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.