Building Societies Association

How do you explain the difference between a bank and a building society?

The Building Societies Association is a representative for the 44 building societies and 6 credit unions in the UK, helping them to prosper in the face of continually changing legislation. In doing so they continue to help put consumers and people first when it comes to handling their finances.

There is however, a lack of general understanding over what a building society is. They often get seen as being the same as banks, when in fact there are some fundamental differences. Can we help the BSA to highlight the ethos of building societies and position them as a different entity to banks, where their members take the role of shareholders?

We began by looking at the methods different industries use to sum up complex explanations quickly and efficiently. We then held a workshop with the BSA which included people from across the organisation and representatives from some of their member building societies. Through a range of activities, we explored their existing brand and communications, to uncover what drives them as an organisation.

We distilled our findings into a core proposition, testing and iterating it with the BSA team to ensure it will work across different contexts.

Outcome: The result was a small statement aiming for big impact; 4 words — “For people, not shareholders. These four words set down the fundamental and ethical difference between building societies and banks, that the BSA could use as a starting point throughout their brand, comms and PR.

The “For people, not shareholders” statement was shared with all BSA’s members. It enabled them to convey a coherent message of why building societies are relevant in a modern world high in distrust of banks. As well as members starting to use it independently, it has become a part of BSA’s dialogue when they are addressing parliament and society in general. For example, the statement was used throughout the BSA’s 150th celebratory parliamentary reception, which took place earlier this year with MPs in attendance.