Flagstar Bank’s “We’re Different” Brand Ads

Flagstar Bank debuted a new brand campaign during the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Summer Olympics. Spots depict consumers with boxes on their heads who need to “open their eyes” to Flagstar’s products and services. Here’s the video:

“People are different and want different things from their bank.”
David Joyce, VP/Mktg Director
Flagstar Bank

In a press release, David Joyce, VP/Marketing Director at Flagstar, said the campaign’s new tagline, “The New Wave in Banking,” shows the bank understands “people are different and want different things from their bank.”

Flagstar’s brand ad positions the bank as a ‘unique alternative’ for ‘a different kind of people’ without ever really defining how the bank is unique or how the target audience is different. You can read the whole script on page 2.

The spot’s conceptual device – putting boxes over people’s heads – creates a surreal world that feels oddly in contrast with the idea that “people are different.” Instead, they are faceless, lifeless robots, waiting for liberation. The somber, three-step German polka soundtrack adds to the strange vibe. Ooom-paa-paa, ooom-paa-paa.

Flagstar’s brand strategy is similar to the one used by Pemco Insurance. To paraphrase, it goes something like this: “Everyone is different, and for people who are different like you, we’re your kind of bank – different.” Pemco takes a more direct approach while injecting a heavy dose of satire. Enjoy this spot:

If you liked that spot, here’s another one from Pemco, “Blue Tarp Camper.”


The Pemco spots are arguably the more effective way to deliver the “We’re-Different-Like-You” strategy. They make clear statements about how they are “different like you.” Like the Obsessive Compulsive Recyler, Pemco believes in doing the right thing even if it means going to tedious extremes. And like the intrepid Blue Tarp Campers, nothing will deter Pemco, certainly not Northwest rain. Pemco has a whole series of these lifestyle vignettes (around 20 total), so they’ve clearly given this some thought.

The Flagstar Bank delivery of the “We’re-Different-Like-You” strategy feels shallow and empty.

Key Takeaway: Relevant differentiation is the key to branding. Simply claiming your different doesn’t cut it. You actually have to be different. Sure you can say you’re different even if you aren’t (and many financial institutions do it). But be prepared for people’s disappointment if the experience you deliver is less different than people expect. Brand gaps like these can come back to bite you…hard.

Flagstar’s campaign includes television, print, radio, Web and in-branch advertising and is scheduled to run in Flagstar’s three banking states of Michigan, Indiana and Georgia. Joyce called it the largest brand campaign in the bank’s history.

SMZ Advertising in Troy, Michigan, where the $14.6 billion dollar bank is headquartered, created the campaign for Flagstar.

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