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Brand language angry

How to destroy your brand with just one sentence

Tell me how this makes you feel:

“Please return the information requested within 21 days of receiving this letter… failure to do so will result in this case being closed and a new form will need to be completed.”

I found it rude. It made me feel angry. I wanted to tear the form up and take my business elsewhere.

And it’s from our business bank of 13 years, Santander, and that form is 14 unintelligible pages long.

Santander say their brand values are personal, simple and fair. But the language in this letter was none of those.

On the phone, they’d said all we needed to do was send a letter on headed paper. That would have been simple and personal.

But rather than just rant, let’s break it down a little:

“Please return” – fair enough. Although “Please send us” would be more personal.

“Information requested” – why so formal? How about “the information we need”.

“Failure to do so” – wow, is that a threat to a valued customer? Ouch.

“Will result in this case being closed” – this is cold, impersonal and passive. I already feel like a naughty schoolboy, and I’ve not done anything wrong.

“And a new form will need to be completed” – ok, now you’ve done it. I’ve completed a 14-page form, which was the opposite of simple or personal, and you’re going to make me do it again if I’m late? Really? Doesn’t sound too fair to me.

Santander, if you truly believe in being personal, simple and fair, you need to live those values in everything you do.

Perhaps you could have said:

“We’d like to get this sorted out for you as quickly as possible. So if you can get it back to us within 21 days, that’ll help us speed things along.”

Or even:

“We like to keep things personal and simple, so please give us a call and we’ll sort it out for you.”

So, Santander, if you’d like to get your writing singing in tune with your values, I can help. We could start with your letter – Santander’s appalling brand language.

Everyone else, have you seen brand language that’s damaged your relationship with an organisation?

And if you have a business bank that you like, please let me know, as I’m ready to move.

  1. Derek Lynch says:

    Love this I had the exact same with Virgin Atlantic recently would love to share my experience with you.

  2. Ali Turnbull says:

    Well said. Too much compliance copy is written this way, with the emphasis on what they’ll do if you get it wrong, not on helping you to get it right in the first place. Local councils are terrible at this. People don’t want to break the rules, but they often don’t know how to stay within them.

    • Ben says:

      I think that’s it Ali. Retail banking is all about process and compliance, which makes it hard for big, old banks like Santander to be nice to customers, despite their ‘personal’ claim. It creates an opportunity that new-comers like Handelsbanken and Metro are exploiting though.

  3. I had a similar experience and letter from Santander and I did leave them! It took a number of exchanges before they explained, clearly, what they meant and even then I seem to remember it was formal, impersonal, and made me feel I’d done something wrong. I’m sure the human beings behind the letters would have happier more fulfilling working lives – and fewer disgruntled customers – with a little help from Afia!

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