been between the leading German quality marques - Audi, BMW and Mercedes. In short stereotypical fashion - Audi for designers and architects, BMW for sporty executives, and Mercedes for fat cats. In truth I find most Mercedes rather cumbersome and ungainly - as if designed by / for some 14 year old boy - there’s never really been a truly handsome Mercedes since the 300SL Gullwing. For me the choice would come down to Audi vs BMW, and then it would be a matter of budget and model vs model, as I like both marques. Strictly on brand affiliation though, I would have to go with the more futuristic and engineered ’vorsprung durch technik’ - although to be fair, with the i8, BMW is also making futuristic cars too, but Audi really is the brand for designers. When I worked in advertising, the chairman always drove what I considered to be an ugly whale of a car - a Mercedes S-Class, I was forever trying to get him to switch to something more elegant - even a Range Rover would have been preferable.
As a young account manager in Advertising and up for my second company car, most of my colleagues went for entry-level BMW models (3 Series), whilst I plumped for a fully laden 2.3 litre Volkswagen V5 Golf. Most of my life I have driven high performance Golfs and I love them - they are agile, versatile, practical, pleasant to drive and pleasant to look at. As a bona fide man of the people, I have no hesitation in plumping for a Volswagen again.
Back home in Iceland, my parents have both driven Audis and BMWs and Volkswagens, done the Landcruiser thing, and have settled for the Scandinavian way of life - Dad drives a Volvo V70 and Mum drives a fully original Swedish Saab 9-3. She’s already come to the bitter conclusion that her next car will have to be an Audi as parts for her 9-3 are becoming increasingly scarce. Rear-wheel drive just does not cut it during an Icelandic winter - which disqualifies most BMWs and Mercedes. Architects used to drive Saabs, but now drive Audis and Mum will likely follow suite (not that she’s an architect truly). Dad really loves his Volvo estate, and I think he will stay with that marque for now, sister-in-law has a brilliant 4x4 Volvo X90 which is another excellent alternative. The enduring popularity of Range Rovers in Iceland is still somewhat of a mystery - considering how much time they spend in the workshop - I guess the fat cats don’t mind hailing a taxi to work for a few weeks in the year ...
The amazing thing about supermarkets is that they are largely like neighbours - you get on with them because they are conveniently close at hand. When I lived in Barnstaple, my nearest supermarket was Tesco - so I shopped there and got used to their range - the Sainsbury was right on the other side of town and the M&S tiny - therefore inconvenient.
When I moved to London, my nearest store was Sainsbury, but I knew and preferred the range at Tesco which was slightly further away. After declining levels of service though I decamped from Tesco to Sainsbury, but service there seems to be awfully variable too. If I can stand the trip to Edgware Road, then there is a fabulous Waitrose there with brilliant service and a great range, but it’s a little far for lugging my regular drinks supply. There was an Aldi in Barnstaple that I enjoyed dropping in on occasionally, never forget that Aldi is the favoured supermarket destination of our quality-minded German brothers and sisters. If there was one here, I would probably sample that too.
In frustration with my local marts, I switched to Ocado, which I am currently on a break from. Why you might ask? Well, for a two week period they ran out of two of my essential items - Blueberries and fresh Pineapple Chunks - how is even such a thing possible? After so many successful deliveries of perfectly fresh fruit and veg and carefully packaged comestibles, how could they go so wrong? Currently I am back to Sainsbury’s, although I do use Ocado occasionally for larger orders ... where do you get yours?