I have never heard Kim Kardashian speak. I never watched her show. I don't know the family story. I can't name family members beyond Bruce Jenner. Until today, I never searched on her name.
But I know who she is. I know she's pretty. I have heard her claim to fame is an online sex video. I have seen her butt. But not in person. I saw it on a prime time news program. That's right, her derier was featured on a prime time news story.
How has this person turned nothing into significant brand recognition and revenue stream?
By typing Kim Kardashian, and adding her as a label, I just significantly increased this blog post's SEO, or search engine optimization. According to Yahoo, she was the sixth most popular search during the year. There were no banks in the top 10. If I add her picture, which I am contemplating doing, I would increase my traffic. This is known as "click bait". Put a pretty girl next to any post... be it about fishing or the Victoria's Secret fashion show, and you'll get more clicks, so they tell me.
In fact, when I searched (via Bing) "Washington Trust Bank", a $4.7 billion in asset community bank based in Spokane and founded in 1902, I had 74,900 hits. I did the same for "Wells Fargo" and got 3.4 million hits. Kim Kardashian: 4.3 million hits.
Strategy teams perform a Situation Analysis prior to developing bank strategy, surveying reams of facts to get an accurate assessment of their operating environment. One particular part of a US bank's environment, sadly, is that we are celebrity obsessed. You want to follow Will and Kate, our crack news coverage has you covered. Wonder how far along Iran is in their nuclear program? Good luck.
This became apparent to me when I was speaking to a Washington state banker about his most famous customer, Sig Hansen, the captain of the F/V Northwestern, a crab fishing vessel. Yes, I hot linked to a crab fishing vessel. They have a website, and a pretty nifty one too. How could this be? Because Sig and the Northwestern are front and center on Discovery Channel's Dangerous Catch. Click over to their website and you can buy the coffee Sig drinks. Clearly, Sig's celebrity has aided the cash flow ups and downs typical of a fishing vessel.
How can banks respond to our celebrity obsessed culture? I don't think it is by hiring a celebrity to pitch your bank. Society has grown accustomed to this, and I'm not convinced it moves the needle much. Honda recognized this by enlisting Stretch Armstrong as spokesman for its line of cars this holiday season.
But perhaps we can make a celebrity or two out of our senior executives. For example, I live in Central Pennsylvania, where a credit union uses its CEO in all of its advertisements, billboards, etc. Forget the fact that he wears tights and a cape in most ads. No, seriously, I'm trying to forget that fact. But you get my point. This credit union has made a celebrity out of their CEO, and he is widely recognized in the community.
If done properly, this strategy could leave you exposed to the new celebrity departing the bank, or demanding higher compensation due to their new found status. There are ways to mitigate this risk. Progressive Insurance did so with Flo.
Do you think turning key employees into celebrities would help execute your strategy?
P.S. I went with Sig Hansen's photo. Not as pretty as Kim.