Bank Marketing Fails: Dissecting a Campaign

Andrew Stanten


Examples of really bad and really good marketing usually get me tweeting. I couldn’t possibly contain myself to 140 characters over First Niagara Bank’s marketing fail a few years back.

First Niagara was a new player in our region.

They were running billboards, TV spots and radio commercials. I deliberately didn’t say they are running a campaign because the messaging in each of these medium is unrelated – a marketing no-no.

The messaging on the billboards just makes me scratch my head.

Bank marketing fail: Do you really want creativity from your bank?

To prevent this from becoming a full chapter in my post-retirement book, the focus of this blog post is on the billboards.

The bank marketing fail began with three billboards, each with a single keyword.

One said “Creativity,” one said “Passion,” and one said “Belief.”

All had the same tagline: “You deserve that from your bank.”

Let’s dissect this.


Do I really want creativity from my bank? Sounds like they are doing some funny business with my accounts – a.k.a. creative accounting. Makes me think about Enron. Not a good message.


Do I really want passion from my bank? No offense to that little old lady behind the teller station, but I don’t want her to run up and give me a big squeeze and smooch when I walk in the door. If I want passion, I’ve got outlets for that – and none of them involve my bank.


Am I looking for a place to deposit some money or a synagogue? At first, I was willing to give First Niagara this one. I want to believe my bank has my money safe and isn’t going to screw me. But I’m pretty sure they are not talking about believing in them. Go try to get a line of credit. See how much they believe in you before they say “yes.” Let me know how it goes.

What we all deserve from a bank is good customer service, a good rate (today’s interest rates are a joke), free online bill pay, convenience (keep your branches open past 3 p.m., please!), no bull fees and an intuitive website where I can do my banking.

First Niagara missed on this one. Too clever and not enough strategic vision to integrate the messaging and turn the advertising buys into a marketing campaign.

TD Bank, on the other hand, avoided a bank marketing fail. They picked a single term they want to own – one that resonates with customers. They picked “convenience.” All their marketing – TV, website, print, radio – ties back to the key message: “America’s most convenient bank.” They back the messaging. Great branch hours. Good website. And just this week they expanded mobile offering with iOS and Android apps.

Clear, concise, consistent, something I want – and believable. And it stuck.

Andrew Stanten

Andrew Stanten co-founded Altitude Marketing in 2004. As CEO, he ensures the right people are on board, delivering world-class marketing services to Altitude’s global client base, and staying true to Altitude’s mission, vision and values.
Andrew possesses an innate ability to process, organize and summarize massive volumes of client and market information and turn it into actionable, strategic thinking. This enables Team Altitude to get smart about a company quickly—and develop winning, integrated approaches that vault clients into a position of prominence and strength.
Andrew graduated from Syracuse University and earned his MBA from Lehigh University.