It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time…How to Avoid This and Other Similar Phrases When Things Go Wrong.

Posted on Jun 11, 12 in Blog

A recent marketing campaign in the credit union industry created a firestorm of negative publicity for the credit union and likely will cost more money to fix than the promotion would have garnered in revenue.

The concept was to show members that the credit union was “open-minded” to member loans that are earmarked for “very personal” body enhancements. The central graphic promoting the campaign featured a buxom blonde’s chest with a promising offer.

Hindsight is clear after an incident like this but following some simple creative rules might have led to a different result:

Understand your product benefits
The product benefits are why people buy… not the features. They buy a drill to make holes.  When promoting intimate and/or personal products, improvement in self-esteem is usually the benefit and subtlety is important.

Know the consumer
Those receiving the direct mail promotional piece were offended by the focus of the promotional piece and the outward sexual innuendo. Just a few short years ago “girlie” magazines were sent in plain brown wrappers to avoid an embarrassment by the recipient. Demographics play a key role in determining acceptability of this type of imagery in any conversation.

Know your brand’s voice
Is your brand a credible spokesperson for the product/service? As a financial provider, is there inherent credibility in discussing intimate personal subjects in the context of a loan promotion? Would you expect your local auto mechanic to offer you chiropractic advice? After all, you did sit in a car for extended periods of time. Or, your doctor to suggest where to find the best home loans? After all he lives in a house too. If your brand isn’t credible in this conversation, look to outside resources to assist. Perhaps working with the local aesthetic surgeons in the area on a referral basis would have been an option.

Determine the focus of the sale
This promotion was designed to generate sales of “lifestyle” loans which cover the gamut of lending options of a personal nature. Lifestyle loans are also designed to offer for financing for Lasik surgery, dental implants/cosmetic dentistry, and other elective surgery….in addition to the aesthetic surgery – rhinoplasty, breast augmentation/reduction, and implants. Had the credit union spoke in general terms about the usage of these loans, rather than the focus on just one component, they would have avoided the backlash they are now facing.

Honest feedback before launch
We can get swept up in our own ideas with potentially dangerous implications. Make sure that you review your materials with a trusted source before launch. A set of fresh eyes always can be helpful in evaluation.

No promotion is ever perfect. Strive to learn something from each one and make each successive effort better than the last.

Mark DeBellis