No soothing ads for SA’s banking consumers


The world markets are in turmoil. The JSE plummets, the Rand slides, banks fail in US and Europe. It’s a crisis. Time for marketing departments to go in overdrive and reassure consumers that everything is OK. Your money is save with us. Not in SA.

I haven’t seen any of the major financial institutions in this country broach the world wide financial crisis in their communication with consumers. It’s a shocking indictment but not at all surprising if you consider the general arrogance banks treat SA consumers with.

In the States it’s a whole other story. The New York Times just ran a story on what banks there are doing to soothe consumer worries. Washington Mutual, the biggest bank failure ever that saw it sold to JPMorgan Chase in what was essentially a fire sale, is using humour to speak with its rattled customers. “We love Chase. And not just because they have a trillion dollars,” says one ad.

Gary Stibel, CE at New England Consulting Group, told the paper that “This is not the time for keeping to the course. The ads should tell people with money: ‘There is every reason to worry. That’s why we’re here.” After losing $17 billion in deposits Washington Mutual has finally started to see money come back in.

Old Mutual has been singled out in the South African media as being the SA financial institution possibly most exposed to the US house mortgage crisis. It has released a media statement with a Q&A relating to the ongoing global financial crisis but few media picked it up. Old Mutual, suddenly the subject of much media speculation, should be talking to its policy holders directly.

Yes, SA’s banking sector is well regulated and by all accounts better positioned to ride out the storm than those in other countries, but with a deluge of crisis headlines, locally and especially on international news channels being broadcast into the country, our financial service providers need to wake up to the reality that customers are seeing this melt down in global terms, and they need to be addressed and reassured.


Published by Herman Manson is edited by Herman Manson. Follow us on Twitter -

2 replies on “No soothing ads for SA’s banking consumers”

  1. Neither, you may notice, does the South African government make any sort of televised speeches about how they’re engaging the various problems in the country. In fact, overall, we never hear from them except when they want something from us. And the same seems to go for most companies.

    SA banks don’t seem very clued up on customer service. I emailed FNB the other day to ask about Mastercard Debit Cards. This morning I got a call back from their Speedpoint technical division. How those wires got crossed I will never know, but the fact that they did is someone frightening.

    They can’t even route a call properly. How on earth are they going to reassure the public at large that their money’s safe?

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