A few months ago, Standard Chartered launched a global campaign titled ‘Here for Good’.
The campaign’s key themes – CSR and endurance – seek to establish Stan Chart as a brand that’s here for the long term as well as focused on investments with a positive and ethical social outcome.
While Stan Chart’s goal is laudable, I am not so sure it is credible.
People interpret ‘good’ in many different ways – commercial banking just doesn’t happen to be one of them
Shareholders interpret ‘good’ as being a return on investment that’s in line with, or above, the risk incurred with obtaining it.
People in general however interpret ‘good’ in a slightly more selfless way.
Brands that are deemed ‘here for good’ are brands that are doing work that is humanitarian and that truly arouses the admiration and respect of the human spirit. Brands that stir this in us are brands like Amnesty International, SPCA, Mother Theresa, Kofi Anan, Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Project Red – to name a few.
Can Stan Chart exist alongside these brands enjoying the same sort of esteem they do? I don’t think so – simply because of the fundamental difference these brands have in terms of purpose – compared to Stan Chart.
Even if Stan Chart could claim to be ‘good’ – could it claim to be so more powerfully than its competitors?
All banks are not the same – their structure and reasons for being differ.
Commercial banks answer to shareholders and are fundamentally driven by a motivation to earn profit. Stan Chart is in this category of banks.
Cooperative banks on the other hand answer to members, are less focused on profit – and more on service to the community instead. Australia’s Bendigo Bank, for example, which is owned by the communities in which it operates, was the country’s only bank to register a world class Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 33 – NPS being a key measure of customer loyalty.
Credit unions exist for a purpose similar to cooperative banks while newer financial organisations such as Kiva or Grameen Bank of Bangladesh push even harder into the social and ethical space issuing microloans to people to break the cycle of poverty.
Against competition of such nature, how does, and indeed how can, Stan Chart claim the title of ‘Here for Good’ more persuasively than these brands?
A clear disconnect between tactic and thematic
Visit the Stan Chart website here in Singapore and you’re immediately greeted by a banner that screams “unlimited giveaways with Stan Chart Cards – start shopping now!
We know that a key global issue – and an important reason countries have faced the economic problems they have – is credit card debt.
Yet here is a bank that encourages it – whilst at the same time making the claim that it is here for good. How can it be – when it turns a blind idea to a key issue facing society – and in particular – its youngest and most vulnerable members!
What Stan Chart needs to do is to get the bank’s product and brand marketing people together and ensure they are better aligned in terms of proposition.
Banks don’t decide whether they’re going to be here for the long term – markets and the fundamental nature of their operations do
It is all well for a bank to make a claim in an ad, it is a completely different matter to be able to support it.
Part of Stan Chart’s communication strategy (as stated in their annual report) is to be seen as the bank that’s going to be here for good (as in for always). It’s understandable that they may want to reiterate this position given the number of banks that have gone under (122 in the US in 2009 alone!) if web reports are to be believed.
But I am sure even Citibank and Royal Bank of Scotland harboured the same lofty ideal of being around for good – yet both were severely tested – and very nearly obliterated – thanks to conditions in the market and the fundamental nature of their operations which finally caught up with them.
Other financial institutions such as Lehmann Brothers were not so lucky.
It is not for a bank to claim that they will be here for good
It is for them to undertake practice that ensures they will – and what Stan Chart is not doing is showing evidence of this in its advertising.
In summary, I think the campaign tries to achieve goals that are laudable but in way that I don’t think is awfully credible.