Original and new natwest logo

It isn’t often that you hear the boss of a company publicly lampoon their brand managers, but that’s exactly what David Wheldon, RBS Group CMO, did last month when he launched the NatWest rebrand. Well, seeing as the brand managers of the past had “fu*ked up” so much (his words!) we were super keen to see what the future had in store. Oh … a re-worked logo from almost 50 years ago?!

We all know, the future of banking looks very different, and what a wonderful opportunity for NatWest to modernise – shaping that future and exciting customers about a new world. Can you do that by fondly fixating on the good old days? NatWest, what does your future look like?

It’s not uncommon for banking brands to promote themselves as being longstanding pillars of the community – think rose tinted galloping through history – but why the incessant need to look to the past, rather than carving a more relevant future? David Wheldon openly criticised Lloyds, questioning what a dancing black horse has to do with banking … but we could say the same of NatWest’s offering. It’s still nostalgic pastiche … looking backwards instead of thinking forwards.

In terms of design NatWest’s latest attempt to inject some life and colour into the brand falls short (in our opinion). Rather than pushing forward and picturing what a bank could be they’ve shuffled back through their archives to find a dusty old identity that was hidden in a cupboard. Yes they’ve injected some colour and illustration into the brand with some curious 3D typography and cuboids. But, controversially the new tone and colour actually feels a little borrowed from Monzo – a new bank that is actually pushing the industry forward. 

The brand strategy for NatWest focuses on taking accountability for its own actions, whether good or bad. A new marketing campaign was launched in September around the slogan, ‘we are what we do’, highlighting that banks should be responsible for what they do as well as what they say. Some of the adverts use archive footage with a mix of honest statements – ‘we are brave’, ‘we are stupid’, ‘we are inventive’. The three cubes in the logo originally represented the three organisations that came together to form NatWest in 1968 … they were about solidarity. In resurrecting the cubes, and creating an honest dialogue with customers, perhaps NatWest can recapture some of the solid respect banking brands were afforded in the past? Failing that, maybe they could get a pony and run it in slow motion through a hospital?