From Burgers to Banking

By: Frank Allgood

I’m the dad that follows everyone around the house, flipping off the lights, clicking off unwatched TVs and lowering the thermostat in the dead of winter to save a buck. But on a recent Saturday night, I surprised the family when I pulled into a local gaming and amusement venue that had one of those 1950s diner-style burger joints. You know, the one where the staff dances and sings? Well… at least they used to.

My wife has been a longtime fan of Johnny Rockets. The paper hats. The 5-cent jukebox. The upbeat wait staff who would squirt ketchup smiley faces on your plate when your fries arrived. About every 15 to 30 minutes the entire staff, even the cooks behind the shiny chrome bar, would breakout in a dance. And with our two fussy-eating children, Johnny Rockets was one place where everyone had an awesome time.

This time, however, the experience we had known and loved was gone. We had to order our meals from a more expensive, limited menu with no children’s items from a counter outside the restaurant. There were no paper hats or cheerful staff. While the jukebox played music, you couldn’t flip through the charts and select a tune despite it taking your money. And if you wanted ketchup, you made your way to a toppings bar.

Notice I didn’t say anything about the food. The food was good and on par with what we’ve experienced before, although it’s funny how a heftier bill can impact your senses. When you consider, however, the current burger craze where there are casual dining and midscale restaurants competing well on taste, flavor and freshness, it became a big bowl of OK.

This is the same view most people have about their financial institutions. They’re not great, but they’re good enough. That is until something better comes along.

Consider the rise of fintech. SoFi, which has built an incredible business telling consumers “don’t bank,” just announced plans to buy Zenbanx, a mobile-banking startup. CEO Mike Cagney said, “We can offer something better than incumbent players with the same kind of innovation we’ve brought to other areas of finance, like student loan refinancing.”

Those incumbent players… they are credit unions and community banks.

Do you stand for something different? – I’m not advocating singing and dancing tellers (although that would be wicked cool). Instead of selling low rates, let’s focus on how we make our members feel. Something you can do that fintech can’t is be super hyper local. And I don’t mean just cutting a check to the local United Way. As a credit union or community bank, you have the power and resources to take significant action within your community.

How can your brand be fresh, cool and still be classic? – Johnny Rockets announced in 2016 that it is moving away from its 1950s diner look for something more modern. And clearly, the rebrand hasn’t reached the restaurant in my hometown. But I’ve looked at their messaging of “fresh never frozen” and “farm to table,” and I can’t help but feel they are jumping on a product-pushing bandwagon.

In the banking and finance world, you’re better than that, right? Beyond rates and customer service, how do you delight your members?

How can we take members and make them fans? – My wife was a Johnny Rockets brand loyalist, not because of its 1950s nostalgia, but because the experience made her feel good. At your financial institution, let’s give your members something to talk about. Fans are intense, enthusiastic and are ready for you to get to know them.

Frank Allgood has more than 15 years of experience in every facet of public information and marketing communications. As Relationships & Results Leader for Your Marketing Co., he is responsible for strategic brand experiences and marketing initiatives for credit unions and community banks across the country. Frank will be speaking at the League's 2017 Marketing Conference on June 21st titled "Head of the Class: Marketing for Credit Union Queen Bees and Wannabes."

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