Managing a brand in today's interconnected world is difficult - what is social media? Marketing? Branding? Advertising? Customer Service? Crisis Management? All of the above.
I got an email this week from Navy Federal Credit Union. I have not served in our nation's armed forces, but my dad served for a number of years in the Navy. The story, as I remember it, is that my parents brought me into the branch when I was a few weeks old and a teller my parents had a regular ongoing customer relationship with opened an account in my name with $20 of her own money (you can have an account as a dependent of a serviceman). The two biggest pieces of financial advice my dad has consistently delivered over the years are "Don't end up with a rebate on your taxes - that's a tax-free loan to the government" and "Whatever you do, keep your Navy Federal Credit Union account."
I haven't used the account much over the years - every so often I add a little to it and it quietly earns interest. They've also come in handy with great rates on car loans and debt consolidation.
A few days ago I got an email promoting boat loans. I thought that was kind of funny, considering most of its customers have probably served on a sea-going vessel much larger than they'd ever be able to get a loan for. I didn't know if it was a good idea (you can get your own boat and finally be captain), or silly (why would I buy boat which will always feel small compared the ones I served on - plus I remember the constant maintenance). I decided to tweet about it, but to take a more absurd train of thought, because, well, that's how I think.
Navy Federal originally misunderstood and their security mindset jumped into action. I had to explain that, no, in fact it was a joke that just didn't work as well as I'd hoped. (Another one of my followers got it - they retweeted it.)
Once NFCU understood, a more playful side came out. So I have to give props to them for having that balance - security-minded, but also empowered/allowed to have a more playful, informal interchange with their customers. So, kudos, @NavyFederal - it's not easy being a bank in a social era.