Banks Can Learn from Ducks

I recently visited Memphis and stayed at the Peabody Hotel. It is a grand facility with a rich history. Intrigued by its staying power I purchased a book to learn more about the hotel’s heritage. The original hotel which was built in 1869 with 75 rooms was a huge success. Guests included Andrew Johnson who succeeded Abraham Lincoln as President, William McKinley and should I dare say Robert E. Lee. By 1923 the Hotel closed and reopened in a new location in 1925 and in 1965 fell into bankruptcy and closed again in 1973. It changed hands a few times until the present management purchased and renovated the hotel which reopened in 1981. The moral of this journey is that every business has a life-cycle and early success is no guarantee of sustained prosperity. The glue that created stickiness with guests through thick and thin was the Peabody brand promise of an elegant visit.

This was reinforced and conveyed by energizing the brand in 1930 by an idea by Frank Schutt the General manager at the time. His eureka moment was identifying the brand with Ducks that would be treated like royalty. Every day at 11 AM and 5 PM the Ducks are escorted  from and to their own penthouse Duck Suite to the lobby fountain by a Duck Master in tuxedo. This tradition has created awareness of the brand around the globe and loyalist to insure the hotel not only survived but today thrives.

The consumer takeaway, if they treat mere Ducks this well than guests will be treated better than royalty. In a previous article I referenced the 4 E’s framework, Earn, Engage, Evolve and Energize. In this instance the Peabody Ducks are an example of Energizing the brand. For GEICO it is the green Gecko mascot with the English accent. Most bank products are not top of mind and are positioned for stability, trust and privacy. As a result memorability is usually very low unless otherwise raised through buying share of voice. Both the challenge and opportunity for banks and their products is to have fun with their brands without diminishing the seriousness of transactions and customer engagement. When next launching a new product or reinvigorating a  brand think of the Peabody Ducks.

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