I really feel sorry for the Free Checking account these days.
And I feel sorry for “free checking” accounts these days.
Where once it was the toast of the town, it has become the ugly duckling of the checking account family.
During the 1980s and most of the 1990s, many banks and credit unions named their free checking accounts Totally Free Checking or Free Checking.
Forget near zero interest rates and the damage they are inflicting upon savers.
Forget the battle over Free Checking and whether or not it is a profitable account.
The weekly update of branch closures has disappeared.
Yes, Dodd-Frank continues looming large in the background. Its implementation is like death by a thousand cuts.
I’m going to give you readers a break today by not ranting on and on about the second housing bubble inflating before our very eyes.
But don’t worry, I’ll return to it soon.
In the meantime, my spouse received a piece of marketing mail the other day that immediately caught my attention in a negative way.
Of course, the copywriter for this mailing is probably cheering that his trick worked on me – and undoubtedly lots of other members of the target audience.
The first thing I do when I get a newspaper in my hands is to page through it looking for all the bank and credit union ads.
Yes, I’m a bit strange.
In fact, one of my biggest thrills is finding an out-of-area newspaper left behind at the local coffee shop.
I can’t help myself – it’s a requirement for a blogger about consumer banking.
Yes, a rare newspaper ad for Business Checking.
What could possibly make such an ad rare?
Easy – the fact that it exists.
As a long-time bank marketer and now a blogger of banking topics I spend a part of everyday trolling through newspapers and magazines seeking print ads from banks and credit unions.
Print ads provide an insight into what bankers believe to be important at the moment.
Or maybe it’s EVP of Checking Products.
While many banks, and likely some credit unions, look to hire a senior level person to head up mobile banking initiatives and another for social media management, one really critical position remains unfilled.
One of the hottest job openings in banking today is the compliance officer.
Before taking the job, I wonder if it occurred to Mr. Johnson that saving JCPenny from itself might be an impossible task. After all, the grand old retailer had attempted several unsuccessful makeovers in the past.
As a young bank marketer during the 1970s one of the memorable bits of information I was given concerned the use of teaser copy on the outside of direct mail envelopes.
In a nutshell, this sage advice consisted of the following:
Put teaser copy on the envelopes going to prospects.
When does donated money become less about helping others and more about trying to burnish your own image?
In Tuesday’s blog I mentioned that during 2011 Bank of America donated $24.6 million dollars to nonprofit organizations in California.
How do I know this?
You can have the most sought-after product in the market but unless you aggressively promote it on an ongoing basis, it’s just another product.
As an avid follower of bank and credit union marketing, I’ve come to the conclusion that most marketers believe the mere presence of the Free Checking account is sufficient to grow checking account market share.
As a result, these banks and credit unions fail to put adequate – if any – marketing effort behind their FREE Checking accounts.
I find it both astonishing and disappointing that so many people either in banking or writing about banking believe the free checking account is the source of today’s bank profitability problems.
I was reminded of this Tuesday after reading Brett King’s article, “Why Durbin will Kill the Branch,” forwarded to me by my blogging partner Joe Swatek. Joe knows that nothing gets me on my soapbox quicker than an article denigrating free checking.
It’s shocking what passes as objective journalism these days.
Currently, there are two different story lines being pursued both online and in the traditional media – both of which are fraught with errors. And both of which are near and dear to me – a financial services marketer.
The first is the ongoing claptrap about the pending demise of free checking. If you believe all the media stories about this much-loved account, you’d think that the survival of consumer banking depended solely on its elimination. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The secret to cutting through the clutter with direct mail is always in plain sight when you sort through the mail you receive at home every day.
Unfortunately, many of the marketing folks creating direct mail pieces and approving them appear blind to this secret clearly visible to them.
Over the years, I’ve become convinced that the creative types working for general media agencies either are unaware of this secret or choose to ignore it for aesthetics reasons. It’s simply impossible to ignore if you spend any time studying an assortment of direct mail samples which is mandatory to be successful in this channel.
One of the things I enjoy about receiving mail at home is the occasional surprise waiting in the mailbox. No, it’s not the Priority Mail boxes containing my latest eBay purchase that surprise me. After all, I’ve been excitedly expecting them.
No, it’s the unexpected piece of mail that I find intriguing.
When a mega-bank is found guilty of misdeeds and is fined in the millions of dollars, who actually pays the fine?
“Wells Fargo donates for winter shelters” reads the big bold headline in the Tuesday edition of The Sacramento Bee. Reading the article I learn that the wonderful, giving folks at Wells Fargo recently donated $75,000 to cover a shortfall in one of Sacramento’s homeless shelter programs.
On the surface, this is good news for the growing population of homeless folks living in the Sacramento area.
The death of direct mail has been greatly exaggerated!
Every day when the mail arrives, I anxiously sort through the pile hoping to see a mailer from one of the local community banks or credit unions. Day after day the result is the same – NOTHING!
Oh, wait a minute…I forgot about an occasional co-branded package where my local credit union is attempting to sell me life insurance, dental insurance, or some other product that loosely falls into the financial services bucket. These mailers don’t count. I see them as a nuisance – and bad for brand building.
It never ceases to amaze me that when something new and revolutionary comes along it takes the majority of folks a very long time before adopting it.
For some odd reason, the majority prefer to sit back – waiting to see if it actually delivers the results promised.
By the time it becomes overwhelmingly obvious that it does, in fact, work, the early adopters have already grabbed more than their normal share of business.
Since the mid-1980s, free checking was king of the hill until a few bullies showed up a couple of years ago and attempted to throw it off the hill.
These bullies go by the names of Chase, Bank of America, Citibank, and Wells Fargo.
We know they are bullies by the way they treat others – particularly those who are smaller, including consumers, community banks, and credit unions.
“Good initiative – poor judgment.”
I can’t remember how many times I heard this statement from the person in charge during my three years in the Army over 40 years ago.
It was burned into my memory so that I would never forget the importance of due diligence before making any decision.
Well, it definitely applies to the headline at the top of this credit union ad appearing in last Sunday’s newspaper.
Take credit where credit is due!
Whenever I encounter a media story about some anonymous donor donating a huge sum of money to a school, charity, or hospital, one of the first things that comes to mind is the philosophical question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
This question comes to my mind as I wonder why this person, or company, this “tree,” wouldn’t want to get credit for such a wonderful deed.