Until recently, I didn’t even know what 5/3 meant.

Fifth Third Bank has a new mantra/tagline courtesy of Leo Burnett and it’s a puzzler. To paraphrase another slogan near and dear to my heart (and Leo Burnett’s for that matter), this is definitely not your father’s banking slogan. Fifth/Third is now “the curious Bank.”

Ironically, I’ve always wondered what Fifth Third (5/3) stood for in the first place. Researching it, I found a less than poetic answer. In 1908, Fifth National Bank and Third National Bank merged. So much for my theory the name was derived from some exotic economic concept. Nope. Just a couple financial institutions combining interests. Yawn. Happens all the time.

On that note, we should applaud Fifth Third and LBCO for utterly avoiding category clichés. Like, for example, the bank’s previous drippy tagline: “The things we do for dreams.”

“Curious people ask better questions… and find better answers,” said Larry Magnesen, the bank’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, in a release. “Curiosity surfaced as an important value we wanted to affirm with our own employees: be curious about our customers’ needs, be curious about the way things could be made easier, and be curious about how we can innovate our products and services.”

I suppose…

But something bothers me about a bank introducing itself as curious. For one thing, it’s vaguely negative. Sort of like when you describe someone as “interesting.” Red flag. Is that the best you can say about yourself?

Curiosity worked for Altoids. But a bank?

On another level, the line seems more strategic than creative. Overtly stating we are “the curious bank” is like saying you’re cool. If you were you wouldn’t have to say it. However, if one is going to put “curious” in the tagline maybe it should have been qualified -somehow acknowledging the acute challenges facing banks and their customers. I’m worried that all by itself curious comes off as naïve or even annoying, like a precocious child.

Admittedly, I have not seen the broadcast yet, nor could I find any film online. But I did hear a radio spot. Its oddness is why I wrote this story. So it did catch my attention. I am curious. I also went to the bank’s website where they attempt to explain curious. Are they on to something? I’m just not there yet.


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