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North Shore Bank Plays Foursquare

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North Shore Bank Plays Foursquare
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Banks traditionally build brand on the pillars of strength, reliability, security, and service. Few have developed a “personality” brand and I cannot think of one that has created a brand that evokes a passionate response from its fans as do Starbucks, Apple, and Coca-Cola.

Though banks are uncomfortable with the concept, many are essentially in the retail business. In my area of the Southeastern US, Bank of America and Chase have a retail delivery network akin to quick-serve restaurants, pharmacies, and gas stations. There seems to be one on every corner.

Considering the current expansion of branch networks (mostly through merger & acquisition), it makes sense that a more engaging brand personality would be good for business.

That said, it was a refreshing surprise to read an article in US Banker’s May issue describing how North Shore Bank was experimenting with Foursquare and other social media channels to create brand awareness in the communities it serves.

The $1.8 Billion bank based in Brookfield, Wisconsin has a tech-savvy e-Business Coordinator, Tim Gluth who decided to contact the “mayors” of the bank’s 44 branches and offer them a $5 Subway gift card for their patronage. “Patronage” could be a stretch as the bank did not ask if the mayors were customers of the bank, they simply acknowledged their mentions of North Shore online to say “thank you”.

Mr. Gluth found the “Mayors” on Twitter and Facebook and made contact initially through those channels. The promotion was greeted with surprise and, from this perspective, was successful in establishing customer engagement. The bank has since carried on to sponsor local Tweet-Ups in support of the minor league baseball Timber Rattlers.

Tommy Clifford was cited in the article as a brand advocate and went beyond tweeting about the experience to documenting his experience in this You Tube video. Jason Sherrill, Owner of InetSolution, Inc., a Utica Michigan based firm, posted on his blog about the experience and is encouraging more banks to follow suit.

Emerging from the recent financial crisis in the US, banks have been working hard to re-establish credibility and trust. Advocating financial literacy among the customer base and offering products that are easy to understand and in the best interest of customers are current marketing themes.

Compatible with that messaging would be to “humanize” the bank brand.

There are still voices that tell me that Twitter, Foursquare and the rest are a waste of time. I would challenge those voices to suggest another way for banks to connect with their customer base on the local level at a cost that will not upset the marketing budget, particularly in community bank and credit union marketing.

I think they’ll find the North Shore experiment to be a big step in the right direction.

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