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ING Cafes - the Starbucks of banks.

I stumbled upon an ING Cafe in Philadelphia last week and was struck by the brilliance of the bank's decision to reach customers in such a unique way and give the bank a tangible personality.

I've since learned there are seven ING Cafes across the country, each a fully functioning coffee shop and retail bank.  In addition to a latte, customers can choose to speak with an ING representative about opening a checking account.  But if you simply want to kick back with a cup of coffee and tweet to your heart's content, the ING bankers will stay in Barista mode.

These Cafes are a savvy way to feed social media and boost the bank's Google results, which include restaurant reviews in Yelp and New Yorker Magazine – a media context in which a bank is seldom mentioned.  

The ING Cafes seem to be inspired by the successful Jyske Bank case study I've highlighted in previous posts.

While advertising is certainly a proven way to build a strong brand image, first-hand experiences are unparalleled in their ability to turn perceptions into deeply held beliefs.