|Banks battle it out on Twitter|
Monday, 27 February 2012 12:10
Twitter was abuzz with retorts to Standard Bank's public threat to take rival bank First National Bank (FNB) to task over an advert it had commissioned in a weekend newspaper.
Last Thursday, Standard Bank opened a can of social media worms when it informed the public that it would lodge a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) regarding a print advertisement by FNB that it called "misleading advertising".
The bone of contention, says Standard Bank, is that FNB claims to be the only bank to offer free online, cellphone and telephone banking. "Standard Bank also offers free cellphone, online and telephone banking, and in fact, lodged a similar complaint against FNB with the ASA in March 2003." At the time, FNB undertook to retract the claim "from all FNB's current and future advertising", which the ASA Directorate accepted.
Peter Schlebusch, chief executive for personal and business banking at Standard Bank, said in a blog post: “Customers have the right to know the true facts. FNB's advertising is clearly misleading and factually withdrawn.” Standard Bank, he says, also refutes the claim that FNB is the first to offer an account with no monthly management fee. “Standard Bank's Mzansi account, launched in October 2004, has never had a monthly management fee,” he says.
A series of tweets by @StandardBankGrp last Thursday made it clear that Standard Bank disputed the claims made by the recent FNB advert. Tweets such as: "We instruct attorneys to lodge complaint with ASA against FNB for advertising that misleads the public", and "FNB ads mislead South Africans by laying claim to several firsts", kicked off the Twitter tempest, with FNB's Twitter avatar, RB Jacobs – the "FNB guy" – responding with: "Really no time for a Twitter fight. Too busy making #FNB customers happy. :-)" (sic)
FNB CEO Michael Jordaan, a prolific tweeter, noted the response from FNB loyalists: "Customers responding on Twitter to competitor's complaint against FNB. Go check it out," while two accounts were set up shortly after the online debate began, @BeepBank and @Steve_Beep_Bank, featuring satirical quips such as: "Sticks and stones may break my bones but tablets and phones will never harm me. O wait. Let me try that again. #FNB" and "#FNB the first SA bank with an app? We downloaded Angry Birds way before they did…" (sic)
FNB loyalists, in turn, expressed their sentiments: "Here's an idea @StandardBankGrp, instead of whinging about #FNB why not try be a better bank? This is exactly why I don't bank with you", "Standard Bank's motto will change to 'Moving swiftly along' when their complaint against #FNB gets binned" and "@StandardBankGrp the approach you've taken taints your intentions. No matter how noble they are".
Standard Bank on Friday responded by saying the bank was "encouraged, but not surprised" to see what it referred to as a passionate approach on behalf of the social media community regarding its impending complaint to the ASA. Standard Bank defended its decision to use Twitter as the platform to announce its discontent with its rival. "The announcement was made in social media, because we value our online communities and felt that they should hear it firsthand from us. We respect our community's views and value the transparent relationship we share with them."
Standard Bank further said it admired any well executed marketing strategy and that while it views competition as healthy, "some of the facts in FNB's print advert are simply incorrect". FNB did not respond by the time of publication.
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