The opportunity for the banking category to rise again is now

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

18 October 2010

The anger is directed elsewhere now

A thought for the banking category: The time is right to recapture the imagination of target audiences.

But I don’t have my fingers crossed even though there is opportunity for banks.

As many of us know, Americans have been very angry at banks during the recent economic slump because they blame the banking category for the situation. At Stealing Share, we’ve conducted research that proves it and the anger was very real.

“But attention has been focused elsewhere at the moment, which means a bold bank that’s willing to change can take advantage. Banks have permission now.”

But I sense there’s a temporary shift that allows the big banks an opportunity to summon up a stronger emotional connection with target audiences who are turning their anger elsewhere, primarily toward government and the political parities who are being held as accomplices. The coming mid-term elections are stirring this up as well as the releases of the documentary The Inside Job and the Michael Lewis book, The Big Short.

The big banks have been carrying the brunt of this anger for the last few years – and not without good reason. But attention has been focused elsewhere at the moment, which means a bold bank that’s willing to change can take advantage. Banks have permission now.

banking category

However, I fear no bank will do anything about for a few reasons. For one, they are making money again (although after many cuts and other operational reforms). Citigroup just announced a $2.2 billion profit, coming off the heels of financially sound reports from Chase and soon to be followed by earnings reports from Bank of America and Wells Fargo later this week.

In addition, the banking category has been among the worst industries when it comes to marketing the same, old tired messages. Banks try to get you to switch based on things you already have (ATMs, free checking, cash depositing at an ATM, mobile banking, etc.) and not about who you are when you use that bank brand. They simply don’t have it in their DNA to think outside themselves.

Instead, the banks will be satisfied with the status quo and forget about the bad times they left behind. That’s a dangerous tactic because the attention is sure to come back on them, especially as the reports continue of their collective financial health and because anger remains the emotional trigger in switching primary financial institutions.

Those most likely to switch – and that group represents all of us at one point or another – are the result of a collection of disappointments with their current primary financial institution that becomes emotional enough to think about switching. Those situations will not go away.

It’s only a matter of time until that window of opportunity – to find ways to be more meaningful, to better serve its customers with new models, and to project a positive emotion – closes shut. The one(s) who take advantage will transform the industry and put themselves in a leadership position.

Sadly for them, I don’t see anyone stepping forward.

See more posts in the following related categories: bank brands Bank of America banking category Chase Wells Fargo

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