Deliverance from bad marketing

Earlier this month I received a large-format direct mail postcard from a well-known national big-box office supply retail chain. Emblazoned across the front was a clipart winking pink pig with the words “DEALS TO MAKE YOU SQUEAL” (yes, in ALL CAPS) centered towards the bottom.

This marketing is problematic in so many ways. While there are many things that are creepy about this direct-mail card, we’ll focus on just three. Read ahead, if you dare, to ensure your credit union marketing doesn’t approach this level of creepiness.

Clipart Pig: Ahh, my old friend, the clipart pig. Usually pink in color although sometimes green or blue, I simply cannot recall how many times I have seen this image used over the years. Many marketing audits from coast-to-coast, credit unions large and small, have unveiled this clipart pig or very similar versions thereof. I’ve even seen it outside of the credit union industry on billboards promoting things like grocery store chains and fitness centers. The problem here is the clipart pig does absolutely nothing to help your credit union stand out in the crowded field of financial institutions vying for your members’ attention. All the clipart pigs says about your credit union is “we’re about is original as a Stepford Wife so come trust us with your financial livelihood.” Honestly, does a clipart pig differentiate your credit union or inspire members and potential members? Not one bit.

Rhyme Crime: Okay, so the people that put together this direct mail piece can rhyme. So can a bunch of other people. Heck, start me off with “roses are red” and I can probably freestyle some hideous lyric for you in just a few seconds. Rhyming when done creatively can flash a spark in a consumer’s eyes and mind. When done lamely, like this example (the ALL CAPS sure didn’t help) at best your members will notice it and groan and at worst will simply trash your marketing with every other unremarkable piece of advertising they have seen or heard that day. If you fancy yourself and William Shakespeare or Ice Cube, knock yourself out. Just make sure you let some people that are not in your marketing department proof your rhymes for lameness.

General Squealing: I may be dating myself a bit here, but being a pop-culture fan I couldn’t help but immediately think of the 1972 Burt Reynolds movie Deliverance when this postcard arrived and promised to make me “squeal” with the pig so prominently pictured. If you haven’t seen the movie, I can’t necessarily recommend it because it is graphic and scarring, but if you have seen it and you know what I’m talking about, then you probably get why I don’t want anybody’s deals to make me squeal or anything remotely like a pig sound. This point may be a bit more nitpicky than the others, but if your marketing smacks loudly of a pop culture reference, it’s probably a better idea to make a positive one and not a 70s movie that traumatized a generation of kids (myself included).

Working outside the typical confines of credit union marketing dogma is both possible and powerful. It’s also not as easy as it sounds. In 2010 Old Spice rolled the dice with the first of its awesome “the man your man could smell like” commercials and helped redefine what was a stodgy old “your grandfather’s aftershave” brand into something entirely new. Your credit union, with daring and diligence, can achieve the same.

Don’t get me wrong — there are a lot of credit unions doing a lot of terrific marketing out there. Over many years of working inside and alongside credit unions, I can also safely say there’s definitely room for improvement in the marketing and consumer outreach arenas for some. Staying clear of pitfalls like cheesy clipart, lame rhymes and jarring pop-culture references is a great place to start.

And yes, this particular direct mail postcard went right in the trash, squealing like a pig all the way home.

Mark Arnold

Mark Arnold

Mark Arnold is an acclaimed speaker, brand expert and strategic planner helping businesses such as credit unions and banks achieve their goals with strategic marketing insights and energized training. Mark ... Web: Details