Sunday, June 28, 2015

Why I love TD

Years ago I was asked to be in a focus group on banking.  One of the major banks wanted the 20-somethings perspectives on banks, the various bank brands, and banking services.  This is before the time when I was a brand guy. But I remember very vividly the responses that came from the room. Not a lot were positive.  Canadian banks, at the time were, in the news for having record profits, providing record bonuses to the top execs, while being less than generous to their staff.  I remember my comment quite vividly:

"I don't like any of the major banks.  They open up after I go to work. They close before I finish my work.  And while they have record profits, their pens are always out of ink and chained to the desk. The environment is impersonal and so transactional."

This focus group, of course, was in the pre-internet banking era.

But still today, brands from the banking industry rank among the lowest of all industries.  The average Canadian banking brand according to 5 years of data I have collected on fares only slightly better than tobacco and energy brands- and about the same as telecom brands.

This is a shame.  Banks should not anywhere close to brands that kill and pollute.  

Most major banks in Canada don't get it.  I'm pretty sure most people are not richer than they think (Scotia Bank).  I'm also pretty sure that the little fellow in a banker's hat does not evoke the warm the fuzzy feelings that I suspect the agency is trying to deliver with the Royal Bank character.

The banks that have a significantly higher rankings according to my research is the TD- and some Credit Unions in Western Canada.  They do something differently.

What makes the TD a cut above, at least from my personal experience is that the bankers their understand that banking is not about finance.  Banking (and bankers) is what enables a person to follow and reach his dreams.  The bank helps an individual finance his degree not for education's sake, but for him to achieve his dream job. The bank is  the institution that doesn't finance a house, but it enables a nest for a mom, a safe home for junior, and a feeling of provision by dad and mom. The bank is company that helps family support long-term care for a loved one so that the loved one receives the best possible care possible. And finally, the bank is also the place to deposit the first monies of a bank account for a baby- not just a secure depository, but a jumpstart in life for the dreams that parents, Godparents, friends and family want for the blank-slate life.  In short, the bank ought be an emotional safe haven.  The trust of a bank is not just the security of "not losing my money" , but of  having a trusted banker guide you on ever step of your major life's journey's and dreams.  In this context, bankers should be as as much people people as finance people. Most major banks don't get this. But my local TD branch sure does. 

A few weeks ago, I popped in to my local TD branch to open up a bank account for our new baby. It only took a few minutes to open the account- but the staff greeted my wife and I with open arms and a gift-wrapped parcel.  "Here's a little something for your little daughter!" The staff had pooled together some donations, bought a baby-gift-pack and wanted to share in the excitement of our new milestone.  It was so touching. It still moves me thinking about it. I love my bankers. 

My TD branch understands me.  They get my family because they are, in a way, part of my family.  I'm not richer than I think. I don't want some dude in a bowler hat.  I want them around me to help me build my mortgage to build my home for my family and jumpstart a great life for our little one. I want my bank to be with me and my family on our journey through life.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Some of my Favorite B-school cases

It's summer time and a lot of folks think that profs and university instructors are resting in the sun. Well, that might be partly true, but we're also out there thinking about ideas and our upcoming courses we teach. A couple of days ago, one of my counterparts in Europe asked me what my go-to marketing cases are.  So, for the enjoyment of my educator colleagues, for my students who will likely be seeing some of these cases next term, and for my readers... here are some of my favorites (classics and new!)

#6  Apple Inc in 2015 (2015). Apple is mind-blowingly successful, we all know that.  This spanking brand new case provides a nice historical context on the brand but looks at the new realities for the brand.  What should the strategic new product plays be? There is a healthy debate to be had over where Tim Cook (and his different skills than Jobs) should take the brand.

#5  Land Rover North America, Inc. (1995). I've always liked Susan Fournier's work.  If you are a brand fan, then you'll probably know her work on brand relationships.  Here she writes an interesting case (with a lot of consumer behavior data) on Land Rover Discovery. There are super discussions to be had here on brand personality and managing brand equity across borders.

#4  Coca-Cola's New Vending Machine: Pricing to Capture Value or Not? (2000) Here's another oldie but a goodie. This 9 pager brings issues related to value, public relations and pricing through Coke's drink machine that changes price based on the temperature. You don't see many of these drink machines around- and this case lays out simple communication and pricing issues in an easy-to-digest format.

#3 Lufa Farms. (2013)  Lufa is a very interesting company founded by its CEO Mohammed Hage.
The company develops farms on commercial rooftops.  The case tackles how to scale and a capital intensive entrepreneurial company with a superior (fruit and vegetable) offering. I'm a little biased to this one too for a few reasons. 1) Lufa Farms is a Canadian company.  2) The CEO is a great guy (the team is nice too!).  3) Check the authors and you'll figure out bias #3.

#2  Disrupting the Meat Industry: Tissue Culture Beef. (2015) The subject matter of this case- meat grown in a lab- seems right out of a futuristic movie. But, readers of the case learn just how close the Sergey Brin backed company is making cultured beef a reality. I like this case so much because it gets such visceral reactions from so many case discussants.  The implications of the cultured beef are potentially majorly disruptive from  farming to supply chain to consumer but, the benefits  are numerous- from more environmentally friendly production to animal welfare. In addition to having great marketing debates, there are lots of "what does the future hold" discussions that also launch.   And how can you not love a case that starts off with this quote from Brin? "Some people think tissue culture meat is science fiction... I actually think that's a good thing. If what you're doing is not seen by some people as science fiction, then it's probably note transformative enough."

#1. Heineken NV: Global Branding and Advertising. (1995) This 13 page case (5 pages of actual case write up) by John Quelch is brilliant.  Although the case description is this:
"Heineken managers are evaluating the results of the research projects designed to identify the values of the Heineken brand and to translate these into effective advertising messages",
what I really like about the case is that it cuts to the heart of brand values- and what constitutes a "global brand", if there really is such a thing. The case being from 1995 isn't such a bad thing either.  Students can track the "values" via advertising in international markets over the last 20 years.