Bank fees for checking and debit cards: Banks about to blow it again

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

3 October 2011

Banks act as if customers aren’t angry

It’s one thing to criticize the banks, such as Bank of America, for adding bank fees for debit cards. Or to rip apart the banks that are also going to charge for checking.

But what really gets me is how lamely competitors will try to take advantage of the anger lurking inside target audiences when it comes to banking.

First, the response from the competition will be soft in the belly. It’ll be cute and homey. And it will not be couched within the bank’s brand.

“The thing is, as our own research has shown, there is real anger at banks. (Gee, I wonder why?)”

Too bad. Because there is real opportunity here, and the banking industry has a habit screwing up its best marketing opportunities.

bank feesCitigroup, which has been touting its promise not to add bank fees for debit cards, will now charge customers $15 per month if their checking accounts have less than $6,000 in them. Is that “Citi never sleeps”? Yeah, it might be. But not for the good.

That themeline, which I like a lot less than it’s previous one, “Live Richly,” is supposed to be about Citi always being on the lookout for you. I guess it’s a lookout for Citi’s own bottom line.

My point here is that, once again, banks are about to blow it. Some will try to take advantage, but they’ll either not have the brand for it or their messaging will be tonally soft.

Some will act as though nothing has happened. “Nothing to see here, ma’am,” while still promoting the unemotional benefits such as “opportunity” (Bank of America) or “chasing what matters” (Chase).

The thing is, as our own research has shown, there is real anger at banks. (Gee, I wonder why?) A response by the competitor would work if it was edgy, straightforward and aligned with that anger.

More importantly, the marketing message of “we don’t charge you here!” should be built into brand. This is very crucial. If it is not related to your brand, audiences won’t hear you.

For example, while I don’t think Southwest Airlines gets it completely right, its campaign of not charging for luggage and change fees fits within its brand of “it’s now safe to move about the cabin,” which means you can actually afford to fly with us.

My prediction is that no bank will take advantage of this because the messaging will be soft and no one has the brand for it. Just like they fumbled the opportunity when banks were blamed for the collapse of the US economy.

What’s different now? Just more bank fees.

See more posts in the following related categories: bank brands bank fees bank marketing Bank of America debit Citi checking

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