The 5 worst bank marketing fails (and what we can learn from them)

Posted By Axonn on 13th October 2015

Banks can do some amazingly good things with their marketing campaigns, from TD Bank’s Automatic Thanking Machine to Santander’s Successful Entrepreneurship campaign last year. But while there are lots of examples of brilliant marketing, there are always a few turkeys.

Here are some of the worst bank marketing fails of recent years.

JP Morgan asks for it

JP Morgan’s #AskJPM campaign has to go down as one of the worst bank marketing fails ever. In November 2013, the US bank decided to hold a Twitter chat. The only thing the bank forgot was that Wall Street wasn’t too popular with your average tweeter and it took a pasting.

Rather than genuine questions for bankers, JP got a flood of abuse and sarcasm from disgruntled customers and bloggers.

Eventually, the Q&A was cancelled.

Lesson: Unless it’s in a closed environment, banks need to be super careful. Engaging openly on Twitter is asking for it if your brand reputation is not first-rate. Twitter is uncontrollable, hashtags can easily get hijacked and you should always consider the worst case scenario before jumping in.

Barclays: Dan panned

Coinciding with some massive fines for interest rate manipulation, poor Dan never stood a chance. He was a fictional character introduced by Barclays in 2012 for a Facebook campaign that can only be described as awkward and incredibly condescending.

Classics included:

Say hi to Dan. He says he’s pretty useless at budgeting. We’re going to follow him this week to see what he spends, and work out where he can save to enjoy more of summer.


Dan’s a HR manager and spends £5 a day on lunch. That’s about £100 a month; enough to buy a ticket to the vintage car festival he really wants to go to in August. Bringing food from home for a couple of months would mean a more memorable end to the summer. So come on Dan, get making those sandwiches and book those festival tickets.

Lesson: Timing is important, but treating your customers like total idiots will fail any day of the week.

HSBC message gets lost in translation

Back in 2009, HSBC had to completely redo its global private banking marketing. It spent millions to scrap its US campaign message “Assume Nothing” because it just didn’t quite cut through abroad.

That’s because when it was translated into overseas markets and languages, it became “Do Nothing”, which was slightly less inspiring. Eventually, HSBC became “The world’s private bank”.

Lesson: If your campaign is global, do your homework. You don’t want to end up like Kraft with its Mondelez situation in Russia.

Bank of America deaf to criticism

In 2013, activists in the Occupy movement were haranguing Bank of America on Twitter. Nothing particularly noteworthy about that, per se, except that the auto-responder continued to reply with happy, generic messages.

One activist was chased by police for his antics and simply included @bankofamerica in his tweet about the incident.

Cue the robotic responses:

This sparked what can only be described as a calamitous session of tweets between @bankofamerica and hundreds of others.

Lesson: Banks are prime targets for social media users – let’s not make it any easier for detractors to fill the Twittersphere.

Silver State Bank trust runs out

Silver State Bank had a knack for irony. On September 4th 2008 it featured an ad that said: “Why do so many of Nevada’s strongest businesses trust Silver State Bank? The answer? ‘Security’ and ‘protection’.”

One day later the bank was seized and sold by regulators after a run on deposits that saw $264 million withdrawn by customers in just two months.

Lesson: No words or ads can alter a total failure of an institution. Being honest may not have helped, but it cannot have been any worse than plain lies.