Debit fees are gone, but damage already done

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

3 November 2011

Those fees just fed into the belief that banks are crooks

In their effort to gauge just how disgruntled bank brands could make their customers for no good reason, Bank of America, Suntrust and Regions will be doing away with the $5 debit fees they proposed just a few months ago.

“Once a brand is created, whether an effective or an ineffective one, changing consumer beliefs can be both difficult and expensive. It costs much less to make the right decision the first time around.”

debit fees
This consumer anger is not just exclusive to banking. It was also a just few months ago that Netflix made the decision to split into Netflix and Qwikster to only double back and stay exclusively Netflix. Or what about the new Gap logo? That one sure didn’t last long, although my feeling is that Gap should’ve stuck to its guns on that one.

Business decisions that affect brand need to be made carefully and, if the decision represents a complete 180 degree rotation, then the plan should be culled a bit more before being implemented. What’s happened here is that businesses such banks and Netflix have underestimated the anger that exists among consumers.

The problem with backtracking is that it never backtracks completely. Ground is always lost. Even if a decision was based on good intentions, then you backtrack, the brand has lost some ability to resonate with customers. More dangerously, if the decision is to benefit the company, consumers realize their lack of value – and that makes them angry. Either way the waterhole is poisoned.

The culprit of many of these bad decisions decisions if often the lack of research. Over the years, I have worked with or read about companies undoing decisions they made. At the root of most of them was using research that wasn’t research projectable to the larger audience.

Let me explain: Focus groups and online surveys tell you nothing. You cannot project the results because they are affected by group dynamics, speak only to the outliners and are not a large enough sample to be quantitative.

Even quantitative research performed today is often meaningless because only attitude and usage are asked, and not the meaningful questions that drive human behavior.

A brand launch is much easier than a rebrand for the simple reason that a brand launch starts with a clean slate. Once a brand is created, whether an effective or an ineffective one, changing consumer beliefs can be both difficult and expensive. It costs much less to make the right decision the first time around.

So, yes, debit fees are gone. But they should never have been charged in the first place.

See more posts in the following related categories: bank debit fees Bank of America fees brand launch Netflix Qwikster fiasco rebranding

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