RBS : Misleading number

A heading falls into the perception gap.

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The Site

RBS, the UK-based Royal Bank of Scotland Group, leaves the impression it is a much younger institution than is the case. RBS incorporates a minisite called RBS History 100 in the Heritage sub-section of About us on its group site. The minisite is currently one of six topics that feature in a slow-moving carousel of content previews on the group home page. Clicking on its headline in the carousel, RBS History 100, reveals a three-line ‘teaser’ caption: ‘See the psychedelic fiver, the world’s first overdraft, the banker’s hat and NatWest’s turn on the silver screen!’. A click on the caption leads to the landing page of the RBS History 100 site. The introduction on the landing page explains that RBS History 100 “explores the unique history of RBS through objects in our heritage collections” before going on to say that the site is “building towards a gallery of 100 exhibits grouped into 10 themes”. These will “tell the story of RBS from the seventeenth century to today”.

The Takeaway

RBS has fallen into a gentle faux pas that could easily baffle site visitors drawn to its RBS History 100 feature but is unlikely to cause any lasting bruises in the context of a heritage that it traces back to its founding in 1727. Such is the modern fascination with ‘significant’ anniversaries that many if not most of those confronted with ‘RBS History 100’ will assume a centenary is upon the bank – rather than that it has collected together 100 objects of historic interest – unless they are aware that that landmark was passed more than half its lifetime ago. On a more serious and general note (not the ‘psychedelic fiver’), the gap that RBS fell into between what was intended and how it might be perceived is one waiting to claim any organisation that doesn’t from time to time take an outside-in check on its terminology: it’s all too easy to believe everyone knows your name for things, be it features, services or headings on your website.

First published 08 September, 2011
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