.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;} Making Sense: e-Digest of Brand Thinking

Monday, June 06, 2005

A tag line is a terrible thing to waste.

I bank with BB&T, which happens to be the 9th largest financial holding company in the U.S. Most people don't know that. That included me until I looked them up for this post. Anyway, last week they sent me a flyer for their financial services. Down at the bottom was a bold line: "At BB&T Investment Services, you can tell we want your business."

I could see where they were going with that line -- service that stands out above and beyond the call of duty and all of that. But somehow, the line came across as soft, hokey and a little desperate.

It got me thinking, though. I wondered if all bank tag lines were as wimpy as BB&T's. So I looked up some of the big banks. I found out that not every bank uses a tag line, a fact that surprised me. But here are some of the taglines I did find:

Chase: Your choice. Your Chase.

Bank of America: Higher Standards

J.P. Morgan: World-class. Worldwide.

Bankers Trust: It's our name...and our promise.

Washington Mutual: We're really not like other banks

U.S. Bank: Other banks promise great service, U.S. Bank guarantees it.

Lloyds TSB
-- it's your money, make the most of it.

HSBC -- The world's local bank

I think the problem I have with the BB&T line is that it overstates the obvious. Every bank wants my business, not just BB&T. Likewise, every bank promises exceptional service in one way or another, not just BB&T. For me, there's nothing compelling here.

So what's the alternative? Let's look at Suntrust's new tag (again).

Seeing Beyond Money.

I like the thinking -- but it doesn't have me thinking about SunTrust.

Actually, it reminds of Citibank and the nice work they've been doing lately.

I think BB&T's works better in other media than print. "You can tell we want your business" needs the support of audio or video. For example, their radio commercials, which I hear every morning, convey it pretty well: a bank that bends over backwards for the customer, so you can -tell- they want your business (as opposed to every other financial services company, which also wants your business, but isn't doing anything to show you they mean it).

I thought it was weak, too, when I first heard it. But now that it's been out there for a few months (or more?), it's grown on me. It's not been enough to convince me to give them my business, but I think it conveys a specific image pretty well.
Actually, I am a BB&T customer. They were the only bank in Atlanta that would give me a DBA account without requiring that I have an expensive and useless business license. Gee, come to think of it, that is showing me that they really want my business. But the line still sounds hokey.
A Boston perspective:

Citizens Bank
Not Your Typical Bank

Completely undifferentiating, in my mind. Everyone wants to be different in this most commoditized of categories.

Bank of America
Higher Standards

Quite nice, I think. It is a leaderly, aspirational statement that also manages to say something about financial performance.

Cambridge Trust
Welcome Back to Banking

A good line that conveys a sense of personal service; the way banking used to be. For full disclosure, this line comes out of my agency, so I won't claim objectivity.
I like "Welcome Back to Banking." It promises a lot to customers -- hope it delivers.
"You can tell we want your business" assumes that the arguement has been demonstrated satisfactorily, that I've been convinced, that they've already changed my thinking. It's a premature victory dance.

Bank of America's "Higher Standards" is an allusion to their intent; it makes me hopeful without promising me anything or even demonstrating anything. It keeps me optimistic. But I changed banks anyway to a hokey local one around the corner.
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