Sparked by a recent article in the New York Times Business Section, our president, Stewart Rose, recently wrote a one page brief. A full white paper will be available to help banks take the next steps in fixing their image.
“Banks Need an Image Fix – Now”
It’s not just the largest banks that are being painted with an image of excess and greed. That picture of bankers is permeating into the world of community banks as well. A February 5th 2009 article on the front page of the business section of The New York Times cites, “It’s not just big banks like Citigroup. Small and midsize banks lavish perks on their executives, too, and often sweeten salaries and bonuses with fringe benefits.” The article goes on to mention what it considers excesses at several banks that took TARP funds, including, Bank of the Ozarks and Great Southern Bancorp. TARP funds or not, the media is bringing pay and perks to the attention of shareholders and, perhaps more importantly, customers. No matter what the justification, banks are on the defense. The CEO is in a glass house.
Banks need to move quickly to get their own message out there before the damage gets worse. The question is – what positive message should banks convey? What message will boost their image in today’s economic crisis? Take a close look at what the American consumer wants most today – answers. Their confidence level is at an all time low. They have been turned upside down by this economic calamity. Facing the dramatic erosion of their retirement assets, the plummeting value of their homes, and the increasing uncertainty of their jobs, they are scared and confused and looking for simple and easy to understand answers.
Banks have an opportunity to be there to provide those answers. They can be the source of information that helps their customers make better decisions and avoid mistakes as they go through life – buying a house, saving for retirement, managing their debt with their life settlement, sending kids to college, getting their estate in order. This education based marketing approach means going beyond what products “the bank” offers to include helpful information on what “the customer” needs.
This value added service can be provided quickly and at a low cost by leveraging the many points of customer contact that already exist. An education based marketing approach becomes the backbone for a positive “education first” message. It’s a powerful story banks can tell to the media, stockholders, and customers. By doing it right, not only will banks take the offense in shaping a positive image, but they will be further rewarded with more customer loyalty and increased sales.