After years of introspection, Lloyd's has started a branding strategy aiming to put it up there with Coca-Cola Elliot Lane reports.

The Lloyd's Brand is extremely powerful, Julian James says. How powerful? Well it has helped Lloyd's worldwide markets director James get past obstructive immigration officers over the years.

"I travel constantly in my job and the Canadian immigration officers are some of the most intrusive in the world. Inevitably they ask me what I do and why I'm entering the country.

"All I have to say is I work for Lloyd's and am going to a few business meetings, and then they just wave me through. It is amazing the power and reach of the Lloyd's brand sometimes," says James.

After ten years of introspection, with the Names fall-out, reconstruction and renewal, the Chairman's Strategy Group, market reforms, 11 September, pressures on capital and global competition, Lloyd's is now embarking on a major rebranding strategy.

The exercise will take between five and ten years, but by the end of it Lloyd's hopes the market and the world will understand its worth.

James has swung his personal backing behind the venture by providing executive support because he is "passionate" about Lloyd's and its vision.

"We need to define what we stand for. Even though we are arguably the most recognised brand in the insurance industry, the perception among the public is not favourable. In fact, from our own research, only 24% of those polled have a favourable attitude towards insurance. We know we have strengths in global branding but what we don't know is what we stand for in the future.

"But I want to make clear this has nothing to do with changing the logo or the colour of our website"

For the first time in its 314-year history, Lloyd's has employed a full-time head of brand strategy, Geoff Dodds, who is co-ordinating the long-term planning.

As part of the consultation process, Lloyd's has recruited brand guru Wally Olins, the brains behind the biggest corporate brands in the world and his brand consultancy Wolff Olins. His portfolio includes BT, Goldfish, Tesco, ICI, Channel 5, the Pru to name but a few - and he is not cheap.

According to a senior brand analyst, Olins would charge a minimum of £250,000 for a basic appraisal.

James says: "A budget has been set, but what figure would you put on the value of the Lloyd's brand? From that perspective you have to look at value versus expenditure."

Workshops have begun in the market, directed by Olins and his team, with an objective to gauge the market's perceptions on how best the franchisor, which overtly controls the brand, can support the franchisees.

"We have planned in excess of 80 workshops. These will involve interviews with managing agents, underwriters, and brokers, here and in the US," says James.

James was a Lloyd's broker himself. What was his impressions of the brand from the outside?

"It is global, with great recognition, a premium quality brand with innovative underwriting. But also a brand slightly tarnished by 15 years of problems.

"I think the best way to describe it is that the Lloyd's message lacks cohesion."

Trying to formulate a constructive approach with such disparate groups will take time. "Great brands are actively managed. With Coca-Cola, Nike or other consumer brands there is infinite detail of what that brand means and huge attention is taken on its strategy's execution. That is what we want."

Three target groups have been identified, according to James. First the businesses in the market and how Lloyd's as the franchisor can give "additional value" to each company and how best to use it.

Second, the brokers who work and place business in the market.

Third, what he called the "end users". These are the risk managers, capital providers, investment banks, analysts, governments and, of course, the media. "These stakeholder groups will have slightly different views of the brand and its strengths. This is why we have sent marketors and researchers into the market to define what we are," James says.

The appeal of Lloyd's has always been its creativity and diversity, but for capital providers the licensing agreements are very attractive.

Edward Lloyd's decision in 1688 to turn his coffee house into a thriving information centre for sea captains and merchants is the kind of heritage and cachet other financial services brands cannot rival. This mysticism resonates today and opens doors in Shanghai.

"Of course our name gets you a meeting with government officials and is why China will open up for us in the future," says James.

So has the market's move towards permanent capital and away from the individual Names made life easier?

"The individual unlimited Names I have met recently have been hugely supportive for us to pursue this exercise.

So will Lloyd's, one day, become the Coke of the insurance world? James says: "This will take time and anyone who says they can define the brand quicker than five to ten years is frankly lying."