Friday, December 13, 2019

The best strategy for Lebanese banks to communicate further on.

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
If LSB is any measure, it tried to throw the blame on someone else. Nice try. But is this the recommended way to talk to an audience that no longer trusts banks in general and their bank specifically? Interestingly, as Dan Azzi questioned, this is influencing the Lebanese socio-economic stata: Who gets to withdraw money and how much. The thing is, banks had the chance to swallow the bullet and come out "altruistic" by taking a hit rather than the public at large: They doubled down greedily by administring haircuts to the final clients rather than forgoing part of their own debt to the government or decreasing the interest rate (just as a reminder, it seems decreasing the interest rate by one percentage point saves the government 900 million Dollars yearly).
People have little or no faith in banks anymore. They'd rather put their money under their pillow now rather than waiting in line hours to be able to collect a measly 200 or 300 Dollars. People are confused, will this become the norm? Are these the big interest rates they were promised? People who put their money in blocked accounts - specifically in Lebanese Pounds - lured by 14% interest rates now see the value of their currency nose-dive.
And yet the question remains: Say I am a bank in Lebanon, how do I communicate further on? Where do I go from here?
Banks used all possible cards in the past: Family, slice of life, emotional appeal - you name it, it was used. Already their selling lines were playing on such promises, words such as "proximity", "potential", or "life" abounded and played on the public eager emotions.
Technically, practically all slices of the public at large were swayed. Which brings us to current crisis which touched almost everyone.
Now, can they use the truth as a weapon? Surely not, as I said prior they had the chance to do the right thing but abdicated.
Can they sell more such emotionality? Well, the public is now disgusted so that's a no-go too.
So - what now? Fancy productions do not cut it anymore. Sympathetic messages will only enrage the public further. Messages of support also seem redundant.
The only way out as I see it is for a bank to do a harakiri and announce it is forgoing part of its debt to the government and that it is doing so for patriotic reasons. To begin with it grows big in the eyes of current and potential consumers, then it automatically shames the competition in a way anyone else who does it becomes a me-too, it also rehabilitates its standing nation-wide. Will it lose money? Obviously. But in the long run, this act will always be associated with its name and brand and this no one can take away from it: When push came to shove they did what had to be done for the nation at large.
Now, does such a bank exist? I doubt.