For the past 10 years, I’ve done a year-end post looking at holiday promotions at the largest U.S. banks. And surprisingly, fewer banks than anytime since 2004 were running holiday messages in the days before Christmas. This year, only four of the 20 largest banks referenced the holidays on their homepages. That compares to nine banks last year, eight in 2012, and 10 in 2011.
I’m at a loss to explain the retreat. My guess is that holiday promotions simply don’t drive measurable sales lift. But these are massive retail banks and I’d think that virtual holiday decorations would be in the branding budget. Perhaps that, too, was tapped out by year end.
Here are the holiday participants this year:
As usual, PNC Bank led the pack with its three-decade-long holiday CPI (Christmas Present Index). Fifth Third and Comerica were reasonably decked out for the holidays. Finally, Citizens (RBS) had a small holiday message in the lower right (see screenshots below).
While we catalogued only the top 20, many other banks and credit unions displayed creative holiday promotions and/or messaging. For example, Navy Federal Credit Union featured several holiday messages on its homepage the day before Christmas Eve (see screenshot) and Huntington Bank used an eye-catching graphic to pitch its rewards card (screenshot below).
The scrooge list: top-20 banks with no holiday promotions or graphics on 24 Dec 2014:
Bank of America, Bank of the West (BNP Paribas), BB&T, BBVA Compass, Capital One & Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct), Chase, Citibank, Harris Bank (BMO), HSBC, Key Bank, SunTrust, TD Bank, Union Bank (Mitsubishi UFJ), US Bank, Wells Fargo, Zions Bank.
Following is a quick overview of the promotions, including a 1- to 5-bulb rating.
Top-20 banks in the holiday spirit
(rated from 1 to 5 bulbs; screenshots from Tuesday morning, 24 Dec 2014)
- Animated Great Carol Comeback tied to its annual 12 Days of Christmas CPI price index (which it has published for the past 30 years)
- Visa tie-in for holiday spending (lower left)
Hompage: PNC is leading with its “12 days of Christmas” price index
Landing page: Each of the 12 items from the famous song have humorous animations (link)
Fifth Third Bank
- MasterCard Gift Card promo (#3 in 3-promo rotation)
- Happy holiday greeting (#2 in 3-promo rotation)
Homepage promo #3
Homepage promo #2
- Gift card promo in lower-left of main homepage
- Large gift card in main promo area on main personal page (#1 in 3-promo rotation) with engaging holiday graphics (same promo ran the last 2 years)
Citizens Bank (RBS)
- Holiday tie-in for credit card cashback
Bonus standout: Navy Federal Credit Union
- Happy holiday message with snowman at top of page
- Cash rewards credit card offer displayed mid-page with bright holiday colors
- Holiday rewards reminder in lower right
Bonus #2: Huntington Bank
- Triple rewards credit card offer in mid-page with bright holiday colors
1. Observations taken between 6:30 AM and 8 AM, Eastern Time, on Wed, 24 Dec 2014, from a Florida IP address, running Mac Chrome browser with cookies cleared.
2. Animation from