In Our Opinion

Suffering from sameness

By June 19, 2015 January 21st, 2019 No Comments

Recently, as the seniors at the New England School for Financial Studies wrapped up their final projects (annual meetings presenting the results from the week-long bank simulation), Dr. John P. Dory, Associate Professor of Management and Director of the Doctoral Program
Lubin Graduate School of Business at Pace University praised their hard work, then asked them a question. . .

Given that each bank represented had presented essentially the same strategy – improving technology, increasing cross-sell, appealing to millennials, focusing on their people – what was going to prevent them from ending up right where they had started?

As financial marketers, we see a lot of organizations suffering from this sameness. So what can you do to differentiate your organization from the competition?

Have some fun! Growing up, local furniture retailers Jordan’s and Bernie & Phyl’s produced commercials that were funny and/or memorable. But somewhere along the way they “grew up” and their ads became very serious and overly-sincere (like this one where Eliot just “doesn’t get it.”)

With commercials that often feature a member of the organization’s team talking about the institution’s commitment to community, or affordability, or mutuality, too many community banks suffer from this abundance of over-sincerity, leaving many looking (and sounding) the same.

That’s not to say we should abandon our core messaging, but perhaps we can take ourselves a little less seriously – be a little irreverent, inject a little color, and have a little fun.

This campaign from 2007 shows it doesn’t take much to have a little fun.

Price it right Inevitably during conversations about deposit acquisition, a client will bring out a rate survey of local banks and, with the rare exception, note that their rates are in-line with the market. Which is another way of saying that they are the same.

Using the furniture industry again, a retailer like Bob of Bob’s Discount Furniture doesn’t promote the fact that his prices are the same as everyone else – he focuses on the idea that you can get the same quality at a significant discount. His pricing and message about “untouchable values” are designed to acquire new business.

What can a bank or credit union learn from Bob? If you are looking to acquire deposits you need an acquisition rate.

Break out of the branch Entering college I opened my first checking account with BayBank – an institution that was eventually absorbed into what is now Bank of America, but that is looked back upon fondly by many New Englanders. On the cutting edge of technologies like ATMs and Online Banking, BayBank was unafraid to do things differently, or to break out of the bank.

For example, in 1990, when attending the Head of Charles in Boston, I was surprised to find I could use my new BayBank ATM card at one of a bank of ATMs brought to the venue on the back of a truck – nothing new today, but certainly radical for it’s time.

(Here’s a flashback – a BayBank commercial from 1987)

So to put a spin on Dr. Dory’s question – what can you do to break the banking boredom?