This Branch Goes To Two

Every thing you need to know about life can be learned from just three movies:

1) Animal House. The lesson from Animal House is “never give up.” Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! Sometimes just one really futile and stupid gesture is all it takes to get you out of a bad situation.

2) Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The lesson here is “never judge a book by its cover.” That harmless-looking little bunny rabbit might just gouge your eyes out. Run away! Run away!

3) This is Spinal Tap. This movie’s lesson is “never let conventions limit your thinking.” In one scene, Nigel, the guitar player, is showing Marty, the movie’s director, his amp:

Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and…
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it’s louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don’t know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Marty DiBergi: Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven.

This is not simply a funny scene from a movie. It’s an exposition of the limitations of thinking within societal conventions. Why is it that, in a world where amps go to 10, an amp can’t go to eleven? It’s also a treatise on the harmful effects of society’s imposition of labels. Does labeling the top mark on the amp 11 make it any different or better? (If you believe all this, you’re a moron, but let’s run with it for a moment).


Why am I bringing this all up on a blog about marketing and banking?

Because today’s bankers are like Nigel. Except they’re not talking about amplifiers, they’re talking about bank branches. BAI recently wrote:

“Draconian reductions in branch networks are not necessary for banks that shift to smaller, more efficient platforms for meeting customer needs.”

And about a year ago, Wall Street Journal published this:

“Welcome to the incredibly shrinking bank branch. The “minibranch,” is the bank’s first effort to create a floor plan that can serve most of a customer’s basic needs in less than half the space of a traditional setup. The minibranches take up 2,000 square feet or less. Bank executives estimate the operating costs of the branches can be 40% to 50% below traditional branches.”


I’m trying to imagine a bank’s executive team conversation about what to do with their branch network. Just for the hell of it, let’s assume that two of the execs are named Marty and Nigel (and if you want, feel free to imagine Nigel speaking with an English accent):

Marty: We need to find a way to reduce costs. Clearly the branch network is something we need to take a look at because it accounts for such a high percentage of our overall cost structure.

Nigel: I know what we can do. Let’s make the branches smaller. Instead of 10,000 square feet branches, we can make them 2,000 square feet.

Marty: Will that make the branches better at bringing in new business, reducing non-essential branch visits, and better serving the branch transaction volume?

Nigel: [pause] These go to two.


I could write another 10,000 words on this. But I think I’ve made my point. And I think I hear “Lick My Love Pump” playing on the radio. 

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