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This is a self-funded case study using our Ad Testing solution.
Making frequent cameo appearances on UK TV screens, Lloyds Bank’s black horse remains a mainstay of the brand’s communications — forever galloping forward to symbolize the brand’s strength and resiliency. The latest execution, ‘Drumbeat’, expands the brand’s iconic lone horse (an elusive role) into an entire herd, stopping suburban onlookers in their tracks.
We’ve spoken ad nauseam about the enviable position of brands with well-entrenched assets, with Lloyds Bank’s black horse certainly one of those — built over the years through relentless consistency, just as we’ve seen for another iconic animal mascot in ‘Churchie’ the bulldog (Churchill insurance). With a new locale and more rousing soundtrack, courtesy of Calvin Harris and Rag’n’Bone Man, could the latest Lloyds spot leave viewers in as much awe as the local residents featured in the ad? We used our 3Cs framework to find out.
While the majestic herd of horses galloping through a quaint suburban neighborhood was the ad’s clear standout element, the narrative of being on a journey — and in-turn by the side of customers — felt somewhat generic. The ad subsequently didn’t evoke a strong emotional response or sustain viewers’ interest to a high degree throughout. The building drumbeat of the horses’ heavy hooves also struggled to engage viewers in the way intended and, while some enjoyed the escalating pace of the music, others found it overly dramatic. As a result, many were left underwhelmed.
With the black horse being one of the UK’s most recognized branding devices — having first been adopted, incredibly, in 1677 — it unsurprisingly provided an unmistakable link to the bank. However, despite this enviable asset, the branding strength of ‘Drumbeat’ was only average. That’s because while part of the branding jigsaw puzzle relates to its recognizability, it’s equally about how synergistic it is with expectations. In this respect many people struggled to fully understand the purpose of the story and what it was attempting to say about Lloyds; an example of having an enviable asset, but not deploying it to best effect.
There was little that the ad conveyed which got viewers overly excited, lacking both a clear emotional takeaway or rational reason to believe. With messaging around Lloyds being caring and ‘by your side’ not coming through especially clearly, this was instead replaced with more generic perceptions of ‘familiarity’ and ‘trust’ — which didn’t necessarily offer anything new or different for the brand. Many viewers were subsequently left confused and feeling as though the ad lacked relevance — ultimately doing little to build predisposition toward Lloyds Bank.
Lloyds Bank are in the enviable position of being able to create an ad largely about ‘nothing’ — much like the plot line from an iconic Seinfeld episode. But make no mistake, getting to this privileged position doesn’t happen overnight; much blood, sweat, and tears have been invested by Lloyds Bank over the years.
By the same token, having a distinctive branding device doesn’t preclude you from other responsibilities — brand outcomes are just as much about ‘Captivating’ viewers as they are about ‘Compelling’ them into action. Here, the abstractness of horses galloping through suburbia, combined with the absence of a storyline, lacked cohesion with the intended message of Lloyds ‘being by your side’ (or more subliminal messages around strength, unity, and loyalty).
Therefore, regardless of the mechanism being employed to drive brand effects (and whether they’re geared more toward short- or long-term outcomes), a prerequisite of advertising success is seeding an idea, feeling, or association in people’s minds about the brand. To be clear, this isn’t about being more literal — a stronger storyline (featuring a beginning, middle, and end) could be all that’s needed to land messaging in a more emotionally resonant way.