Chase banks on fstr $

October 30, 2007

Chase Bank’s latest campaign is built around their faster ATMs – which, as per the ads, help you “gt $ fstr.”  With a looming credit crisis spurred by sub-prime mortgages and variable rate credit cards amidst a culture of over-spending and exceedingly poor savings discipline, is a faster ATM the best promise one of the country’s largest banks can come up with? Slow ATMs? Really?

I recently found myself in a bank in Brooklyn, the former Brooklyn Savings Bank (I think).  It is actually now a Chase branch.  And the disconnect between the setting and the so-called need-for-more-speed in our ATMs is, in this particular locale, extraordinary.

The former Brooklyn Saving Bank, built in the early 20th century, was, like many banks of the era, nothing short of a temple. In-laid marble floors; plaster reliefs on the walls; elaborate chandeliers hanging from the ceilings; an exquisite coffered ceiling; an overall explosion of fantastic Greek- and Roman-inspired details virtually everywhere you look.  A giant “gt $ fstr” sign in this setting is not only just a wee bit out of place, it grossly underscores how banks have changed from a place that both cherished and humbled you as a home for your money to a place that now offers no real relationship with you beyond the unavoidable interface to permit you access to your cash.

I can’t condemn Chase for our national sub-prime and credit concerns. If they even had any role in the situation, they are far from a major offender. But I can only imagine that a handful of misguided focus groups pointed to an opportunity for fstr ATMs and drove what had to be pretty significant investment in both product development and marketing. And, there we have Chase’s excuse for their most marketable point of difference: ATMs that will give you even less incentive to speak to a teller and spit you back out the door a good 23 seconds fstr than they used to.

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Promoting even less human connection than people get already is plainly a missed opportunity in engaging consumers for better financial behavior and in helping them to truly build a relationship with a bank. Perhaps the WaMus and Wells Fargos of the world were playing the relationship angle and Chase needed to find a different approach.  But a better mousetrap – especially one that dispenses cash a mere few seconds fstr than the next guy – is hardly the promise for a $100 billion company to build a brand on.

Chase deserves some props for preserving the architectural and cultural history on display at the former Brooklyn Savings Bank. But they could have truly done their brand a service with an initiative to probe more deeply into the banking relationships of a century ago, perhaps even building a story that echoed the esteem and wonder upon which the banking industry was founded – because, I guarantee this was not an industry built upon fstr ATMs.
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