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Huntington Bank’s ad campaign gets its half right

I haven’t seen the ads yet, but I can tell right away that the strategy of Huntington Bank’s new advertising is right. But the tone is all wrong.

The Ohio-based bank will reveal a new campaign today that demonstrates how Huntington would treat a situation and how a competitor would. For example, a banker from the competition hides behind ferns from a small business customer, waiting for the bigger customers to come in.

rocky-river-huntington-branch-in-giant-eaglejpg-d6361857f386ce45Huntington is positioning itself against the competition and backing it up with a 24-hour grace period for overdrafts and other features. As the company states, the campaign is aimed at consumers who are tired of banking as usual and are looking for an alternative.

That’s smart. Our own research has shown that people are fed up with banks but rarely switch because they don’t believe it’ll be any better at another bank.

Got that. But, judging by the descriptions of the ads, a gut punch soon followed, especially as David Clifton, Huntington Bank chief customer and marketing officer said this: “We’re using humor to challenge the consumer’s complacency with their own banking relationship – mainly because we’ve seen customer satisfaction levels return to pre-crisis norms, indicating that the bad behavior of banks has come to be accepted by the consumer.”

So, you’re going to wake consumers up from their slumber with humor? That’s not the right tone at all. Because of the perceived difficulty in switching banks, the ones most likely to switch are the angriest. In fact, our own research has shown that all of us reach a point where we are angry enough at our primary financial institution to think about switching. It’s at that moment when a competitor should make its stand in our mind.

Here’s the other thing. You have to be careful with humor because it can obscure the message, meaning you might remember the ad but not who the ad is for. Too much of today’s ads are basically skits, like something Saturday Night Live might dream up. Think GEICO, whose market share hasn’t moved an inch despite a heavy media spend on humorous ads with funny characters.

In the world of banking, you want to reach prospects at their most vulnerable moment in the decision tree. At that point, they are looking for a bank that’s just as angry as they are. Not one that’s making fun of it.

2 thoughts on “Huntington Bank’s ad campaign gets its half right

  1. So you’re critiquing a campaign you haven’t even seen? That’s some quality journalism. Thanks for wasting my time.

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