Remember the days when a trip to the bank with Mom or Dad meant a lollipop, or a balloon handed to you by a smiling teller eager to impress on your young mind that this bank was a fun place to be? Whether it is because marketing efforts aimed at kids have reached a saturation point or because that segment of people without children is just too elusive, nowadays, Rover is more likely to get the treat than Junior.
You’ve probably noticed that “bank wars” have taken over the role of the “drug store wars” that dominated New York retail rentals in the ‘90s. In Manhattan, branch after branch of competing financial institutions are now opening where Rite Aid and CVS used to be. They have bright lights, and lots of primary colors (drab is so last century!) They are open on weekends and most offer free checking. And a doggie biscuit.
Commerce Bank still offers red lollipops for the kids, but the pups are finally getting their due. At most branches, dogs are not only welcome, but catered to as they provide water, and biscuits and at a branch I visited on the Upper West Side, the greeter stationed at the door knew many of the dogs by name.
“We started this in our suburban branches, with doggie treats at the drive-thru windows,” said David Flaherty, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Commerce Bank. “But when we moved into Manhattan, with the folks in New York and the popularity of dogs, it just took on another dimension.”
Bank of America created PetRewards Visa, which allows consumers to earn points when they make a purchase. The points can be redeemed for pet-related expenses or to make a donation to an animal shelter. The credit card features a picture of the parents’ pet.
“Many of us have a soft spot in our hearts for our pets,” said Marsha Schonekas, PetRewards Marketing Manager at Bank of America. “This credit card is a great way for consumers to help with expenses or make a donation to an animal shelter -while at the same time giving us another way to show of pictures of our pets.”
They now produce an all-day annual “paw-ty” in Philadelphia, with a pet parade, caricaturists and games.
At Citizens Bank in Boston, one branch manager came up with the idea of creating a “dog spot” for his canine customers. Al Manteo says, “South Bend is a dog community and I felt a need to fill that niche. I didn’t want the dogs to have to be tied up outside in these cold Boston winters.” The dog spot features water, biscuits, and a comfortable area for the dogs to relax and play.
But what about those curmudgeonly few that (gasp!) don’t like dogs? How are they taking all of this? “We haven’t had any complaints,” continued Al Manteo. “It seems to very popular and the people smile all the time.”
Dogs just seem to do that to people. But what’s next?
Catnip at the dry cleaners? Fish food at Fed Ex? Well, maybe next year …