The degree of skepticism, cynicism, mistrust and often loathing, that banks enjoy is fairly unique, comparable only, perhaps, to insurance companies. Oh, and ad agencies, too, I suppose.
To the extent that banks truly understand in how little regard they are held, it makes committing to a tagline a big challenge. To a hostile audience, a tagline can become just a setup line for some expression of hostility on the part of customers.
Chase What Matters.
“Yeah, right, like your bottom line for instance?” “It sounds like greed in sheep’s clothing.” “Chase what matters to whom, you evil leeches?”
Citi Never Sleeps. “Yeah, because they’re at it 24/7, cooking up new ways to screw us.”
With this in mind, I’d like to consider two Bank taglines that have caught my attention recently. I may have mentioned one of them in an earlier post, but I really don’t feel like digging into the archives, so if there’s some redundancy here, cut me some slack. Maybe what I have to say bears repeating, yes?
Fifth Third Bank’s tagline is The Curious Bank.
At first, I wasn’t taken with this line. Ever since they came up with their current brand name, I’ve been curious how such an unpronounceable name could ever have made it through the decision-making process. So that’s what I thought of first when I initially saw this tagline. “Hmm, yes, curious, indeed, that a bank could be so stupid as to choose this unpronounceable name. To speak nothing of the fact that “third” and “fifth” are generally the places that losers come in, trailing those who came in first and second.”
However, as happens with many good taglines, the full meaning of the line is only revealed over time as the advertising campaign plays out. Now that I’ve had time to experience some of that campaign, I like the sentiment the tagline expresses. It feels more open and less arrogant that most banks feel. Of course, they face the same problem that every bank faces. If your tagline feels sort of customer-friendly, it immediately, automatically strains credibility. Because anyone familiar with the business model upon which banks are built knows that their regular old retail customers are, from a purely business perspective, the enemy. And those who aren’t familiar with the bank business model will still know that such a customer-friendly tagline is almost certainly a lie, because we’ve all experienced first hand how dismissive, unforgiving, and inhuman banks are in their treatment of even their most loyal, longstanding customers. Of course there are outliers, people who don’t have this loathing for banks. My sister, for instances, loves her bank. Of course, she also loves the federal government, so go figure.
At the risk of making this discussion of The Curious Bank all about me, I must inject this: The tagline reminds of me of a tagline I tried like crazy to sell to Pearle Vision Centers way back when they were a thriving enterprise. My good friend and hero, the late Scott Ferraiolo, had written their iconic tagline, Nobody Cares For Eyes More Than Pearle, and I had made it my mission to supplant that tagline with one of my own. The line I advocated for was Nosey Eyecare. Basically the same thought as The Curious Bank, the idea being that the more we know about you, the better we can serve you. Ironically, the client squinted at, and ultimately couldn’t see, the brilliance of this line.
The other bank that got my attention is Ally Bank. Their tagline is
No Nonsense. Just People Sense.
This is an even more audacious, hard-to-buy line than even Fifth Third’s. No nonsense? Really? At a BANK? And people sense on top of it?
Get outta here. Who you kiddin’?
What I like about these lines is that, in theory, they both give their respective banks something to live up to and be held accountable for. If either of these banks could actually fulfill on their promise, wow, that would be unprecedented in banking history.
Aside from the small matter of not being credible, I like what they’re trying to convey. It’s a step in the right direction. And in both cases, the campaigns these lines anchor seem to be providing some reason to believe the tagline, or at least to consider suspending belief for a little while, until it becomes apparent that it’s all a big lie, as usual.