Make coffee at home, bring your lunch to work, walk instead of taking a cab. Three of the most common, boilerplate, how-to-live-on-a-shoestring-budget recommendations that any number of financial life lesson articles have spewed over the past 25 years. Your standard-issue finger-wagging tips, typically aimed at recent college grads, sprinkled with a hearty dose of welcome-to-the-real-world condescension.
It’s also the type of thing you’d actually expect to find in a bank pamphlet titled something catchy like Financial Advice for Young People. So it comes as no surprise that yesterday, after a day of messages around landing that first job and life after graduation, Chase Bank’s Twitter account tweeted a How Do You Do, Fellow Kids version of this very sentiment:
“You: why is my balance so low
Bank account: make coffee at home
Bank account: eat the food that’s already in the fridge
Bank account: you don’t need a cab, it’s only three blocks
You: I guess we’ll never know
Bank account: seriously?”
Chase seemed to forget that Brand Twitter doesn’t exist in some sort of magic cultural vacuum. What a company says publicly will be judged against that company’s IRL behavior. It’s why Gillette got called out for its pink tax and Tucker Carlson ad placements when it tried to make a progressive statement on toxic masculinity. It’s why, despite the popularity of Fearless Girl statue in Manhattan, State Street, the financial firm that commissioned the sculpture, lost credibility when it was forced to settle a U.S. government claim that it paid female employees and people of color less than white males.
And it’s why Chase was quickly taken to task, by none other than Democratic presidential candidate—and longtime critic of corrupt banking—Elizabeth Warren.
.@Chase: why aren’t customers saving money?
Taxpayers: we lost our jobs/homes/savings but gave you a $25b bailout
Workers: employers don’t pay living wages
Economists: rising costs + stagnant wages = 0 savings
Chase: guess we’ll never know
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) April 29, 2019
California Rep. Katie Porter, who had called out JPMorganChase CEO Jamie Dimon earlier this month during a House Financial Services Committee hearing on how one of his bank tellers could make ends meet, also weighed in yesterday. Porter was quick to point out that Dimon didn’t have an answer to her original query, so should probably lay off the budgeting advice.
Mr. Dimon, you couldn’t figure out how to balance an example JPMC teller budget but said you’d “think about” how one might make ends meet. Is this what your crackerjack leadership team came up with? https://t.co/4IDc2yLUL9
— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) April 29, 2019
As my Fast Company colleague Cale Weissman said, this tweet came from a “bank worth $400B that charges anywhere from $2.50 and $5 for individual ATM fees and $34 per overdraft—both of which are taxes on poor people.”
In the year 2019, marketers are clawing for our attention more than ever, as it has become increasingly difficult to get a word in amid all the branded white noise. But in doing so, in a 24/7 mediasphere, they’re also making shockingly dumb errors like this. And while most of the world might be simply rolling its eyes at this latest facepalm moment, the Chase brand took a significant hit. Warren and others’ responses went viral, the brand trended on Twitter for all the wrong reasons, and the media covered all of it. The company tweeted out a short apology, whose cool-kid tone belied any actual contrition. Regardless, the damage was already done.
— Chase (@Chase) April 29, 2019
As a marketer, the bank does some pretty cool stuff–its video and podcast series with LeBron James’ Uninterrupted being a prime example. Now a good chunk of that goodwill is flushed away in one tweet. Questions will be rightly asked of the the brand, and of its social agency VaynerMedia, and how between the two of them, no one had the cultural awareness to not hit “send.” Seriously?
Neither Chase nor VaynerMedia replied to Fast Company‘s request for comment by press time.
UPDATE: A source close to Chase confirmed the tweet was sent by an internal brand social team, not through agency VaynerMedia.