In marketing your company, like any sport, there is offense and defense. Defense means not giving your competition any ammunition to use in their marketing campaigns.
Well, Bank of America and its chief executive Brian Moynihan and his statement regarding the bank's $5 debit card charge has given the competitors in the highly fragmented banking world a quote to use to start poaching the bank's customers.
I did not hear the statement live; I only saw it in newspaper reports. But a line that can be very easily taken out of context can be damaging.
Both large and small, they are coming after B of A. In the most recent earnings report from Ohio Valley Banc Corp., Jeffrey E. Smith, chairman and CEO, declared "In conclusion, the Midwest, in general, with Ohio and West Virginia, in specific, has been free from many of the excesses about which we see on our nightly news or in our daily papers. Why, we're used to living on 'skim milk' in Appalachia; and this banker still prefers 'Main Street' to 'Wall Street'."
SunTrust Banks Inc., is not only dropping the surcharge, it is returning all the fees it collected to its depositors.
"We believe banking is a relationship business and recognize the importance of responding to client preferences," said Brad Dinsmore, consumer banking and private wealth management executive at SunTrust. "We've listened to our clients' feedback and will provide the convenience and security of check cards at no additional charge as part of all of our checking accounts."
Then there are Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase. Both of those companies have backed off their pilot programs, and now no matter what B of A does, that company is the one with the biggest reputation hurt. Even in its statement Wells Fargo said it wants to stay attuned to what is customers want.
The inference—B of A doesn't pay attention to its customer's wants. This is a black mark that is difficult to get out from under for any marketer.
UPDATE: Bank of America announced this morning it will not implement the $5 debit card charge. In a statement, David Darnell, co-COO said, “We have listened to our customers very closely over the last few weeks and recognize their concern with our proposed debit usage fee. Our customers’ voices are most important to us. As a result, we are not currently charging the fee and will not be moving forward with any additional plans to do so.”