Self-Inflicted Trademark Dilution

Selling a house is always an activity frought with the possibility of customer service peril. This is especially true when, in addition the buyer and seller, thirteen other organizations are involved (4 different mortgage companies, a title company, lawyers, three different banks, one brokerage, one utility, one airline and one phone company). The whole story from Shannon Clark spans three thousand plus words, but one particular vignette to share here.

Shannon writes:

“A national bank, Bank of America, told me that internally they can’t deal with customers of their bank from any state for any state. Instead if you want to, say deposit almost the FDIC limit into a new account, but happen to be doing that NOT in your (new) home state, you are just out of luck – they can’t figure out how to handle their divisions (all with the SAME branding mind you) as one, merged entity. Needless to say, I didn’t take them up on this rather shocking display of completely horrible service.”

This leads me to my new favorite quote, from Wendy Seltzer, regarding what happens to brands and organizations after an ad infinitum series of M&A activities and corporate roll-ups. Seltzer:

“I call it ‘self-inflicted trademark dilution.’ Companies get so big they have nothing but brands and trademarks holding them together, then they treat customers with so little regard that they make the trademark stand for haphazard indifference, rather than goodwill. I think after a certain amount of this, the customers should be free to reappropriate the brand for their own uses — perhaps making those mergers somewhat less attractive to the investors.”

Nicely put.