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Banking in the Me-conomy

Before we talk about banks, let’s talk about airlines. Think back to 1998 – did you have a favorite airline? Maybe there was one that you used most frequently, but more than likely you had a bunch you didn’t like – including the one you flew with more than the others. Tight seats, expensive tickets, passenger hierarchy, long delays, robotic staff and bad service;  it was an industry ripe for change and, fortunately for consumers, change came. Enter NewAir, a carrier based on the simple premise of “bringing humanity back to air travel.” And guess what? It stuck – today you know NewAir as JetBlue.

At American Banker’s Marketing & Innovation Symposium on December 5-6, it was apparent that some of banking’s biggest brands are taking a page out of JetBlue’s playbook at a time when banking resembles the airline industry in the 90’s , only worse:

  • Vinoo Vijay, CMO at TD Bank, talked about using clear, truthful messaging to cut through industry hang-ups and deliver “human banking.”
  • Meredith Verdone, SVP/CMO Enterprise Marketing at Bank of America, spoke about pushing aside standard industry excuses to usher the bank into the “human era.”
  • Peter Eliopoulos, SVP/CMO at M&T Bank, talked about leveraging digital channels to connect intelligently with consumers where and when it matters most to them, a decidedly personal and human shift from traditional mass media spend.

Coming out of the financial crisis, banks made a habit of explaining themselves and justifying their right to remain your bank. They did this by talking about themselves, a lot. Well … too much, actually, and for consumers it all blended into an undertone they just didn’t hear and frankly, started to ignore. Maria Veltre, SVP/CMO at Fifth Third Bank, summed it up well by citing a brand loyalty comparison where bank brands just barely edged out facial tissue and ranked significantly lower than soap and cigarette brands.

“Human banking” is about meeting consumers openly in the meconomy: welcoming them into the fold by making “what’s in it for me” readily apparent and giving generously in ways that matter to consumers. Some examples include Bank of America’s partnership with the Khan Academy (providing free online financial literacy content) and Santander’s Extra20 Checking account where a monthly direct-deposit and 2 bill-pays trigger a US$20 per month bonus to the account holder. Even simpler? How about TD’s free pens, dog treats at the teller counter, free coin-counting and Sunday hours.

So, it’s not BankBlue yet (and it may well never be) but if banking human continues in the right direction, maybe before long you will have a favorite bank. You think?

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