Monday, September 17, 2007

Northern Rock: when "don't" means "do".

As I write, my mother-in-law is queuing outside Northern Rock's branch in Dorking, waiting to withdraw the money she recently invested with them. Why? Because everybody involved in the bank's lending crisis - chief executive, Chancellor, FSA - has been telling her and her fellow Northern Rock investors that there is absolutely no reason to panic.

In this context, persuasive words like these are directly counter-productive: the very assurance of there being to cause for alarm implies that there may indeed be cause for alarm.

Slippery customers, words. Sometimes they just won't do what we want them to.


At 2:49 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the word "panic" in this context is also important. It comes with an implication that the people who want to look after their money (ie they're not sure they trust Northern Rock to do so) are stupid.

"Don't panic" has echoes of Dad's Army and that patronising car insurance advert too.

Another thought - standing calming outside a bank to transfer your money seems a lot less like people in a panic than all those city boys dumping shares.

I haven't heard anyone asking them not to sell.

At 9:45 am, Blogger Lindsay said...

I couldn't agree more, Heather. My mother-in-law wasn't in a panic (with all its pejorative overtones). She was exercising extreme and entirely commendable caution, in seeking to protect her fairly meagre life savings.

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