Even banks can have a little fun with April Fools' Day.
CenterState Bank in Winter Haven, Fla., wins top marks as this year's prankster, unveiling its new #GreedTogether campaign. The cleverly contructed ruse lampoons everything from Starbucks to McDonald's to even the bank itself. Still, management had to keep in mind the regulatory environment as they planned the stunt.
"One reason why banks don't do more of this is because of compliance," Chris Nichols, CenterState's chief strategy officer and the mastermind behind the prank, told American Banker. "That said, our compliance group and management understand the fine line between humor, marketing and reputational risk."
Nichols said CenterState's compliance group toned down the post from its original conception, eliminating more controversial jokes. Still, the bank didn't pull all of its punches.
The entire post served as a send-up of Starbucks' much-maligned #RaceTogether campaign: CenterState pretended to announce a similarly named initiative aimed at getting people to talk about money. "We have instructed our bank staff to write #Greedtogether on each currency note and have a conversation about the positive aspects of harnessing greed for the greater good," the post began.
Other jabs include one aimed at McDonald's new fast-food-themed clothing line. In this case, the bank offered rewards for its "Greed Is Good Savings Account" in the form of clothing printed with pictures of cash. The joke served double-duty, also functioning as a play on the tiering of accounts; moving across one CD tier allowed customers to change the type of clothing they would get.
Added banking-related humor came in the form of "quantitative research" and charts, along with the promise of a new rewards card that would offer 102% cash-back.
"As an industry we're giving more and more away for free," Nichols said. "We thought we'd take that to the extreme."
Nichols credited CenterState's management and board for taking on the prank's risk, though the bank is no stranger to a good joke. In another post, the bank parodied the "Face-kini craze" of people wearing masks to prevent sun damage, editing photos of bank executives, including JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon and Bank of America's Brian Moynihan, with the accessory.
The company, which last year posted a roundup of office pranks as a nod to April Fools', plans to make such pranks an annual tradition, Nichols said.
"We don't take ourselves too seriously here at CenterState," he said. "It provides meaningful relief."