Using market research to relaunch a brand
A first direct case study

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Page 1: Introduction

Market research is a systematic process used by a business to find out about its customers and its markets. A company uses market research to ensure that it offers goods and services that customers want to buy. This should be a continuous process. Once a product is launched, it is important to listen to customer feedback. By acting on this feedback, businesses can help to keep customers satisfied.

Market research is as important for service industries, such as banking, as it is for manufacturing. This case study features first direct, a member of HSBC Bank. first direct has its own brand identity and its own product range. It attracts customers who want the convenience of telephone and online banking and who are comfortable with using modern technology to access bank services. These customers seek greater control of their money and are more confident about making financial decisions.

first direct launched in 1989. It offered a new type of banking service. Customers could access all banking services by telephone. The bank was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year (a 24/7/365 service), with real people always on the end of the phone. This contrasted with the services then offered by the major high street banks. These were available only in traditional banking hours, usually 9am to 4pm. The banks closed for most of the weekend. Most transactions had to be made face-to-face. It was difficult to contact the bank unless customers visited a branch.

first direct”s service became highly popular with its customers. The bank won many awards for its service model. By offering additional services such as internet banking and mobile (on the move) banking, customers could access their accounts and manage their money whenever and wherever they liked. However, it was not just about the fact that it was convenient, but also that the people at first direct were courteous, friendly, professional and adult-to-adult.

Competitive advantage

When it launched, first direct was unique. By 2000, however, rival banks were providing similar channels of communication. Banks like Cahoot, Egg and Smile also offered the same type of service and competed strongly on price. first direct was losing some of its competitive advantage.

This case study shows how first direct has used market research to revitalise its brand. It took action following a period in which it was losing customers to other banks.

By taking action, first direct aimed to regain its position as Britain”s most recommended bank.

first direct | Using market research to relaunch a brand