BANK ONE LACKS KILLER APP

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Marketer: Bank One Corp.

Where to find it: Excite.com

Critique: In a competitive space such as online banking, little differences like a few bucks a month can add up to big gaps in service.

Bank One's current ads mine the ever growing list of short-sighted quotes about the future of technology like the popular Bill Gates snippet from 1981, "640K ought to be enough for anybody."

The monochromatic banners encourage consumers to embrace the future of banking by drawing an awkward faux-parallel between executives leading their multibillion-dollar companies astray and a regular bank customer who still pays their $42 gas bill with an archaic check. Can you believe it? In 1999?

But Bank One should look at its own online banking site, which comes up short. Simple reason: While online banking is free, the killer app of the industry, online bill paying, costs a monthly fee. This is true at several banks -- except Citibank. It's free there, which is all the incentive needed for many to switch banks. Conversations go like this:

Customer: So, I can do this free someplace else, or for $120 a year here. Can you match your competitor?

Bank One customer service representative: No.

Customer: OK. I think I'll switch.

CSR: That's reasonable.

Which it is. And Citibank will continue to reap the benefits of being ahead of the online curve for its customers because they aren't wrong about online banking.

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