A makeover takes more than a few comfy cushions

Companies giving themselves a facelift is big business these days. Take Canadian bank the North Shore Credit Union, who’ve decided to rebrand their branches as ‘Financial Spas’ (complete with comfy sofas and aromatherapy candles). They describe them as places where ‘West Coast Zen meets financial boutique’. Very nice. But is this anything more than a glossy surface makeover?



In workshops, we often talk about the difference between a company’s language in their up-front advertising, and how they sound when they think you’re not looking (like in the small print and Ts and Cs). A bank’s branch definitely counts as a bit of glossy advertising; it’s the first thing you see when you go to open an account – and by making it as plush and relaxing as possible for their customers, North Shore are doing no bad thing.

But here’s an extract from their website terms of use.

YOU HEREBY RELEASE, REMISE AND FOREVER DISCHARGE NSCU FROM ANY AND ALL MANNER OF RIGHTS, CLAIMS, COMPLAINTS, DEMANDS, CAUSES OF ACTION, PROCEEDINGS, LIABILITIES, OBLIGATIONS, LEGAL FEES, COSTS, AND DISBURSEMENTS OF ANY NATURE AND KIND WHATSOEVER AND HOWSOEVER ARISING, WHETHER KNOWN OR UNKNOWN, WHICH NOW OR HEREAFTER EXIST, WHICH ARISE FROM, RELATE TO, OR ARE CONNECTED WITH YOUR ACCESS TO AND USE OF THE WEB SITE.

So which is the real North Shore Credit Union? Is it scented candles and pots of fresh coffee, or is it barking incomprehensible website law?

If companies really want to give themselves a makeover, then the language they use is a big part of any cultural change. The new North Shore looks great – but the language doesn’t match. They’ve broken the mould with boutique branches; maybe it’s time to think about how their boutique bank sounds, too.

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