A tale of two banks

So what do you do when you’re late to the party and need to make an entrance?

Well…you pick a fight. And at this party, FNB is the popular ‘it’ girl and Standard Bank is definitely a ‘band camp’ alumni.

As a publicist, I’d like to say hats off to Standard Bank for their publicity stunt (basically stating that they will be taking FNB to the Advertising Standard Authority for misleading information. Read the details here). But I can’t because it’s a weak attempt.

Now, Standard Bank will argue that it is not a PR stunt (in the manner of Kim Kardashian claiming that it was a ‘real’ wedding) and that they feel outraged – ha ha – that FNB’s misleading the public. Meanwhile, FNB is sitting pretty and letting the viral storm work for them. After all, they’ve laid the ground work, they’ve been giving consumers what they want and they have been the banking kings of the social media world for a while (boasting a tweeting CEO, user-friendly apps and access to digital toys to drag their consumers into the century of the fruitbat kicking and screaming).

For FNB, it’s so beautiful, it’s almost Machiavellian. No, really. Michael Jordaan had a great weekend (thank you very much, Steve).

Is it a storm in a teacup? Why, yes. If you get pipped to the post, don’t cry over spilt milk and switched debits. While it’s true that Standard Bank’s Mzansi Account does not have a monthly management fee either and they offer free online, cellphone and telephone banking, it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. Because they didn’t shout it from the roof tops first.

They could have…because it’s an amazing story (especially if the Mzansi account was launched back in October 2004 – hell, Standard Bank should have thrown a ticker tape parade as it was unheard of back then).

Instead, along comes FNB and grabs the South African banking landscape by the throat and gives it a good shake. It’s amazing what falls out of the cracks when you give something a good shake…

So, final word. I can’t give Standard Bank a nod for trying to piggy-back on FNB’s current publicity leverage because it’s a rather weak attempt and not very well executed. They should have anticipated that FNB was hoping for some kind of pricing war in the media space and that they would be very vocal – almost sarcastic – about the whole thing because they have loads of public sentiment that they can take to the bank.

As a publicist… I would have handled it differently. My approach would have been cheeky and satirical and not feigned outrage. You see, what Standard Bank fails to remember is that the average guy in the street is not a fan of ‘Suits’. Banks are not our friends. Saying you’re outraged that we’re being misled is empty, because we know that you’re just outraged that you didn’t make the most noise first.

Bah Humbug.

*originally posted on The Digital Echoes

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