“Citi never sleeps” is the slogan next to the Citi logo that appeared on a pretty big ad on the front page of the New York Times this morning.
The Sunday New York Times remains one of my favorite things in the world, so part of me was happy to see the ad because as we hear about the newspaper business being in tough shape with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Rocky Mountain News in Denver shutting down, I figured a front page ad is a great source of revenue for them.
But then as I read the ad, which had a picture of a lunch in a container on a desk, the theme was “Save Smarter” and it started with the suggestion “Bringing your lunch to work is one easy way to save.” and went on to say “Citi has many others” I thought, OK, this is a timely ad and it’s going to have some exciting information about how they have unique or innovative ways to help you grow your money with Citi. But it didn’t. It talked about some specific services Citi offers and pointed you to a web site with more suggestions. It seemed like an old message from a different time.
Things are so different these days in so many ways, businesses really need to look at their messages and their value propositions and see if they need to be updated. ING DIRECT is an example of a bank that was created to help customers make more money by offering very high interest rates (which they can do because they don’t spend money on branches – it’s an internet only bank, so their costs are a lot lower) and that message remains a great message for the current climate. Their message is essentially that they are working really hard to grow what you save (instead of coming up with creative ways for their customers to save money).
Retail banks have traditionally made their money from investing the money we have in our savings accounts, so it’s no surprise they want us to save more – that’s what’s in it for them, but what’s in it for us? Commodity services, free toasters, and run-of-the-mill interest rates were fine when location and the bank teller played such a key role in our choice of bank, but now that the internet and the ATM have for all practical purposes replaced the teller and made bank location much less relevant, banks need to tell us what makes them unique, like ING DIRECT has done.
So I hope Citi (and the rest of the retail banking world) will sleep on it and consider rethinking their message and value proposition.