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High streets are littered with beautiful ex bank branches that have gone on to become pubs and wine bars. Imagine what would happen though if a bank diversified into hospitality, how would that be?

Tandem’s Bank’s video on You Tube demonstrates just this with hilarious consequences. If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to (see link below).  A team of actors take over the running of a pub for one day (complete with on the counter hold music).

“You want coffee? I’m sorry you’ve come through to the lager department, let me put you on hold whilst I transfer you!”

“You’d like to reach across the counter, grab me by the lapels and remonstrate with me? Let me put you through to the conversation department.”

“Here’s your coffee. That will be £6.00 for the coffee and £25 of unnecessary charges!”

There’s a Vox Pops at the end where the customers tell us exactly how they felt about being served in this way. It wasn’t pretty.

But, you know the more I thought about this, the more it saddened me. Banks have become an easy target for the “lampoon direct” in our society. I would argue that they have allowed it to happen and even deserve it. Most of society in the western world is still smarting from the financial crises of 2007 and on. “Bankers Bonuses” have become synonymous with the worst excesses of unearned income. And what have Bankers done? In my opinion they have shied away from society and their responsibilities.

TV ads with obscure brand images, (I’m thinking black horses running through hospitals here, fellas) don’t really add any great value to the debate.

The fundamental problem is that we consumers have no idea of the banker’s value proposition to society.  There was a time when we felt intimidated by our banks; when a letter from the bank manager was like a summons from the headmaster to receive six of the best. These days we laugh at you and reach for the Ombudsman.

Just how do you enrich our lives? Time and effort put into managing “risk and compliance” so often seem to us like petty rules and regulations. That’s why Tandem Bank’s pub is so funny.

Guys, you need to be “loud and proud.”

If you want to win our hearts and minds you need to explain to us, in terms that we understand, what you do for us. How you protect us, how you can help us manage our wealth throughout our lives, how you can feel less hungry and more supportive to your customers. When you make changes to your business model, you need to find a way to express those changes with empathy and show that you understand our point of view.

In my case, I’ve just received a letter from my bank informing me that they are closing their branch in my nearest town. This will make little practical difference to my life, given that all I really do with the branch is to pay in the occasional cheque or extract cash. But it’s another nail in the coffin of our dying relationship, a progressive withdrawal from my life and yet another way in which my bank has made itself irrelevant to me. That’s my emotional reaction.

Rationally, so what? I have internet, I have mobile and I have the ATM at the supermarket. The trouble is that these practical solutions don’t deliver an aspirational brand proposition. Guys, you have failed to surprise and delight me once again. My bank is unilaterally commoditising our relationship and that’s disappointing for both of us. Maybe we should drown our sorrows.

A drink in the Pranksters Arms anyone? 

To watch the video