Flying Seraph
How Not To Shoot Yourself In The Foot With Advertising

Peculiar thing happened a number of years ago. Two of our major banks simultaneously ran advertising that made them worse off.

I’ve never forgotten it. Be good if this story saves you from an unnecessary prang of your own.

Both ANZ and Westpac thought it would be a top idea to run advertising telling the public their customer service was really good.

I was working on a competing bank at the time. We tracked our own advertising. We also tracked theirs – across a wide range of dimensions.

Guess what? Every time their advertising ran, their scores on ‘service in the banking hall’ dropped through the floor.

Nothing had changed at the counters. The same pimple-faced guys and girls were delivering the same pimple-faced service and the same pimply smiles as before. (I’ve nothing against acne as long as it isn’t me).

Two ill-advised marketing departments and their complicit agencies had made the same cardinal error. They had raised an expectation without improving the delivery. They encouraged rational scrutiny. And, when you get people thinking about a bank, it typically loses. (A principle that is not confined to banking brands.)

They had tried to sell sizzle without good steak. Been caught saying, not doing.

You’d think people would learn these lessons. Well, it seems it’s true that when you don’t learn from history, you’re doomed to repeat it.

Wind the clock forward a few years and I’m working on a bank once again. At a great advertising agency. We have a gorgeous campaign running that captures Australian hearts. A few months into the campaign, deposits are pouring in and a new CMO is appointed – bonused on improving customer satisfaction scores.

You’ll never guess our first brief…

‘People don’t really understand what our advertising is asking them to do. I want advertising that raises customer satisfaction scores.’

Now I truly know what my flying instructor meant when he said: ‘please don’t have a prang unless it’s an original.’

Please take his advice.


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