The most iconic character in the discount brokerage space is back. E*TRADE (Nasdaq: ETFC ) has debuted a new ad in which the E*TRADE Baby has to serve a time-out for riding his dog like a horse.
I was wondering out loud whether the discounter had killed off the talkative toddler, after a few summertime ads took a more serious turn sans the chatty kid. After giving the industry a colorful and memorable character, loved or loathed, I didn't think that E*TRADE should give up on the toddler.
"I will say watch this space for the Baby," came a note from E*TRADE's corporate communications department after my article was published.
Don't get me wrong. I don't think that the brokerage industry needs comedy to sell its product -- particularly the discounters who can already compete on low commissions. However, now that market leaders Charles Schwab (Nasdaq: SCHW ) , TD AMERITRADE (Nasdaq: AMTD ) , and E*TRADE can't offer attractive yields on idle cash, and it seems that all of the relevant players are offering free trading on select ETFs, why not hit us with memorable spots as differentiators?
I'm not saying that the E*TRADE Baby deserves his own primetime show, though one has to wonder how the cavemen from Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE: BRK-A ) (NYSE: BRK-B ) GEICO commercials got their own short-lived series. When it comes to talking babies on television, I also remember how quickly the plug was pulled on Baby Bob. However, the E*TRADE Baby is certainly good enough for marketing purposes.
Sure, E*TRADE has grown up. It just posted its first quarterly profit in three years. There's also a new CEO this year, and a 1-for-10 reverse split to get its share price back into the teens.
It's also the only discounter expected to post improving bottom-line results this year. Analysts see Schwab, TD AMERITRADE, OptionsXpress (Nasdaq: OXPS ) , and Interactive Brokers (Nasdaq: IBKR ) all posting lower earnings in 2010.
As long as brokerage perks and commission schedules remain somewhat similar in this space, why not entertain your way to brand enrichment?
Well played, E*TRADE.