David Blecken
Feb 13, 2019

Do Mizuho Bank's ATM shutdowns damage the brand?

A spoof mocks alarmingly poor customer service, but for big banking brands, it's just business as usual.

Who needs money anyway? (Shutterstock)
Who needs money anyway? (Shutterstock)

An ‘ad’ for Japan’s Mizuho Bank has gone viral, but it might not be quite the sort of exposure the bank is hoping for.

The work is an independent spoof of a typical Hollywood movie trailer by a sometime VJ who goes by the name of 'Takayuki a.k.a Son'. The video was released Friday to mark a four-day shutdown by Mizuho of its ATM services. In a move as confounding to Japanese consumers as it is to outsiders, the bank routinely disables cash withdrawals over holiday periods, citing administration reasons.

The ‘trailer’ presents a scenario of impending doom as Mizuho spoils everyone’s long weekend by preventing them from accessing their cash, and the desperate search for a solution as the world collapses around them. It points out that another epic shutdown is due in July.

Responses from Twitter users show that the video strikes a chord. Some initiatlly thought it was a humorous piece of content by Mizuho itself. Others suggested the bank should adopt it as an official piece of branding, while others still said it helped them come to terms with their frustration at the system. 

In interviews Campaign has conducted over the past three years in Japan, branding and design consultants have frequently noted that the retail banking system is in need of an upgrade to be more consumer-friendly. But while there is some threat from “disruptive” new services, few seem to feel the pressure to change their ingrained way of operating.

Commenting on the video as an observer, Doug Schiff, chief creative officer of Ogilvy Japan, called it a “very funny spoof” but added that Mizuho was “fairly easy prey”.

Asked whether he thought Mizuho’s shutdowns were ultimately damaging to the brand, he said: “These days, consumers’ most frequent contact with banking brands surrounds ATM and online services. So if one fails, it can be catastrophic. And as cash still plays such a big role in Japan as opposed to a market like China, the ATM is more often than not the face of the brand.”

In other words, yes. But that doesn’t mean people are going to stop banking with Mizuho or other similarly clunky large chains until something with vastly better service comes along, which isn’t on the immediate horizon. If it isn't going to improve its service, Mizuho may at least want to consider producing its own self-deprecating content as a branding exercise. A bank with a sense of humour—now there's a thought.

Ryoko Tasaki contributed to this article.

Campaign Japan

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