Abstract: Touting for business: British Banks and Their Customers, 1920-1970

Lucy Newton


This paper considers the marketing and public relations activities of the "Big Five" British clearing banks in the period from 1920 to 1970, and in particular the relationships with their customers. British banks operated in an effective oligopoly during this period. They also faced government-imposed restrictions on lending after 1945. These factors meant that banks were severely constrained in their ability to offer new products and to differentiate themselves from their competitors, as well as limiting choices for consumers. As a result, bank managements had to rely heavily upon building brand image and utilizing marketing techniques in order to differentiate themselves and to attract customers. For many bankers such techniques were new and unpopular—they were not used to communicating with their customers. This paper draws on sources from bank archives, newspapers, and public inquiries to analyze these marketing campaigns and their impact on customers. The paper builds on the growing literature concerned with corporations and their consumers.