Barf: Bank of America Mixes Branding With Baseball

Summertime. Hot dogs. Baseball. And your friendly neighborhood global corporate conglomerate. Yes sir, now that is American. Bank of America is back, snuggling up to America’s pastime. They're advertising around baseball for the first time in two years. B of A ran a new commercial during the MLB All-Star Game, mingled in with the taco spots and beer spots and HD TV spots to tell America they share the same values as the fans and regular people that have made baseball America’s game for more than 100 years. Really? Wasn’t it only a few months ago that they began "listening to their customers"? Right on eve of financial reform.
Now I’ll be the first to applaud and appreciate their employees' Herculean effort to give one million hours of public service before the end of the year, but let's face it, isn’t that the least B of A should do for their part in bringing the world economy to its knees? Too bad the sincere employees you and I know are doing the heavy lifting. I know, you think I’m picking on poor little B of A because their stadium and their buildings obstruct my office window view. No, this is about the truth in a brand. The saying goes it takes a lot of words to tell a lie, but few to tell the truth. Bank of America explains that they are the nation's largest banking institution, and proud to serve more than 50 million loyal customers with comprehensive financial solutions that can enhance their lives and help support their businesses. If they stopped there, I might believe them. But they use more words. Lots of words. What do they really stand for? Their images don't inspire trust, either. The commercial shows a computer-generated graphic of a baseball with magical threads mysteriously making holes and stitching itself up. The symbol is graphically creative, but does it really connect the average Joe to Main Street? I realize they can’t show the old American artisan craftsman, hands arthritically formed to hold the needle and punch just right, making the required 88 perfect red stitches because, well, MLB baseballs are made in Costa Rica now. How American is that? By the way, Bank of America is also the official bank of Major League Baseball. They even have MLB-themed credit cards. With the average salary of a MLB player now over $3 million, I’d be the official bank too. Nice deposit rate I'm sure. How's your mortgage, Mr. A-Rod? Consumers don’t want this kind of marketing any more. We want the truth. Real, simple truth. The kind that honest brands can bring. News flash! The American consumer's values are changing. We're not like we were 5 years ago. Many of us have learned our lesson. We are swarming to brands that demonstrate—through their actions, not their words—true value. Brands that have meaning will show value, and value will gain preference. So don't tell me, don't sell me. Show me. [Marketers, pay attention.] Perhaps B of A and MLB belong in the same bunk, based on their share of scandals that have rocked the nation from time to time. But the concept of baseball is still pure, still natural, and still American. Just ask Ken Burns. Or Bob Costas. Or your inner child. The concept of a safe place to park your hard-earned funds should be the same. I wrote a few months ago about whether we, as Americans, would ever be able to trust financial institutions again. My money was on the smaller guys. Still is I'm afraid. I’m not sure simply trying to align your brand with a sport that "exemplifies our collective and enduring optimistic spirit and sense of community" is enough. B of A shouldn't be afraid to show us their true commitment to Main Street. Actions do speak louder than words.

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