GonzoBankers, reader feedback tells me you’ve about had enough of me and my crystal ball insight this year. So, I’m passing along an intercepted memo from one of my favorite clients. Names changed to protect the radical…
TO: Richard Christensen, CEO, Gonzo National Bank
FROM: Aidan Abbett, Marketing Department, Gen Y Division
RE: “It’s Up To You” Checking
Let me first thank you for appointing me as your first paid intern in the Gen Y marketing group. As you are well aware, landing this position while only a sophomore in college means quite a bit to my education and my checkbook. (The memory stick with the aforementioned pics of you and your shapely… ahem… “niece” at the hukilau will be erased upon my prof receiving your glowing review of my work.)
I’ll get right to the point here. Some buds and I were cruising for dates on Facebook when Sully texts me this link from yahoo. http://music.yahoo.com/read/news/31497950
It seems that this band of skinny old farts from the ’90s called Radiohead is breaking new ground in music marketing. They’re selling their latest CD (“album” to you) via download – with no record label support. No big deal, you might say – been done before. But get this. The price of the download is up to the buyer. That’s right. You pay whatever you think it’s worth – and zero is OK. It’s up to you. You can even download the songs, listen to them, and pay later once you have decided what the tunes are worth. Check it out: http://www.inrainbows.com/Store/Quickindex2.html
Being in the Honors Business program at the U, I’m adept at processing data and applying it in unconventional ways. So, I immediately thought of Gonzo N.B. when I read the article about Radiohead. Pay what you think it’s worth. It’s up to you. Why not banking products – maybe a checking account – based on the same principle?
I know, you’re calling me a Commie right about now. When you think about it, though, paying what the consumer thinks a product is worth is the free market defined. It’s Darwinism and Chest Thumping and Smack Talking all at once. Hear me out….
It’s basically a free checking account with some stunts. You can only apply for and fund the account online. You don’t actually get checks – just a debit card and free access to our Internet banking, bill pay, external transfers and mobile eAlerts. eStatements would of course be mandatory.
When you complete the online registration for It’s Up To You, you fill in the default amount for your monthly fee. Like the price of Radiohead’s latest, Zero is OK. Then, in the monthly “Your eStatement is Ready” email, we give our It’s Up To You checking customers a link to follow to change their fee if they want. If they ignore the link, the fee stays at the default amount. But when they follow the link, they either change their default fee or change just a given month’s fee. Maybe we had a particularly great service month for a client or we saved a client from some debit fraud and they want to kick up the fee – show us a little love. They can do it. Maybe we charged them $35 to cover an $8 overdraft or we auto-renewed their CD at a sub-market rate, and they’re a little pissed about that. Well, they might ratchet down the fee that month. We’ll even incent It’s Up To You customers to tell us why they’re changing their fee – up or down.
OK, I know, most are going to default to the $0 fee and leave it there. Of course. But what the hell, it’s basically a free checking package anyway! I’m convinced, however, that a core group of customers who opt for It’s Up To You checking will be different. I think there’s a segment – you call them young ‘uns – who will LOVE the power-to-the-people, make-your-voice-heard concept. And those customers will speak to us loudly and clearly. Think of the telling marketing data we can cull from the active participants in this It’s Up To You experiment. In six months we will learn volumes about what our bank does right and wrong as our customers vote with their wallets.
In a way we’re selling a Cool factor here, Rich. Not cool as in – “All the cool people bank with us.” That’s lame and unbelievable. With It’s Up To You checking, we’re selling choice and voice and difference making. We’re selling activism, autonomous influence and collective power. We’re selling what my generation is buying in gross.
And think of the publicity. We advertise big-time in college newspapers, entertainment weeklies, targeted Internet sites. Have a young hipster with a ’70s haircut (maybe me?) as our spokesman. We’re cool in an interested, accessible and just-a-little-off kinda way. We’re not Brad Pitt; we’re Christopher Walken. We’re not a shiny new Benz C Series; we’re a smart fortwo. http://www.smartusa.com/
Can you imagine how the media will pick up on this? A bank with something different to say? Some will call it gimmicky, sure. But I promise the media will pick it up, and our message will seep through to our young target audience. This product has the potential to do for checking accounts what J-Lo did for ample-bottomed women across the globe! It’s palpably different than anything any other bank is doing. It’s going to bring attention. And attention – for our CFO who will doubtlessly choke if he reads this memo – will bring interest-free deposits. This thing will pay for itself on the new balances from the curious young and the hopeful, risk-taking aware and the hard driving difference-makers – screw the fee income.
We’re a bank, Rich, not a rock band. We’re never going to be REALLY hip in anyone’s minds – even if we wear khakis and golf shirts five days a week. But what about a bank that’s unique and interested and experimental? Well, that’s a real Something in our circles. Hell, it might not even work, you know? But it’s an idea with a mischievous glimmer of hope in its bloodshot eye.
We’ve gotta be first. The only idea worse than NOT trying It’s Up To You checking is to be the second to try it. You know Umpqua is thinking about it! Commerce might have tried it back in the day. Or maybe a credit union? I’m not the only snot-nosed marketing intern mulling this idea; I promise you that.
Do we have the cha-chas to at least try it?
TTYL – AB
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