Barclays: the Eagle Lab has landed

At a time when many banks are closing their branches to save money, Barclays is diversifying and opening its ‘Eagle Labs’. The aim is to repurpose under-used branch spaces to bring digital knowledge to the communities that they serve – regardless of whether they are Barclays customers.

Now you might ask what this has to do with content, but only if you view content – in the context of engaging a customer segment with your brand values – purely as the written word or a video. If we think of content as narrative – creative ways of engaging an audience – you can see that even a bricks and mortar initiative such as this as part of Barclays’ content strategy: making a play for small businesses and sole traders, the backbone of the UK economy.

The labs will house ‘makerspaces’ (in case you don’t know, these are community-operated workspaces where people, usually with an interest in technology or digital fields, can meet and collaborate), which include laser cutters and 3D printers. This means that small, cost-conscious businesses can produce prototypes without outsourcing overseas. There are also ‘incubators’, designed to provide resources and mentoring for fast-growing businesses.

After successful pilots in Bournemouth and Cambridge, a third Eagle Lab is opening tomorrow in a disused Barclays branch in Brighton. The plan is to open up to 20 Eagle Labs across the UK in 2016.

And it’s not just about business. Each lab will also see their ‘digital eagles’ helping community groups, children, students and the elderly to become more tech-savvy. The labs will provide workshops, such as computer coding lessons for kids and cyber fraud awareness events, as well as ‘Tea and Teach’ sessions, which are free and aim to build people’s confidence using computers and the internet – with tea and coffee included. There’s also the Barclays Digital Driving Licence – a free online learning tool designed to develop and grow knowledge and confidence in the digital world.

Despite offering a lot of free services, the labs will carry a small charge for use of the machinery or hire of meeting rooms and event spaces, but the labs are currently free to use on Fridays.

One of the defining aspects of content marketing is that it’s often a long-tail sale. Instant purchase isn’t usually the purpose – engagement and consideration is. So you can see how this is part of that strategy.  Why not open a savings account for your child as they learn to code? But Barclays also seem to be considering the bigger picture, stating that tech-savvy businesses benefit the economy, and a booming economy benefits banks.

Barclays is 326 years old, but has recognised the need to adapt and change to keep up with content trends, shifting business demographics and a digital world.