Finweek English Edition - - Advertising & marketing -

IT WAS AN ex­tremely brave – and much-needed – de­ci­sion by FNB to chal­lenge so pub­licly the Gov­ern­ment’s non-de­liv­ery on crime. Pity it back­fired so badly.

In mar­ket­ing terms, the risks were enor­mous. Would the pos­i­tives (pub­lic sup­port for a stand against crime) out­weigh the neg­a­tives of pub­lic, Gov­ern­ment and, yes, busi­ness hos­til­ity? No one could re­ally tell, ex­cept to say that the bank would have to bal­ance the ups against the downs and de­cide for it­self the likely costs.

But by pulling its cam­paign at the last minute, the bank en­sured that only the neg­a­tive per­cep­tions would pre­vail. Those who might have sup­ported the bank’s brav­ery, in­stead were dis­ap­pointed or even an­tag­o­nised by its ul­ti­mate cow­ardice. And those who might have been hos­tile, were hos­tile any­way – be­cause they knew of the bank’s in­ten­tions. It was im­pos­si­ble to keep a se­cret of this mag­ni­tude.

Once the de­ci­sion was made, it was im­pos­si­ble to undo. There was no go­ing back.

So when it comes time in a yearend roundup to tally the mar­ket­ing tri­umphs and dis­as­ters of 2007, the FNB af­fair will in­evitably be counted fore­most among the dis­as­ters.

Al­most as dis­as­trous is the wimp­ish stand of the busi­ness com­mu­nity, which has proved it­self un­will­ing to take a stand for what it knows to be right.

Which is a tragedy, be­cause it means the bank’s stance will be re­mem­bered for the wrong rea­sons. But the prob­lem hasn’t gone away, and there is still an ur­gent need for Gov­ern­ment to be con­vinced that there’s a crime prob­lem, not merely a per­cep­tion.

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