Citibank decided to court our company's banking business recently. They used a strategy I have not seen before.  They simply Fedex'd letter that arrived on Wednesday proclaiming that they will be in my office on Friday.  No phone calls.  No getting confirmation that I would be available Friday. No asking if I would even accept their visit.

Surprised when I was not in the office when they stopped by, they asked my staff to reach me to find out when I would be back.  I've got smart people on my team so they texted me, which allowed me to reply at my convenience without Citibank overhearing a phone call.

I guess Citi thought they could really win me over because they brought gifts.  We got a bar of chocolate, which in all honesty was pretty yummy.  Plus, a picture frame.  Not just any old picture frame.  This was nice, just perfect size for a desktop.  It could fit two pictures and had a shiny silver border.  But it had Citi's logo etched on the inside.  So, every time I glanced at my family to put a smile on my face, I would also be reminded of Citibank.  Hmm, that's not really what I want to think of when I glance at a family picture mid-day.  I just want to see the smiling faces.  The logo would be an annoyance.

I thought maybe it's just me.  Maybe someone else in the office would like this picture frame.

"Vick, are you interested?"

"Sure. Oh wait. What's this? ... Nope."

"Kevin, you want this?"

"What!?!  It has their logo on it!"

"Maggie, here's a freebie. Want it?"

"If it didn't have their logo, then yes.  So, no."

After talking to every person in our office, it was pretty obvious.  I just couldn't give this thing away.  What was Citibank thinking?  Did they check to see what people thought of tchotchkes with their brand on it?  Guess not.  So off it went, right into my round file on the floor.

What actually happened here?  Two things:

  1. The actions of these Citibank reps reflected poorly on Citibank's brand, not because of their ridiculous promotional items, but because of the way the reps tried to force themselves into my life.
  2. As a result, I walked away with the feeling that they will probably never take the time to really understand what is important to me or my business. Just showing up at my doorstep is not the way to earn my trust.

Oh, we did like the chocolate.  Then again, who is going to remember (or care) that Citibank gave us chocolate?