Sorry I didn’t post yesterday. UPS managed to move my new computer from Shanghai to Norwalk in 3 days. Impressive!
Then it took 3 days to fail to deliver it the last mile. Not impressive!
When bad execution happens to good brands! At some point, the letters UPS came spontaneously to stand for "U People Suck!" Juvenile, I’m sure, but when brands disappoint us, we will rewrite them.
My distinguished colleague at Corante, Olivier Blanchard, very kindly smiled on my Friday post about marketing financial services, and asked me for more on the topic. I am happy to oblige.
Friday, we noted that financial services and the capital markets have recently been obliged to climb down off their high horse. Now they must at least pretend that the "consumer is king," that "voice of the consumer" counts, that it is time to be "consumer centric," [insert favorite marketing cliche here]. (Well, they may be cliches to us. Not in the money biz, apparently.)
Friday, we noted there are muddles in the models. Thus, when American Century Investments uses Lance Armstrong, it’s not clear they have it exactly right. The metaphor (Lance is to athletic achievement what you the consumer can be to financial achievement) spins into implausibility. No meaning is transferred. A great wad of cash is wasted. The consumer is mystified.
Today, an ad from citi:
It’s not I$NY
The heart of New York
is so much more than Wall Street
To help keep it in perspective,
we offer free financial guidance
to help you get control of your future.
Because after all,
people drive the economy.
The stock market just rides shot gun.
Something about this ad makes me nervous. There is something odd about protesting the obvious. Surely, none of us has ever doubted that "the heart of New York is so much more than Wall Street."
I can’t help wondering whether this is not a kind of semiotic leakage. Without meaning to, the ad gives away the Wall Street conviction that it is the center of NYC.
And then citi presumes to help me "keep it in perspective." Um. Actually, I believe this is my job, keeping things in perspective is, and, no, no help is actually called for.
Then there’s the non sequitur: financial guidance will help me keep the fact that Wall Street is not the heart of Wall Street? Really? I guess I see what’s intended here. That good advice will help me think less about money, and that will help me participate in the life of the city. But, er, advertising is the art where perfect clarity meets perfect compression. No guessing should be necessary.
But then things get really strange. "People drive the economy, the stock market just rides shotgun."
So you’re saying my career is a covered wagon. Really, I am so flattered. Really, I am this close to tears. And, what, you’re protecting me? With a shot gun? Get out of here! I’m, like, Roy Rogers. And you’re like…Jingles! Jingles with a shotgun! That gives me a nice warm feeling. A large, stupid man with his finger on the trigger.
But let’s take the metaphor seriously. On Friday, I compared the capital markets to the black nobility of the Vatican: creatures of great power, prestige and standing. But this metaphor repositions things rather dramatically, doesn’t it? Now the capital markets are creatures of the open range. No important distinctions of rank here. And all of us are creatures of action, quick to respond to the lawlessness of the wild west. (I rather like this part of the equation. Contemporary markets are a little like the wild west, dangerous and unpredictable.)
This concept of the capital markets is a little better than the aristocratic one. It collapses the status difference. It supplants lordly disdain with something more engaged, more combative. But I can’t help feeling there is a via media here, something in between the grand elites and rough hewn heroics.
It’s a little like watching an evolutionary process. An industry that never used to care about marketing is having to learn how to do it on the run, branding itself as it goes. Each players in the industry is trying out several experments. Some of them (Lance and Jingles) will work as object lessons, what not to do. The industry "brand" will eventually prove emergent.
I’m just guessing but I think the future of the marketing the capital markets lies almost exactly between Jingles and J.P. Morgan.
Blanchard, Olivier. 2006. Let the games begin. Editorial at Corante Marketing. here.