Banking In The Twilight Zone

The financial industry may seem reserved, but if offers plenty of opportunities for things to get weird.


Few could question a cooperative institution’s loyalty to its members, but sometimes those members will give your tellers a few “Huh?” moments. Years ago, Britain’s own Lloyds TSB proved that banks were not immune from oddity with its list of strangest loan requests. Top contenders included customers requesting cash to freeze their body for preservation after death, bake the world's largest cake, build a robot, or invest in the purchase of a Bengal tiger. (The going rate for tigers wasn’t listed, but on our side of the pond it’s around $3,000, leash and kibble not included). Then there are the bizarre ways that consumers choose to spend their reward points, including items like being married by an Elvis impersonator, becoming a goat farmer, receiving fighter pilot training, or meeting the cast of Mad Men.

But consumers aren’t the only ones who sometimes color outside the lines. Take the 25-year mortgage granted to a 102-year-old in the UK, or the free Mercedes-Benz roadsters given away in Florida just for opening a checking account. (Full disclosure: customers had to deposit $1 million or more and forgo any interest on those funds until the cost of the car was covered). One Spanish bank has even developed an army of Wall-E-esque robotic branch staff to serve its customers.

While there’s nothing funny about theft normally, financial institutions also draw a special breed of weird when it comes to the criminal element. Outrageous instances like the intoxicated Rip Torn stick up, the Darth Vader bandit, the cardboard cutout that got in a stand off with police, and the walking shrub are too weird to not share.

Professionalism is certainly an important part of the financial industry, whether you’re a not-for-profit institution or a mega bank. Without it, you lose trust. But if credit unions want to stand out in this crowd, they should - on occasion - look for opportunities to embrace the weird, wacky, and wild in the world, own the little differences that make they themselves unique, and channel it all into messaging that works for them. Perhaps one of the best avenues for the unique and the bizarre is a good guerilla marketing campaign, and credit unions looking for some inspiration should check out the Financial Brand’s best of list right here. 


Aug. 20, 2012



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