sly : marketing

The attack from a Norwegian bank

Today’s story is about my son’s birthday. I believe that it’s a very interesting story about marketing gone wrong. There is a valuable lesson in it for you, I promise.

Actually, you might not agree with me, when it comes to my conclusion. If you don’t agree, please leave a comment and let’s discuss it.

Who am I kidding, I am sure you are going to agree with me on this. I am talking about the attack from a bank. We’ve all experienced this, am I right?

Permission marketing

I want to start out with a brilliant quote from Seth Godin that sort of represents the story I am about to share with you;

“Finding new ways, more clever ways to interrupt people doesn’t work.”

This quote is simple, yet powerful. It tells it like it is. If we’re interrupting, no matter how, it doesn’t work.

I am talking about permission marketing, but let’s face it, most of us don’t know what permission is.

Let me give you an example.

Common mistakes

Remember, this was my son’s birthday, and a story about a local bank, a bank that are looking for success in all the wrong places.

There are at least two common mistakes that people make when it comes to marketing.

1. Marketing is all about attention

It’s way too easy to get attention, in order for it to be a very important part of marketing. Attention is at best a short term goal. It will never be anything more than a short term solution.

2. Marketing is all about being targeted and relevant

You can be as targeted and relevant as you want, but still you might not get a single sale. The reason is fairly simple, and kind of obvious if you think about it.

You can get as much attention as you want, and your marketing efforts can be targeting the right people and it can be as relevant as you’d like, but if you have no prior relations or trust among the people you are reaching out to, you will experience problems no matter what you’re selling.

Marketing is more about creating trust and building relations.

Never try too hard

Again, it was my son’s birthday, he turned 5 years old. The local bank did what they had done on all his and his sister’s birthdays. They sent a letter with a birthday card and a balloon and a pencil. They do this every single year. They’re building a relationship with my kids. That’s ok. They are targeting kids, but at least they are doing something right.

Next to the envelope with the birthday card was another envelope addressed to the parents of my son. It wasn’t addressed to me or my wife, but to the parents. This made me curious. I opened it as soon as my son had opened his birthday card and started blowing up the balloon.

I thought it was a letter, but it was a flyer with the following headline (translated from Norwegian):

Take care of your most valuable assets

The flyer had a picture of a girl, sitting on the grass, playing with a cat. It was an advertisement for child insurance.

Why is this marketing gone wrong?

I believe that the problem started when the people at the bank asked the following question;

How can we benefit from the situation?

I believe that we should never ask this question. If we do, whatever answer we come up with is short term at best.

The reason they sent the flyer is obvious. If there is one day of the year when parents think more about their kids than on any other day, it’s on their birthdays. We think about how much we love them, that it’s unthinkable to live without them, how precious they are, and how vulnerable they are.

Sending a flyer with an advertisement for child insurance on their birthday sounds like a brilliant idea. It’s targeted and relevant, and they certainly got my attention. But there’s one thing missing, and that’s the most important part of marketing.

They didn’t have my permission.

I didn’t want the flyer, and especially on the birthday of my son. To me that’s a day when all we do is celebrate. I don’t want to think about all the bad things that can happen – especially not on that particular day.

Their short term goal destroyed some of the trust, and it certainly didn’t help building a relationship.

15 responses to “The attack from a Norwegian bank”

  1. Chuck Bartok says:

    Another stroke of genius, Jens.
    Timing is another facet of marketing that need
    skill development.

    However, asking questions is important, just need to learn the right time. The more one develops a relationship with the customer/prospect the easier it is to realize the RIGHT TIME.
    Thanks again for your posts

    • Absolutely, the right time is indeed important. The problem with a lot of companies is that they don’t talk to their customers. They’re not asking for permission, before trying to sell. Building trust and relations is the key.

      Thanks a lot for your valuable comments Chuck.

  2. Lars Vemund says:

    Another cruel example of this is the Norwegian organization for sudden infant death syndrome. They send out invitation to join their organization to all parents one week after giving birth to their son/daughter.

    Then they really cross the line in my mind…

  3. Could not agree with you more Jens. What the heck was the bank thinking? It’s crazy they were able to turn a positive action (the card/balloon) into something really stupid– a silly advertisement. Geez, what a head-slapper.

    Timing is everything, and this was the wrong time to do that.

    Great story bud.

    PS: What happened to your cool photo on the side bar? 😉


    • It seems that a lot of people are only looking to benefit, without earning the trust and building a relationship first. I talk to a lot of people almost on a daily basis who believe that marketing is all about advertising (it’s a numbers game) and creating the best ads. Some of those people probably work at this bank 🙂

      So you like the photo in the sidebar? I’ll consider adding.

      By the way, what do you think of the new design?

      As always, thanks a lot for the comment Marcus.

      • Yeah, I really liked the photo, it was a ‘cool’ shot and I thought represented you very well. Nice, clean design though man. What’s the end goal?

        • jens says:

          Actually, I don’t have an end goal. I’m too busy writing my novel. But I was just tired of the old design, and thought I’d try a new one. That’s all (not sure if it’s such a good idea, but I just wanted to give it a try) 🙂

  4. wow that message was creepy. I think I’ll really freak is that was my case. In any case we are talking about banks. they do whatever it takes to make a sales.
    Great post!

    • jens says:

      It’s weird that banks are still doing this type of marketing. Why can’t they learn. The problem is probably that they are all doing it, and we need them 🙂

      Thanks a lot for your comment Ric.

  5. Jon says:


    I haven’t visited in a bit so I’d just like to say I am really digging the new design here. The floating nav bar is awesome and everything looks so clean. Great logo; I’m jealous.

    Anyway…the bank failed. I don’t have children but my gosh I would have thrown that flyer out the moment I was done reading. Protecting your family is important but the way they presented it was distasteful.

    “Marketing is more about creating trust and building relations.” Yes sir.


  6. jens says:

    Hi Jon,

    Thanks a lot. The design cost me $39 from Elegant Themes. Just click on the banner in the sidebar. The best investment I have made this year 🙂

  7. Carolyn says:

    You’re absolutely correct, Jens. The bank’s warm and caring approach to marketing with the balloon and the pen was completely undone by the advertisement for life insurance for your son. What a shame that their marketing expenditure was undone by such a callous effort.

    Great example of marketing gone wrong.

    • jens says:

      Hi Carolyn,

      I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the letter about the life insurance. I still don’t get it, this bank is usually fairly professional. But this time it was an obvious glitch. Maybe they have hired a new marketing manager 🙂

      Thanks again for your awesome comments.

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