I recently went to Wachovia to open a checking account for my 16-year-old daughter. She was especially excited about getting her very own debit card – in particular her ability to choose the design for her card. She didn’t like the “boring standard debit card” that I used, but thought the “Hello Kitty” debit card her older sister had been able to choose at Bank of America was really “cool!”
Unfortunately, she will have to be content with the “same boring debit card that I use” because Wachovia apparently decided to do away with designer cards, which means that Wachovia even decided not to offer a table stake. A table stake is something you have to have to even play in the game because everyone has them, like good service or free checking. Or designer debit cards.
Table stakes rule the banking industry. Most market table stakes because they believe it creates preference. It doesn’t, because everyone has them. But you must have them, otherwise you are eliminated from consideration.
Bank of America, the market leader, is the king of table stakes, but it can play that defensive game because of its leadership position. (And, scarily enough, it does a better job of brand than most of its competitors.) Bank of America, like most of its competitors, has designer debit cards.
Unfortunately, not offering the table stake of a designer debit card has continued to be an issue for my headstrong teen. Just this morning, she once again asked me when we could switch her account to Bank of America.
I asked here if she was really willing to go through the inconvenience of switching banks because of a “designer” debit card? Her response: An emphatic “Yes!” She believes the choice of design is important because it’s a reflection of her. Apparently, she has even discussed banks and debit cards with her friends.
Here’s the thing, we would never tell a financial institution to attempt to win potential customers on what should be a table stake. But not even having one of them may cost it share.
In this case, there seems to be an indifference to what the category is embracing as a given.
You can’t differentiate by copying the market leader in your offerings and promises. It won’t create preference but it can cause you to be eliminated from the considered set. Ignore it at your own risk.
It’s pure brand laziness if you allow the market leader to differentiate itself by something this simple. Ignore the simple and you deserve to loose market share —shame on you.
You cannot let free checking; low rates, good service and designer debit cards be the reason a potential customer does not choose you.
As much as it’s a hassle to change banks, I think it is much worse listening to a teenager continuing to bagger about a debit card. I’ve banked with Wachovia for eight years now and we may part over something as minor as a picture on a debit card. Guess they didn’t know their customer as well as they thought they did.
And believe me when my daughter gets her new debit card, I’m sure all of her 784 Facebook friends will hear about it.