Self-Deprecating Advertising: Considering Fifth Third’s New Campaign

Recently, Adweek shared a new campaign by Fifth Third Bank that, naturally, debuted on May 3rd (5/3). The campaign looks like a fun, quirky effort that tries to position Fifth Third as a bank that goes the extra mile (or extra 2/3) a la Avis’s long-running “We Try Harder” campaign. The execution is in a self-deprecating style where Fifth Third makes fun of its own name.

This got me thinking: is self-deprecation right for a brand? Does making fun of oneself endear a brand to its customers? And, do any of these considerations change for a brand that comes from a “serious” category such as banking?

When done right, a self-deprecating message can really resonate with customers – it makes the brand more humanizing. Since 2010, Domino’s has slowly, steadily, consistently, used an honest self-deprecating effort to change its brand perception. This effort, along with reinventing its pizza recipe, streamlining its ordering and delivery processes, and listening to customers, has led to record sales for Domino’s.

So is self-deprecation right for a bank like Fifth Third? I believe it is. Fifth Third is trying to attract new customers – likely millennials. Not only are millennials becoming a growing force of economic power, they are notably more ad savvy than other generations. Humanizing a brand is a good idea when it comes to marketing to marketing this audience.