Dear Bankers – feelings make bank


Tapping into emotions and driving positive ones through addictively delightful interactions- pays. That’s why you need to be a brand. No seriously, I know I’ve been repeating this like a broken record over the past years but it most certainly does.

There are three areas where the connection between customer’s feelings and their shopping behaviour becomes most evident. Areas where the Rational Consumer is but Myth.


Recent research shows that the way we relate to technology and its digital manifestation has drastically changed over the past few years. We started our pre-digital relationship to technology by perceiving it as an objective enabler for various goals with practical benefits. Now-a-days technology translates into an instant appraisal of how it can “express and enhance who I am” – an emotional goal touching on motivation and needs.


Nowhere is the connection more surprising than in purchasing decisions when it comes to everyday goods. Dr. P.N. Murray and his team found that:

“…consumers’ beliefs about a brand’s personality are based primarily on their interpretation of its “story” – the narrative expressed in communication, packaging, and other marketing elements. The narrative communicates what the brand means to them … the emotional connection. It is this connection that makes consumers loyal to brands.”


We all know that luxury items are maybe the most emotional of purchases with no reason to buy a Tesla versus a Mercedes SLK beyond the fact that it intrinsically appeals to our aspirations and sense of self.

This new research also uncovered subconscious reasons behind each aspirational purchase decision

“unconscious perceptions about a brand’s authenticity and timelessness – what consumers describe as its “truth.” These perceptions evoke emotions – the sense of trust and security that is the essence of luxury for consumers.”

If you’re in banking and quickly scrolled down to see if Financial Services was listed only to let out a sigh of relief not to see it I would suggest it’s time you hold that breath and look up again because no matter how much we may not like to admit it, banking is part consumer goods, part luxury and it’s all underpinned by technology and digital products so all of this, the irrationality of consumers, their need for an emotional connection is highly relevant to us.

So Mr (or, sadly far more unlikely, Mrs) Banker let me ask you this: do you know how your CBBE (Consumer Based Brand Equity) pyramid compares to that of Levi’s, Amazon’s or Google’s? Does your bank have one? Shall we grab someone from the Customer Behaviour team and ask, maybe a Neuromarketing expert? Does your bank know what it is?

I’d wager the answer is “no, no, who?!? and no” because we’ve already established banks do not lift one finger to become a brand. In their defence there was no need – if they did not build delightful experiences and expressed their story and “truth” then what? What would the consumer do? Go to the next non-delightful-devoid-of-truth bank? The reality of it is that while there’s ample safety in numbers and banks can continue to abuse its consumers by withholding delight some of them have where to go now. And the places they go to will fundamentally have built an identity and the type of strong brand that will make people join them and fall in love with them hence buy from them

While we struggle to understand why we should even put the consumer truly at the centre of what we build in retail, private banking and wealth made some –timid- steps in researching emotions and some studies such as this and this have been surfacing. That’s because they care, they want to make money.

That 1 point change in mortgage rates you debated for 3 months won’t move the needle. The 0.02 higher savings offer or the 100 quid signing bonus won’t make anyone a loyal, invested customer because your premise doesn’t work. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about the feelings. That’s what pays.

No matter how much denial they invest in it and how many times they roll their eyes at the urgency to understand and act on Emotional Banking, retail banking will have to soon stop avoiding the issue, rip off stifling culture to inject experience design into the DNA as a sine qua non technology enabler, and become a loved brand, as opposed to just paying customer centricity lip service sometime very soon.



Banks in the UK may be wasting (another) £400M a year

Banks need to Switch off Switching and Switch into the Consumer Instead

To those of you who read me before it will sound strange that after I spent so long complaining about the fact that people do not switch banks and remain prisoners of an abusive relationship, I would do anything other but rejoice to see this week’s news that current account switching is up by 13% bringing us up to a total of 2.8M customers in 3 years split chiefly between 7 banks.

The reason my eyes rolled when I read it, is that it’s not the mobility based on merit we were hoping for, but in effect, the consumer’s turn to scam the bank.

Take “Switching Stephen” in this article  – he openly admits his goal is to make as much money as possible by playing the system and switching as many times as possible as a pure money saving scheme. As such which of these banks will end up being the one he stays with once he’s exhausted his options? Who “owns” Steven? Who should count him in the success metrics of their acquisition campaign?

How engaged is our hero? How much does he believe that any of these banks are a brand he believes in who will serve his financial needs and accompany him as a trusted advisor through life rather than a mere pawn in his penny chasing game?

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If I were the 7 banks in the article I’d -rightfully- feel used. If I were on the board of directors of any of them I’d wonder what got into me to approve that as a strategy (or indeed why I never even knew about it). If I were serious about changing things I’d stop trying to find shortcuts and find better things to do with the 280M this exercise in futility cost.

The sad bit is that the consumer part of any of the bankers reading this, will punch the air and grin at Steven’s ingenuity -and maybe even consider making a move themselves- because we all know “banks deserve it, they’ve been shoving their hands in our pockets for long enough, time to do the same” but also because they know the service they provide is no different from the other guys and the degree to which it can delight the consumer is equally non-existent so they can’t help but sympathise.

But sympathy won’t get us anywhere. Neither will £400M a year to the tune of £100 a pop. In the infographic below I outline some of the things that money would have bought any of these banks. 40 Incubators. 4M custom development hours. 5 x Bank Simple or mBank. Half a new backend (don’t scoff, a Savings Goal and two years later they’d avoid salaries missing and ATMs crushing). 4 new BODs? Let’s stop wasting money by throwing bonuses at it and instead, create delightfully addictive or at least reasonably sticky experiences for poor Switchin’ Stephen, it’s high time.