STRNLE

In the final round of the TV gameshow Wheel of Fortune, contestants used to pick six letters. But almost everyone always picked the same six letters — S, T, R, N, L and E — and often in the same sequence.

It became so common that STRNLE grew into it’s own acronym, pronounced “stroonle” (sounds like “strudel”).

By 1988, the show’s producers changed the game’s format to address this predictability. Since then, those six STRNLE letters are gimmees. Now contestants get to pick four letters in addition to the ones provided.

The world of financial brands are way overdue for a STRNLE overhaul. Invariably, when you ask a financial institution what differentiates them, you almost always get the same answer: “It’s our caring, responsive and personal service.”

You know what acronym that makes? CRAP.

Reality Checks:

  • Warm, friendly, personal service is the bare minimum in financial services. It isn’t enough to build a brand around. It just gets you to first base.
  • “Service” may be one your organization’s core competencies, but it’s highly unlikely that it’s at a level much different than your competitors.

For most banks and credit unions, saying “service is what differentiates us” would be like Nike saying quality shoes is what differentiates them. Nike may be in the shoe business, but that isn’t what differentiates them. Similarly, if you’re in the financial services industry, you better have quality service because that’s what you’re selling.

The STRNLE reflex feels good because it’s totally safe. It doesn’t require an ounce of courage, so it never gets questioned — always lots of head nods, “That’s right! It’s our service!” The trouble is, it leads to CRAP brands. You simply can’t distinguish yourself by merely meeting people’s basic service expectations.

Besides, everyone is delivering CRAP service. At least that’s what they all say they’re delivering.

Key Takeaway: Avoid the pseudo-safety of CRAP traps. Find your own niche. Focus on a narrowly targeted audience and meet their specific needs. That’s how great brands are built.

Further Reading: Service Is Not What Differentiates You

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