05/15/2012

Is Your Bank Avoiding the Forbidden Word?

Steve Topper May 15th, 2012
Categories
Marketing Insights

Let’s say you’re finally fed up with your local mega-bank and have decided to move your checking account to another nearby bank or credit union.  One of the reasons for making this move is the loss of free checking because your mega-bank added a $12 monthly fee and a $1,200 minimum balance requirement.

In other words, your mega-bank friends threw you under the bus.

If you’re like most consumers, you don’t put the time and effort that goes into researching the best brand of car to buy into researching a new place to bank.  You simply keep your eyes and ears open for relevant information – placing these tidbits onto the new mental list you started.

During the past few days you’ve discovered that one local bank has introduced a new checking account which it calls Boomerang Checking.

Just coincidentally, you received a mailing from a credit union offering you a choice of its checking accounts named Value Checking, Preferred Checking, and Interest Checking.

And then over the weekend you pass a bank with a huge “Free Checking Here” sign in the window.

If you’re like most consumers, the “Free Checking Here” bank jumps to the top of the mental list you started a few weeks ago.

Depending on how fed up you are with your mega-bank, the free checking sign may be all that’s needed for you to make your decision.

Most likely, you don’t even take the time to do online research for this new Boomerang Checking account you heard about on the radio.

It’s only after you’ve opened your new free checking account at a local community bank that a friend tells you that she opened a new Boomerang Checking account and is delighted that it, too, is actually free of a monthly fee and has no minimum balance requirement.

“You mean it’s free checking” you ask your friend.

If you’re like most of us, the next thing that pops into your mind is “wonder why her bank didn’t name it Free Checking or Boomerang Free Checking or even Free Boomerang Checking?”

I first learned about Boomerang Checking when ACTON Marketing’s creative director included me on the distribution list for an email containing a link to an online article about this new account.

My first thought was this bank must be located in Australia.

It wasn’t until I read the article – actually it was a straight reprint of the bank’s recent press release – that the reason for the cute name came into focus.  It’s an account that offers both a cash back benefit in addition to a points program tied to debit card use.

Hence the name boomerang – by paying out money in your account some of it finds its way back to you.  The marketing folks at the bank must be extremely proud of coming up with the word “boomerang” for the name of its new checking account.  I wonder how long they high-fived themselves over it?

While you could argue that it’s a catchy, memorable word, I find it rather vague, and too subtle, to be effective for the purpose intended.

In reading the press release I was shocked to discover that the bank was introducing a new “free” checking account.  Unfortunately, the person writing the press release, and those approving it, never quite refer to it as free checking.  Here’s how it was described in the second paragraph:

“Sun National Bank remains committed to providing customers with a robust array of desirable banking services, including a checking option with no minimum balance and no monthly service fee.”

What?

Why not simply state the obvious – Sun National Bank is proud to offer consumers a new free checking option.

About the middle of the press release the bank’s President and CEO was quoted:  “Sun’s Boomerang Checking account can be entirely free, because customers can eliminate minimum balance requirements and unnecessary fees.”

You might want to read that quote again.

I find it somewhat confusing.

First, I’m bothered by use of the word “can” twice in this sentence.  It suggests that perhaps the account isn’t actually free but “can” be free should the customer make it so.

It’s either free or it isn’t free.

Second, perhaps I’m nitpicking here but what’s the difference between “free” and “entirely free?”

Bottom line, here’s yet another example of a community bank offering free checking yet failing to name it Free Checking and refusing to refer to it as free checking when describing the account.

It’s as if the name “Free Checking” carries too much negative baggage for some bankers and their employees in the marketing department.

I sure hope this malady doesn’t reach Amazon and all those other online retailers offering free shipping.

By the way, you can read the bank’s entire press release here.

This content is accurate at the time of publication and may not be updated.