Ally Bank, still stuck at halfway

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

20 September 2011

Ally Bank misses the anger so it’s largely forgotten

Back when Ally Bank first launched two years ago, I thought it had inched toward the sweet spot when it came to bank marketing. Its “straightforwardness” brand was positioned against other banks, whose reputation had dropped like a stone in the minds of consumers. Even the name of Ally suggested as much, being an ally of the consumer without serving its own self-interest.

Ally’s problem, at least at that moment, was that it came from GMAC, which already had its own reputation problems. No doubt that served as the reason for the name change, but there was little hope Ally could actually fulfill its brand promise. The name change felt like a swindle, especially when it was, in essence, positioned against itself.

Now, a year later, Ally is breaking out a new brand campaign centered around, “No nonsense. Just People Sense.” In the spots, a man on the street is given thousands of dollars to hold and the video taping reveals that the man doesn’t take “one dollar.” Therefore, why would you want a bank to hold your money when it charges you fees to hold it? 

“It’s not positioned emotionally and tonally against the competition and certainly doesn’t build on the emotional anger consumers have about banks.”

My take is that Ally Bank has sufficiently distanced itself from GMAC that the brand can be fulfilled and the recent spots certainly are positioned against the self-interest of banks. Changing the name and brand was a good idea.

But Ally Bank is still stuck at the halfway point. The position is right, but it’s played out in a comical and very soft way. It’s not positioned emotionally and tonally against the competition and certainly doesn’t build on the emotional anger consumers have about banks.

Tone is often the forgotten component in brand positioning. Many companies believe it’s all about words – “We’ll just say it!” – but fail to realize that, if they are not positioned against the competition emotionally and tonally, they will not get noticed.

If your brand is not emotional, it simply will not work. If the tone of the brand marketing is the same as the competition, the brand is not truly positioned against the rest.


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