When it comes to marketing, the holidays are not a time for lameness

I think we all know that Bank of America has had some image problems lately.  Might be understating it.

That’s why I was mildly surprised when I walked into the Falls Church brand of Bank of America to cash a check.  The lobby has been recently updated with some new furniture.  So far, so good.

But they put up holiday decorations that looked like they were put up by someone who just hates the holidays.

When I see something like that in a retail or public space, as a customer, I think: they did not even try.  And when I think they don’t try, I feel disrespected, because I feel they don’t care.  That’s true about any business, but especially for banks, where there is so much competition.

This is what I saw — the teller front counters were festooned with cheap, wrinkly bows and mismatched, tattered tinsel.  When I say “tattered,” I mean some parts of the garland had no foil on at all and it was just some limp looking string, randomly taped up with no regard to appearance.  There were some plastic candy canes that had foil stripes, only the foil strips were hanging off and just dangling there.  It looked just awful.

I mean, would it have killed them to grab some poinsettias from Safeway?  They’re like 3 for $10.  And sprang for some nice bows or tinsel?  I’m not saying businesses should decorate for Christmas or the holidays, or spend a small fortune if they choose to do so.  But if you manage a business  — especially one that has had as bad a year as Bank of America has had — and you choose to put up public seasonal decorations, you should put some effort into it, or at least not put up decorations that are in trash-can condition.  And they should be tasteful, as Christmas is a tradition that is close to people’s hearts.

The decorations were so depressing, I quietly mentioned to the teller that she might want to tell her manager that a customer found them distasteful, and that they might want to invest $5 in some new ones, because it was not a good look for the bank.  She seemed to agree with me, and said she would mention it.  That’s when I thought: gee whiz! It must be dejecting even to work there.

Now contrast this to my bank, Virginia Commerce Bank, also in Falls Church.  I love my bank branch.  When I go into my bank, I am greeted warmly, there is music playing, and there are decorations for the season.  There’s coffee or water, and sometimes treats.  They are also usually participating in some community activity, which shows what good corporate citizens they are.  For example, recently they had a Pack and Play on display in the lobby full of boxes of diapers that they were collecting and were going to donate to charity.

The fact is: Virginia Commerce Bank tries to make a connection with its customers.  Bank of America doesn’t, or not nearly as much.  Is it surprising that people are leaving big banks for credit unions and community banks?

If you have a brick and mortar or storefront business, the appearance of your business is a sign of the degree of respect you have for your customers and prospective customers.  As someone who celebrates Christmas, I would not be rushing into this branch to open an account.  My advice to businesses today is don’t let a small and inexpensive detail derail the hard work you are doing in other areas of your business.  Sometimes the small and noticeable details can make or break you.

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About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a public relations and marketing consultant, and owns Fletcher Prince (www.FletcherPrince.com). Follow Mary on Twitter @FletcherPrince.

Posted on December 14, 2011, in Consumer Trends, Marketing Tips and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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