Case study: The Partners and b2.

Calm images, a soft blue colour, not exactly references to make you think of financial services. But that was the whole point of The Partners’ approach to creating the identity for Barclays’ new financial product, b2, providing customers with access to stock market investments.

Ad agency Banks Higgins O’Shea had developed the b2 name when Barclays chose The Partners to develop an identity system for all its marketing activities. ‘We were looking for excellent creative skills and the ability to tackle things differently,’ says Bridget Atherton, brand and communications at b2. The result, she says, reflects the product because it’s not intended to look like a financial services company. ‘It’s fresh and innovative,’ she adds.

Atherton was also impressed with the consultancy’s skills at being able to work with other agencies during the stressful run up to the launch. ‘Its account management skills had to be pretty hot as the launch period was very hectic. At one point there were weekly meetings with creatives from all the agencies. I don’t think I’ve worked with a consultancy before which worked so well with other agencies. The last thing you want is conflict and The Partners was very professional about it,’ she declares.

For The Partners, the challenge was to provide an identity which could instill confidence in the b2 product. ‘Managing financial affairs is anxiety producing and complex, while the image of the stock market can be frightening. The biggest challenge was to try to understand its customer more and get across the simplicity of something that’s new,’ says Gareth Williams, client services partner at The Partners. ‘The visual language of other similar brands is “buy us” – often using assertive graphics. We wanted to say stop, relax, there’s a new way of thinking about financial services.’

Williams says working with the other agencies was an important part of the project. ‘We were in the position of leading the visual identity, but BHO takes a lot of credit. It was one of the best collaborative projects we’ve worked on.’ He points out that the consultancy is still involved with the client and hopes to maintain a future relationship.

Atherton, meanwhile, says she was most impressed with The Partners’ ‘genuine excitement’ for the project. ‘Sometimes it feels like agencies just churn stuff out and bill you at the end of the month,’ he says.

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