Saturday, July 21, 2007

Umpqua Bank: Innovative Advertising Attracts Attention

When I returned from my trip last week and enjoyed my Sunday morning newspaper, I saw an interesting ad that caught my eye.

It was bright yellow and announced an opportunity to children under the age of 13 to obtain a lemondade stand “loan.” To promote itself as small-business-friendly, Oregon-based Umpqua Bank is currently giving away 2,100 lemonade stand kits—including a $10 bill—to kids who want to start their own neighborhood enterprise.
Very clever marketing.

“Breaking through the clutter” is how Lani Hayward, executive vice president of creative strategies for Umpqua, referred to her bank’s small business advertising campaign in a July 16 New York Times article.

This campaign is another in a string of ingenious branding and messaging Umpqua campaigns that have impressed me.

Three months ago, when I was looking into which bank I would choose for my small business, I clipped one of the ads from Umpqua’s mainstreet™ campaign. I was attracted by their declarations of support for small businesses and eager to learn more.
I visited the Umpqua web site, ready to be convinced that I should bank with them.

Once at their site, however, I was baffled. I followed the mainstreet™ link on the home page to explore the small business features ("LocalSpace"). I tried to take the "Business Blend" test to see what type of programs they offer to fit my needs, however, when I clicked on "Business Blend," the test that came up was for personal banking.

I tried to find another way to navigate the web site to find business services. It took several clicks on the home page banner for me to figure out the ActiveX links. Once I enabled the sub-menus, however, I still had to guess at which words would take me where I wanted to go. (Hint: business banking programs are called "Practice," "Flow," "Launch" and "Drive.")
After nearly two hours on the web site, I had hit many dead-ends and been thoroughly confused ~ all in an effort to find the basic information anyone would want to know about how much of a minimum balance would I need to maintain for what kind of fees and for what services.

The Umpqua web site, while attractive and visually consistent with its brand messages, failed to convince me they were the better banking choice. Instead of backing up its brand message with a great sales pitch and showing me what great service they might have, the web site negated the positive impressions created by the advertising. By making it hard for visitors to find information and being ambiguous in naming its services, their web site gives the impression that the company puts more effort into grabbing new customers than they do in serving them.

Ultimately, I chose a small bank that was recommended to me by another small business owner. The bank I chose has no flash-and-sizzle. It has neither an interesting advertising campaign nor anything resembling a brand identity.

But what they do have are couriers who will come pick up my deposits; personal, friendly service; staff members who care about their clients; and branch managers who don’t hesitate to name other companies—even competitors—that can be a resource in making my small business succeed.

The moral of this story is that creative outreach is great. By all means, think outside the box. But if you don’t have the budget to put toward a fancy campaign, rest assured that doing your job—and doing it well—get noticed and talked about.

Another moral is that if you’re going to spend money on an advertising campaign, be sure that you integrate it with your web site. What good does it do your company to attract interested prospects to your web pages when those pages don’t convert the visit to a sale?

In addition to the maze-like mainstreet™ section online, you should know that you won’t even find the “Lemonaire” kit information on the Umpqua web site! According to that same Times article referenced above, Umpqua budgeted $830,000 for this campaign, the single largest advertising amount they’ve targeted directly to small businesses. Given its budgetary and PR significance, one would have thought they’d remember to post the details on their web site.
After all, even aspiring lemonade stand owners use the Internet.

No comments: