Some very boring things are extraordinarily popular as Christmas gifts. Among the items I’ve seen displayed in ads and shop windows over the last few weeks, the inevitable socks, saucepans, blank DVDs and security camera kits come to mind.
But among all the thousands of items offered for my consideration, I can’t think of a single one from the wonderful world of financial services. No seasonally-wrapped and packaged financial products (OK, that does sound a bit unlikely) and not even any FS-linked Christmas collateral – snow-covered piggy banks, chocolate money presented in genuine cash bags.
This may sound like a stupid and trivial observation, and maybe it is. But actually, I think it’s a bit more important than it seems. I wrote very early in the lifetime of this blog about the way that financial institutions – even the most mainstream high street ones – never seem to find any opportunities to become part of day-to-day life, and, in particular, never succeed in engaging in any way with children. As a result, I wrote, by the age of 12 or 13 or so, most kids have in their minds pretty fully-formed brand landscapes, including not just brands that are directly relevant to them but also many – even most – of the brands that are meaningful to their parents and close families. But there’s one great big void, one unmapped continent – a chunk of the landscape which remains entirely featureless: this is of course the land of financial services.
I accept that it’s difficult. When it comes to engaging with, say, 9-12 year old girls, a long, long list of brands – Accessorise, Hello Kitty, Mac, Facebook, hundreds more – are better placed to make contact than Barclays and Halifax, let alone Legal & General and Standard Life.
But still, there must be some worthwhile ways that some of these institutions – especially the branch-based ones – could become more engaged with daily life. Just concentrate on something as small and simple as ATM till receipts: could they carry some really funny jokes? Or some celebrity anecdotes? Or an entry number for a prize draw? Or a collectible set of images? There must be a way to make themÂ worth passing on to the kids.
It seems that while the most successful consumer-facing organisations find more and more ways to become part of our lives – online service providers like Google, offline retailers like Tesco – financial institutions’ bandwidth gets narrower and narrower. At the same time, many, of course, still spend fortunes on huge one-dimensional sponsorships. If I was in charge of those budgets, I’d scrap the lot – and corner the Christmas chocolate money market.