E-Trade Group is taking some marketing lessons from Oscar Mayer.
Next week E-Trade, the Palo Alto, Calif., on-line broker, will hit the streets in the E-Mobile, a 38-foot vehicle reminiscent of the hot dog company's Wienermobile.
Designed to bring Internet trading to new investors, the bus is emblazoned with the E-Trade logo and contains nine workstations hooked up to the Internet via wireless satellite technology.
Though not as distinctive as Oscar Mayer's hot dog on wheels, the E- mobile is certainly a novel concept for financial services firms.
It will mainly travel to metropolitan areas, targeting upscale events, such as the Coconut Grove Arts Festival in Florida and the Miami International Film Festival, said Sheri Arapov, E-Mobile marketing manager. Customer representatives will be on hand to field inquiries.
The tour, which will last a year, is an attempt "to bring Wall Street to Main Street," Ms. Arapov said.
E-Trade has 676,000 customers and plans to use the E-Mobile to sign up more. The E-Mobile will give E-Trade, which doesn't have a branch office network, a physical presence, Ms. Arapov said.
Industry observers were divided on the possible effectiveness of the marketing ploy.
"Companies that do business over the Internet will look for any hook to differentiate themselves," said Chris Musto, an e-commerce analyst with Gomez Advisors, Boston. "This is just a particularly novel way to do just that."
E-Trade has been very vocal about its intention to create a brand identity and has earmarked a hefty $100 million for marketing for the fiscal year ending September, Mr. Musto said.
Richard Evans, a branding expert and president of Evans & Associates, Weston, Conn., questioned E-Trade's pursuit of in-your-face marketing.
As an on-line firm "'it seems the most likely prospects would be influenced over that medium itself," Mr. Evans said.
Neither Mr. Musto nor Mr. Evans were aware of any other financial services companies that had hit the streets in such a fashion.
"If it works, someone else might just do it," Mr. Musto said.