LAST CALL: Banks invest in creative PR to build customer interest

Remember the days when banks gave you a free toaster for opening a savings account? Probably not. Can you imagine the CEO of Chase cooking you dinner? Definitely not.

Remember the days when banks gave you a free toaster for opening a savings account? Probably not. Can you imagine the CEO of Chase cooking you dinner? Definitely not.

Put simply, people don't trust their banks as friendly neighbors - especially not big banks. Which is perhaps why the American National Bank of Omaha, NE rigged its drive-through ATM near a busy intersection to dole out extra cash every so often. Or, better yet, why New Haven Savings Bank (NHSB) in New Haven, CT, along with the help of The Neibart Group, created a promotion in which winners could have the bank walk their dog, mow their lawn, take care of their dry cleaning for a month, or even have the bank's executives cook dinner.

"We wanted to come up with something that a bank wouldn't do unless it was 100% focused on the area's people and businesses, says David Neibart, founder of The Neibart Group. "While there's certainly a stunt quality to it, it's genuine. NHSB has given quite a lot back to the community, and they are people's neighbors. The moments in your life that you really need a strong relationship with your bank are some of the biggest moments. And since they have been there for 164 years, they'll be there for the small moments as well, says Neibart.

One of the winners, a New Haven rabbi, chose to have the bank take care of his dry cleaning for a month. And the bookkeeper at the local library, also a winner, chose to have NHSB's CEO Peyton Patterson cook a birthday dinner for her mother.

The story was picked up by CNN Headline News and AP, as well as a number of trades, such as US Banker, American Banker, and Community Banker, in addition to an online best-practices marketing newsletter in Europe. It begs the question, then, can the big banks learn from NHSB?

"Do I expect the biggest banks in the world to start walking people's dogs? No, says Neibart.

We didn't think so either. But it would have been great to see them out with their pooper scoopers.

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