Everyone likes a good David and Goliath story. So I was interested to learn how small banks have been taking aim at bigger firms with bolder messaging than usual. A recent Ad Age article states, “Small banks are declaring war on big banks.” And who can blame them? Small community banks have long been overshadowed and outspent by larger competitors in the marketplace. Unable to compete on scope of service or location, smaller banks have tried to differentiate themselves on attributes like personalized service or community involvement. But it’s one thing to tout your differences; it’s quite another to attack your competitors’ weaknesses. Most banks shy away from this approach, preferring to take the high road instead of engaging the enemy. And I’d be the first to agree that this strategy – if not done properly – could backfire by making a bank seem desperate or downright hostile. Plus, big banks have all the money in the world to launch a counter-offensive.
Yet, some banks have been throwing caution to the wind and sticking it to the big guys. Capitalizing on the recent financial collapse and a general distrust of larger banks among consumers, small banks are calling out the behemoths on everything from hidden charges and high fees to shady ethics and a perceived apathy toward consumers. Take NEFCU’s latest commercial, which depicts well-heeled bankers singing “If I Only Had A Heart” from The Wizard of Oz. Whether adding these sharper stones to the communication slingshot will work remains to be seen. Much depends on the particular concept, and what the bank taking the shots has to offer in contrast. But it is a bold statement.