Corporate Eye

Banks Shift to a Brand Modesty Strategy

dom-perignonThere was a time in the not so distant past when financial companies flaunted their money like the latest ‘it’ celebrity in Hollywood.  They’d plaster their brand names all over event venues and pay to sponsor pricey dinners and parties in special tents at the hottest events in town.  Since the financial meltdown in the U.S., those days are over.  Or are they?

Despite a bill that sits in Congress that is intended to put an end to banks that received bailout money from sponsoring pricey events, the practice continues — but in a much more hush-hush fashion.

According to an article in The New York Times, banks aren’t steering clear of high price-tagged event sponsorships entirely.  Instead, the new cool thing to do is to pretend they don’t have money to spend on those events at all.  The new cool thing is for financial brands and the executives that represent them to pretend that they’re just like average consumers who can’t sell their homes, are in fear of losing their jobs, and have no health benefits and no money saved for their kids’ college tuitions or their own retirements.  Do you believe them?

Of course, the leaders of these newly modest brands know that no one is going to buy their feigned brand positioning strategy, and it’s hard to give up the pricey event sponsorships where they can schmooze with their friends clients over caviar and Dom Perignon.  So what are they doing to keep the modesty charade going?  They’re still sponsoring pricey events but they’re leaving their corporate and brand signage at home.  Sometimes they’re even going so far as to, dare I say it, share event space to appear more frugal.

So what does this new trend say about these brands?  At a time when consumers are looking for trust in brands, feigning modesty seems to fly in the face of everything consumers want and need, particularly from financial institutions.  What do you think?

I want my bailout money back.

Image: Flickr

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.
Felix Chesterfield

I have typically been very impressed with Cogent Research’s skills with brand positioning

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