The wrong words: how one bank got it wrong

by Stratton Craig

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Social media fail – how a mega bank chose the wrong words.

#Mondaymotivation or #Mondaymoneyshaming? That was the question on many people’s minds when they saw Chase Bank’s attempt at relatable social media content. The tweet, which aimed to be lighthearted and funny, ended up as a social media fail. It read:
“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?”
At first glance, the tweet might seem pretty harmless. Chase’s social media team clearly attempted to appeal to a younger audience by taking the much-memed sentiment that we’re our own worst enemies when it comes to saving money. The call of expertly brewed coffee, delicious takeaway food and the comfort of a short hop in a taxi are often too appealing, but quickly zap money from our accounts. Before we know it, our money seems to have evaporated and we have nothing much to show for it. So, the content of this tweet, it seems, is not what’s caused offense; in this case, it’s the context.

Building trust in banking communications

During the financial crisis of 2008, banks in America were given massive bailouts by the government to try and stabilise the economy and allow them to lend money again. JP Morgan Chase received a massive $25 billion bailout, with Chase alone benefitting from more than $2 billion, at a time when many Americans were struggling even to put food on the table. It was also reported that the CEO of JP Morgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, received around $19.7 million during the year when the masses lost everything. As many large banks’ irresponsible lending led to the crash, but they seemed to ‘get away with it’ by being bailed out, the whole affair still leaves a pretty sour taste in most people’s mouths.
In addition, just a few weeks prior to the controversial tweet, Dimon failed to stand up to congresswoman Katie Porter’s questions about how his lowest paid employees are expected to survive on their paltry salaries.
So, to see a bank making statements about why its customers are poor, when it is seen by many as part of the problem, didn’t go down well. Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted a reply:
“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
Everyone: seriously?

No offense meant. Plenty taken…

It’s clear that Chase didn’t mean to cause offense with their take on a popular meme format. And they certainly didn’t intend to issue a social media fail. If, say, a fashion brand had tweeted the same thing, it may have gathered a few retweets and likes but wouldn’t have made the news. That’s because fashion is more frivolous and those of us who love to shop are well aware that our sickly bank balances are due to the new garments lurking guiltily in our wardrobes. What was so wrong with Chase’s tweet was their surprisingly short memory.
Controversies and wrongdoings have different lifespans depending on their scale and impact. KFC’s 2018 scandal, which saw its stores left without any chicken due to a supply chain mix-up, had a short lifespan. Its widely lauded apology, which included a cheeky play on letters, went down well and, as the issue only really affected people’s weekend cheat meals, it has already faded from people’s memories. However, something as enormous as the events of the 2008 economic downturn, which will be remembered for generations to come, will always haunt the financial services sector. Even if banks weren’t directly involved in lending irresponsibly or the government bailout, the harrowing events of the recession are never far away from their customers’ memories.
If brands play dumb and don’t consider every past scandal that a zany new marketing strategy could call back to, it’s a recipe for trouble. Chase’s one saving grace? Their witty follow-up tweet, which read:
Our #MondayMotivation is to get better at #MondayMotivation tweets. Thanks for the feedback Twitter world.

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