An Open Letter to Washington Mutual Bank
Honestly. “Whoo Hoo?” That’s what you came up with for your newest ad campaign? Have you completely lost your minds? Been reading the latest self help book about how the most obvious thing is usually the best answer and you took the first chimpanzee noise you heard your kid make and labeled it pure genius? Because it’s not. This is not even close to bad. This is lazy. The worst. I suppose I can’t blame you entirely. You hired a young, snappy marketing team, I’m sure, to help with this. Some group of extremely unimaginative but extremely well dressed men and women with artistic glasses and blocky jewelry. They probably took a look at your monkey language scribblings and rubbed their chins thoughtfully and nodded to one another slowly and made you feel really important and smart for an hour. I would have been taken in too. I watch TV. I know how enchanting the well dressed can be. Especially if they smell good and shake your hand, and say words like “move forward” and “branding” and “product placement” too.
It’s impossible to miss the damned billboards. I pass at least two of them on the way home from work. Which is, I’m sure, exactly what the well dressed people in the artistic glasses, and you, wanted. I know enough about advertising to know that McDonald’s doesn’t make the best burgers …but they do have enough real estate such that at the moment you get hungry on the road, you are never more than five minutes from a McDonald’s. And you are reminded of that fact with a 40 foot McWhatever-It-Is plastered onto a billboard every 80 feet or so. Is that what you were you’re hoping to accomplish here as well? Like, maybe I would be thinking about buying some coffee on my way in to the office, but then, Whoo Hoo! I would see your sign and be overcome with unmitigated joy at banking with you so that when I got to the store I wouldn’t just buy a coffee, I would buy a to-go mug and a t-shirt and a key chain as well, charging up a storm with my WAMU credit card, exclaiming Whoo Hoo! with every item I picked up like some crazy locomotive/cash register hybrid?
Try this: take the money I give you and DON’T invest it in crap like this. Take it and do something interesting and worthwhile, like that Wamoola for schools thing you started a while back. You do know we’re headed towards a recession, right? That the Fed just dropped the interest rate for like the 78th time this year? That means you have less available to pay me in interest… so please don’t take the very little I’ve decided to stick in the meager interest bearing account I have with you and waste it on giant blue and green and orange billboards that read “Whoo Hoo!”.
Oh, and don’t send me a form letter back. I hate those things. Take the time you were going to spend going to your My Documents folder containing “We’ve Read Your Letter And Are Trying Our Best To Serve You Better Letter To Complaining Customers” and hitting “print”, and save it. Save the money you were going to spend on the paper and the 15 minutes it was going to take your executive assistant to prepare an envelope and hand it to the mail guy… and just meditate for a moment. Think about all the paper you’ve used making this beast. Think about the money I’ve trusted you with. My money. The money I work very hard for.
Think about all the nonsense out there you and I have to stomach every single day. Think about the visual bombardment, the cacophony of noise you and I have to endure just to buy a t-shirt, or pay our phone bill online. Think of the pop-up ads, the junk email, the telemarketers, the guy standing out there on the sidewalk wearing a “Liquidation Sale Today!” sandwich-board sign on his body and waving laconically at you. Think about how much junk mail you throw into the garbage every day. There’s a lot of “stuff” out there already. Did WAMU really feel like it needed to join the fray?
Here’s something else: Think about how much energy and toxic chemistry it takes to manufacture an adhesive strong enough to hold a polymer to a piece of plywood in 20 mph gusts of wind. Think about the electricity it takes to light a sign all day and all night. Think about how many landfills are already full of the latest and greatest cool billboards approved of by well dressed people in artistic glasses. Think about how much waste and noise you’ve just put out there in the world to promote, not a money saving tool, or a loan product, but a catch phrase having nothing to do with banking.
Now think of the opposite of all that. Think about a clear view of the mountains in our state, unimpeded by big orange signs. Think about our water unpolluted with manufacturing waste runoff. Think about being able to offer your customers more than catch phrases. Think of the opportunity you have in this country, what with the sub-prime mortgage crisis and all, to help people save money and stay in their homes. Think about the money you’ve just saved by being a more responsible, environmentally friendly, and consumer-conscious bank. Makes ya want to say, Whoo Hoo, doesn’t it?
A Loyal Customer