Challenging times call for new perspectives
The Occupy Wall Street movement has become much bigger than just a NYC issue. As “Occupy” movements crop up around the world, it is becoming increasingly clear that people are not happy with the economic inequality and the behaviour of the financial sector. While there are many lessons to be learned from this movement, I’d like to focus on some of the brand-based implications of the protests.
1) Clarity is key
Statistics show that since September 2011, over 650,000 people have changed banks. One of the major factors in these changes was the exposure of hidden charges and fees that banks were imposing on clients.
Bank of America recently backed away from a $5 debit card transaction fee, after a slew of negative press. Banks that are avoiding hidden fees should clearly and proactively communicate this point of differentiation. In addition, with the increased scrutiny on banking policies, brands should pay careful attention to the design of their paper and online banking statements. A clean and simple design, clearly outlining any banking fees can help retain consumer confidence.
Credit unions that are benefiting from the movement should seek to emphasize their brand platform with customers, and make clear how they are different from larger corporate banks.
2) Treat customers like people
In 2000, the now defunct Washington Mutual brand introduced the “Occasia” branch design, which eliminated traditional teller windows and queuing stanchions in favor of an open, circular floor plan with a greeter or "concierge" position and tellers working from behind podiums. This design was popular with customers because it demystified the banking process and allowed clients to openly view their banking details along with tellers.
In a time of increased scepticism, open retail formats that allow people to be involved in the banking process can help maintain trust. Dragon Rouge is currently working with Accenture Technology Labs to design a prototype for the “bank workstation of tomorrow” which encourages more interaction between bankers and their clients. These types of interactions will help clients feel like people, instead of assets.
3) Respect the movement
Even if banks don’t make changes to their communications platforms or designs, the bare minimum they can do is to respect the movement. Bank of New York Mellon recently placed an ad mocking the movement, stating “We don’t mean to brag, but we’ve been Occupying Wall Street for 227 years”. The ad was met with scathing criticism from new outlets and blogger communities, calling the brand out of touch, and the ad “in bad taste”.
The widespread media coverage and global reach of Occupy Wall Street has shown banks and governments worldwide that the public has a voice, and will be heard. Successful brands will be those who listen.
Author : Neda Namiranian
Date : 24-01-12
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