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Smoothies, banks and the trust gap

December 9, 2009

Everyone knows that many banks are still in trouble and most people have a clear idea where the blame lies, with the banks themselves. Quite simply, there’s no love lost between bank customers and the executives who are seen as part of a financial establishment that’s taken advantage of exploitable opportunities, often at the expense of the customer and taxpayer.

A bank should only go begging to its customers for understanding if there was a well of support and a high degree of respect for the brand and the category. Anything short of a stellar reputation and it’s going to end badly. Now is not the time for such a plea.

However, Westpac in Australia seem oblivious to current sentiment.  The bank sent out an email film to its customers explaining in the most patronizing way how the financial system worked and why bank rates where heading higher.

Given what people have been through with banks and the endless press on bonuses and the stratospheric pay packages of banking’s top level, it’s impossible to understand how Westpac’s customer base could be sympathetic to the plight of a bank who now faces higher costs for borrowing money.

One can just imagine how this film came to be, harried marketing executives believing that if only the ignorant public could understand the reasons why money now cost more, things could be better, taking this thought to their ad agency and getting them to make an “educational film”. The problem here is that the voice is all wrong, there’s no empathy, understanding or even a recognition of some intelligence on the part of their customers. The fact this made it though the system shows an institution with a very low EQ and one that fill find its little exercise in education ends up losing it a ton of valuable customers.

Banking still has a lot to learn from how to respond to the current crisis. It does not seem like any of them get it, most don’t want to acknowledge the realities of a changed context and a changed relationship. Most of the recent marketing efforts fall short, they show a lack of an insight and an inherent desire to turn the clock back to the days of old.

Recent research data from Bloomberg shows that Americans are pretty angry with bankers.

“Two-thirds of Americans say they have an unfavorable view of financial
executives. More than half say big financial companies, which are
expected to pay record yearend bonuses, are out only to enrich
themselves and also should not have received government aid.

The incumbents failure to get it right, could leave the door open to a smart opportunist who gets exactly what the consumer is looking for now, doesn’t show the same patronizing attitude of old and finds a way to provide superior services at a much lower cost. 

Posted by Ed Cotton

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