You Cannot Advertise Your Way To Greatness

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In a recent article published in one of those advertising industry publications, the CMO of a rather large bank was quoted as saying:

We want to become an iconic brand that people love.”

And I want to be the starting quarterback of the New England Patriots and have beautiful models throw themselves at me.

And you know what? I think I have a better chance of achieving my fantasy, than the bank CMO does of achieving his/hers.

The CMO went on to say “Through ongoing brand tacking, we know we always outperform our peers when it comes to being emotionally relevant to people. The new campaign gives us a unique opportunity to talk about who we are.”

(Note: I’m pretty sure that should be “brand tracking”, but I cut and paste it from the article, so if it is wrong, it’s not my typo).

Note to CMO: Nobody cares who you are. To become an iconic brand that people love, it takes a lot more than a new ad campaign.

You cannot advertise your way to greatness.

Sure, some iconic brands — Apple and Nike, for instance — have memorable advertising campaigns that build on, support, or enhance their iconicosity.

But when you look at those firms, there’s something else that helps them achieve high iconicosity. In Apple’s case it’s customers who are really into computer-aided graphics and design, and in Nike’s case it’s athletes and aspiring athletes.

What does a bank have? Checking account fanatics? Bill pay aficionados? Even if the bank in question here had the greatest customer service in the world, guess what? I want to do business with a bank where I don’t need service, where I don’t need to talk to them in the first place. And I’m not alone.

The financial services firm that comes closest to achieving iconic status is USAA. What’s their tag line? Where’s their multi-gazillion ad campaign? You don’t know and they don’t have one.

USAA achieved its status over a period of many years by systematically and strategically investing in a set of capabilities to execute on a well-thought out, well-understood strategy.

I bet that if you asked 10 different senior execs at the above CMO’s bank what the bank’s strategy is, and what capabilities they need to build to execute that strategy, you’d get 10 different answers.

You cannot advertise your way to greatness.

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