E*TRADE recently unveiled its new “Don’t Get Mad, Get E*TRADE” campaign involving digital, mobile and social marketing, along with a series of TV commercials to attract millennial investors hoping to get rich fast. The first commercial, which was released in late June, portrays a man daydreaming about the lives of the super-rich, imagining pizza delivered by helicopter, a food fight in a lavish mansion and selfies in front of a private jet. The second commercial shows a young man on a plane seated in coach with a child kicking at his seat from behind. He then glances into the first class cabin, only to have the smiling flight attendant shut the curtain in his face. The ad ends with “first class is there to remind you that you’re not in first class.” A third spot depicts a man partying on a yacht: “The dumbest guy in high school just got a boat.”
In a recent press release, Lea Stendahl, head of marketing for E*TRADE Financial, discusses the firm’s desire to better appeal to current customers today. She recognizes that many of them are often frustrated and dissatisfied with their personal finances, especially in a society where “wealth and success are often measured together and [people are] bombarded with images of over-the top affluence.” She defines E*TRADE investors as those who want to manage their accounts on their terms, taking responsibility to improve their own financial future. Ultimately, the firm employs satire in mocking the super-rich, yet promises clients that if they open an account with E*TRADE, they will soon be able to take part in that same lavish lifestyle; if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
This new campaign certainly differs from the firm’s previous campaigns. First, it was the talking baby. We all knew and loved him; he was adorable, personable and wise beyond his years. Most importantly, he was effective at portraying E*TRADE as a brokerage site that is easy to use. Next, it was the Type E* campaign that appealed to a more elite, industry knowledgeable customer. Kevin Spacey acted as the firm’s “talent scout,” seeking out Type E* style investors in a series of commercials.
While certainly funny and purposely exaggerated, E*TRADE’s new campaign does not differentiate it from other brokerages. Competitor firms such as TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab employ stronger corporate branding in their respective ad campaigns. For instance, TD Ameritrade used its Green Room campaign to characterize itself as a firm that will patiently listen to customers and facilitate jargon-free discussions about finances and investment goals. Schwab’s previous ad campaign centered around its advanced technology with a talking robot.
However, these differences speak more to E*TRADE’s different demographic, and likely goals with this ad campaign. Rather than the experienced shoppers of investment platforms that TD and Schwab target, E*TRADE is clearly pushing to attract young Millennials with no prior investing experience. Using overnight affluence as a hook, the firm positions itself as a vehicle for even the laziest (or “dumbest”) to find prosperity