Monday, September 14, 2009

Tired of High Fructose Banking

Pre or post financial crisis meltdown have you gotten tired of high fructose retail banking? You know the type of banking I mean. The one where all the ads say we're the bank for you and all the fees say the bank giveth and the bank taketh away. Well, why do I bring this up? Because the best answers in marketing, branding, advertising and generating the social influence that changes consumer habits and practices and changes consumer behavior and attitudes on a large scale are always "abstract." These solutions "are so obvious they're not obvious."

In 1971 The Coca-Cola Company commissioned me to "identify future consumption drivers in soft drinks" because no one knew what people really wanted next. By removing high fructose corn syrup from soft drinks we created a new category of beverages called New Age Soft Drinks technically defined as soft drinks with no corn syrup consumers perceived more healthful and thirst quenching aka today's Vitamin Water.

So, "abstractly," what would you have if you removed all the corn syrup from banking? Would Wells Fargo really be able to "take you to the next stage" (terrible "branding" and proof that branding is something you do when you don't really have anything important to say).

Washington Mutual was advised by me to pursue a "Give a man a fish and he can feed himself for a day, but teach a man to fish and he can feed himself, and others, for a lifetime" strategy to 1) address opportunities presenting themselves via pre-crisis banking industry deregulation, and 2) to attact depositors with higher disposable incomes to fuel growth. Because their free checking for life strategy only appealed to bottom feeders who didn't have disposable income to fuel the banks growth Washington Mutual fell to America's financial crisis - finally swallowed by Moby Chase. Score: Straight-forward, linear-thinking, problem solvers 1 / Forward-thinking, outward looking executives 0.

One hopes the current and post crisis banking industry will not pursue the airline industry's nickle and dime approach to serving customers. It's so PC - and that does not stand for  "politically correct." It stands for those great Apple ads where Apple lets Microsoft skewer itself with its own PC. One hopes retail banks will eliminate the corn syrup. Of course, if the banks regard their business as does The Coca-Cola Company, they really won't give a rats ass about you and me because the bulk of their business, like Coke's is in the commercial business, or high fructose corn syrup segment. Maybe that's why Coke's got a guy whose only claim to fame is launching his own $ 7 million frozen novelty line before he took over running Coke's global innovation business. How's this JV entrepreneur supposed to impact consumer behavior in a business where one share point is worth over half a billion dollars? Well, he doesn't - which is why the carbonated business has been in decline for 4 years and Coke outsources all of its innovation to the JV start up businesses they acquire. It's like setting up an inexperienced Tom Cruise to take on high powered Jack Nicholson in the movie "A Few Good Men." We're not supposed to win. But we can still rant like pawns.

A fructose free retail banking system would find me among their depositors in a heartbeat. I wouldn't look at their brick and mortar tellers like car salespeople. Why? Because their product, though a commodity, would remain unchanged, their "message" would exert greater social-cultural pull over my decision making processes. Of what benefit is this? The strategy, in computer programmer terms, would negate the "kill bits" that depress my response to their advertising, marketing and branding.

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