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Does Your Bank or Credit Union Need a Mascot?

Do you like your bank or credit union?  Are you satisfied with the service you get?


According to recent consumer research, odds are you may not be happy with your bank.


In the J.D. Power 2009 Retail Bank Satisfaction Study released in May, results show that only 35% of bank customers are highly committed to their retail bank.  Worse yet, the percentage dropped from 37% in 2008 and 41% in 2007.


Meanwhile, Gallup.com’s annual business sector survey conducted in September found that the banking industry’s positive rating fell to 28%, eight percentage points lower than its 2008 score and the largest year-over-year percentage drop of any industry.


What’s happened to brand loyalty?


Obviously, if you are a bank marketer, you should be very concerned with these numbers.  You should be looking for ways to make your bank or credit union more likeable and trustworthy.


There are a number of initiatives to consider when putting together a marketing plan to restore confidence in your bank and its employees and to get your customers to like you.


One that immediately comes to mind is adopting a likeable mascot.


I was reminded of the power of a mascot this morning as I was reading the October 12 issue of Advertising Age.  There he was…staring at me from atop page 21.  Plump and white with his familiar blue banner across his chest – he was immediately familiar to me.  Yet, I never knew him by his birth name of Bibendum.  All these years I’ve known him simply as the Michelin Man.


He’s in Ad Age as a result of his most recent exploits in Michelin tires ads on TV.  According to the brief news update, he’s assumed the role of superhero – roaming the land fighting the high costs of driving on the wrong tires and on worn-out tires.


You can’t help but smile upon seeing the Michelin Man.  He’s likeable…even lovable.


What’s really shocking about the Michelin Man is that he’s been Michelin’s famous mascot since his debut in 1898.  No, that’s not a misprint.  He’s been appearing in Michelin ads for over 110 years.  He’s featured in a number of recent full-page magazine ads.


Tires are boring by nature.  And who can say they “like” a tire.  But add the Michelin Man to your advertising and all of a sudden the Michelin brand becomes very likeable.


The same holds true for your bank or credit union.


The absolute best example of a likeable bank mascot is Harris Bank’s Hubert the Lion.  Hubert has been the Chicago bank’s highly visible mascot since 1958.  Go to any Chicago event today where Harris Bank has a presence and Hubert will be there greeting children and adults alike.  In August, the bank introduced three new 15-second TV spots featuring Hubert.  You can see a life-size version of Hubert at http://www.flickr.com/photos/homerlibrary/2066925232/in/photostream/.


I worked in the marketing department at Continental Bank in Chicago for thirteen years beginning in 1971.  At the time our bank mascot was Connie – a lovable female kangaroo with a baby kangaroo in her pouch.  Our tagline was “It’s the big bank with the little bank inside.”  Connie represented our big commercial bank while the baby represented the much-smaller retail bank.  Connie and her baby made giant Continental Bank much more likeable and approachable.


Everyone in Chicago was familiar with Hubert and Connie.


Another famous bank mascot living in California was Crocker Bank’s Crocker Spaniel.  The poor pooch disappeared when the bank was merged with Wells Fargo – home of the famous stagecoach and team of horses.     


A friendly mascot is a surefire way to create a likeable persona for a bank.  The problem is that many bank presidents perceive such a mascot as being childish and not in keeping with the serious demeanor of a bank.  Interpretation:  They don’t want to be mocked at the country club for having a stuffed animal as a mascot.


That’s too bad as likeable mascots have been around for many years and continue to warm the hearts of millions of consumers…making their parent companies much more likeable.


Famous mascots working today in addition to Hubert the Lion include:


The Michelin Man (debut 1898)

The Pillsbury Doughboy (debut mid-1960s)

The Energizer Bunny

The Green Giant (debut 1928)

Ronald McDonald (debut 1963)

Geico’s Green Gecko (debut 1999)

The Aflac Duck (debut 1999)

Tony the Tiger


Bottom line – likeable mascots attract people.  In fact, one of the best ways to make your bank more likeable is to have a friendly mascot that appeals to people of all ages.


I’ve been collecting bank mascots for a number of years.  I’m surrounded by them everyday as I sit in my home office, pounding out these blogs and working with the ACTON Marketing team.  At the very moment, six Wells Fargo horses are staring at me from atop one of my bookshelves.

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