Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Listening (June 10, 2009's special Bail Out Banking edition)

Here is a different angle on today's "Listening..." post. I'm listening to Michelle Branch's pop hit "Everywhere."

The song is stuck in my head for many reasons, not only because I have it on my iPod and it helps me with run pacing, but because marketers know what song to play on their commercials, and their recent strategy for a particular client intrigues me. Chase Bank has incorporated Branch's song into enticing bank customers into becoming clients for Chase Bank's services. The message: we may be a massive bank, but that comes with benefits--it's a powerful relationship and we can help you in ways that you have never imagined. This imagery may not seem strange at the outset, but Chase has taken over local financial icon Washington Mutual Bank, a fixture in the State of Washington since the late 19th century. Regardless of whether Chase's claims are truthful, they are saturating the airwaves to get Washingtonians to believe they belong as a trusted member of communities throughout the state.

I must confess that it's weird to drive around and see familiar Washington Mutual Bank buildings with Chase banners covering remnants of the Washington Mutual iconic logo. I know, Washington Mutual was just another bank that lost its ethics. It's only a bank. However, there's something about institutions on the landscape, my grandparents were Washington Mutual customers for at least as long as I can remember. I received checks for my birthday or other special occasions with the familiar "W" logo--it signified community, family, faithful resources, and the Pacific Northwest. Eventually WaMu became a leader in stupid mortgages--they even held my dear wife and my first mortgage in South Dakota (it wasn't a sub-prime), and thousands of mortgages like it, both prime and sub-prime. It's a sad commentary on human greed when the icon became that much bigger on the backs of those mortgages went to people who couldn't repay the loan. There is certainly shared blame in this equation, Washington Mutual became a house of cards, a bank tale not unusual in today's financial landscape. Chase swooped in with enough resources to make the risky move and take on WaMu's debt. I don't trust Chase as far as I can throw them--as long as banks are publicly traded companies, I essentially do not trust them to act in my financial interests. I've moved on to a credit union.

My interest in Michelle Branch's song and Chase makes me wonder if Chase will thrive here in Washington. They've put a lot of energy and resources into this acquisition. It's a skilled and attractive campaign. The song is almost unbelievably catchy, the color scheme in the television ad is alluring, and the radio spots are hitting a plethora of niches. Will locals in Washington stick with Chase? Anecdotally, I've observed the answer to be "no"--but marketers are exponentially intelligent people and skilled at tapping into our desires and establishing powerful brand identity. Michelle Branch is making some serious royalty cash on this campaign.

Consider how Washington Mutual got me to think about their logo.

POST SCRIPT (June 11, 2009)

More news about Chase's deeper media saturation in Washington. They are sponsoring one of the biggest 4th of July celebrations in Western Washington (if not the biggest), taking over for Washington Mutual. Turns out many other locals are taking notice of Chase's community activity; one in particular is deeply suspicious.

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