Mick McMullan, VTM's General Manager and head of marketing, explains how the firm is aiming to attract the attention of key bank staff by running its ads against keywords like “hate XYZ bank”, which he expects are being monitored by some banks and their competitors. “To some degree banks are already managing how people are talking about their brands online,” says McMullan, “but for some their strategies and resources don't seem to be well developed yet.”
That may be understandable given the exponential speed at which the Internet has grown in recent years, but McMullan asserts there are huge threats to and opportunities for banks that wouldn't take much to address. “I was quite surprised recently”, he explains, “when I did a little research on Google Adwords and rather quickly discovered how intuitive keywords like “hate XYZ bank” and “XYZ bank sucks” turned up multiple, inexpensive opportunities for a bank to advertise against its unlucky competitor when an attack against it shows up on a page within Google's publisher network”.
McMullan continues, “they might not know about it or they might think the threat is low. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if, in some cases, their advertising agencies are still telling them to spend most of their budget and time on TV since that's an easier medium to understand and typically it's where an agency's margins are highest. And, though it's either cynical or prudent to posit, some agencies may be very aware of the threat posed to their financial clients, but it's not in their own financial interest to sound the full alarm yet about the online threat to their clients' brands. Instead, by waiting till a crisis actually breaks out, the advertising and PR agencies will be called into action when the problem is so huge and expensive to fix that they'll be in a position to make a lot more money. Till then, they might continue to oversell the benefits of TV advertising to their financial services clients who are among the biggest advertisers.”
The risk that confidence in a bank could quickly deteriorate due to one negative comment online is substantial, McMullan contends. “What's to stop a clever competitor of a bank”, he says, for example, “from building a bunch of primary or secondary links to an article of criticism, boosting its visibility in search engines, and then stoking conversations about it on social media to attract further negative commentary from that bank's current or former dissatisfied customers?”
“And”, adds McMullan, “the recent financial crisis has embittered a lot of bank customers, and the economic recovery remains fragile; so, there are probably lots of people out there who just need to see one prominent bad comment to spark them all into leaving their own comments. That kind of bad publicity could have a pretty long term effect on a bank's reputation and competitiveness.”
However, smart banks will figure this out soon, he says, and hire, train and equip plenty of staff to be on guard and hopefully prevent any disastrous hits to their reputations online.
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Velvet Talk Management conducts online reputation management and digital customer service audits to help companies attract and retain customers, talent and partners.