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Unit Economics

Never let a crisis go to waste

This is not an article about Silicon Valley Bank.

You don’t need any more analysis on that shitshow, and you certainly don’t need it from me.

Instead, I’d like to talk about the movie 27 Dresses.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s a wonderful little rom-com. The basic premise is that the main character, Jane, has been a bridesmaid in 27 weddings. The question is, when will she find her perfect match and get her own special day?

katherine heigl wedding GIF

I won’t spoil it here (because as a rom-com aficionado, I highly recommend you go watch it), but there’s a line in it that applies perfectly to the post this week.

When asked about her favorite part of a wedding, the main character Jane says, “When the bride walks in and everyone turns to look at her, that’s when I look at the groom. Because his face says it all.”

james marsden smile GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Well this weekend, while everyone was looking at The bank that shall not be named, I was looking down the aisle in the opposite direction.

I was looking at Mercury Bank.

And just like James Marsden, Mercury looked perfect.

While everyone was freaking out about whether we would have an “It’s a Wonderful Life” style bank run and started to carve out extra space in their mattresses for cash, Mercury gave a free masterclass in crisis communication and how to capitalize on a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

Season 6 Episode 21 GIF by The Simpsons

TLDR for today’s post:

  • How to market your way through a crisis
  • Don’t be Cute
  • Stay Classy
  • Double Down
  • Move Fast.

Don’t be cute

Marketers have a disease.

We think we’re so clever. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. We come up with these great tag lines, and creative prose that we think will convince the consumer to buy our widgets. We try to romance the reader into seeing…Shit, I’m doing it right now.

Not Funny GIF - Not Funny GIFs

Back to the point, there’s a time and place for being cute (humor can be effective in marketing), but a crisis is not that time. If a potential customer is panicking about whether their business is going to be shutting down in the next 48 hours, they don’t want entendre, gifs, wordplay, or cute slang.

Mercury’s marketing team did a great job here. They were very active on Twitter throughout the crisis, but they avoided the temptation to use humor in any of their tweets. They were concise, clear, and to the point.

Here’s a great example:


Be Classy

If you find yourself in a situation where your competitor is drowning, you don’t need to talk trash while helping their customers onto your life raft.

GIF by filmeditor

While Mercury was super active on social media, they only mentioned SVB in the context of describing the situation. Mercury’s founder even went as far as calling out SVB as a bank they have a lot of respect for.


Mercury focused on what it could offer to the thousands of inbound customers they were getting. Nobody needed a reminder of what was going wrong at the bank down the block.

Double Down on what matters

Mercury has a lot of cool features — transaction APIs, free wire transfers, great cashback, etc.

The only thing anyone cared about this weekend was their FDIC insurance. That is what Mercury repeatedly reminded folks about.

Again, they did this in a simple, concise, and transparent way.

The other thing that mattered was customer service. They set up a hotline, and they were responding to DMs and emails within hours to get accounts set up.


By focusing on great service they added over $2 billion in customer deposits within just a few days.

Move fast

If all goes well, hopefully, nobody will be talking about SVB or FDIC insurance in a few weeks. This underscores the need for speed when taking advantage of a situation like this. Mercury had only a few days to capitalize on the situation.

So what did they do?

Responding Jim Carrey GIF

They spun up a priority onboarding system and onboarded new customers in hours when other banks were taking days.

They increased their FDIC insurance from $1m to $3m in a matter of 72 hours!

They bought ads on multiple podcasts focusing on the SVB crisis.

None of this was required for them to run their business. Mercury could have done nothing, waited out the weekend, and just waited to see how it played out. I’m sure plenty of Mercury employees had some great plans this weekend.

Instead, Mercury took advantage of the situation, marketed itself in a classy and intelligent way, and made a lot of money in the process.

Don’t let a crisis go to waste

Hopefully, you don’t find yourself in the midst of a crisis.

I am sure that Mercury was not rooting for this to happen. If things had spiraled out of control, it’s possible Mercury might have found itself in some trouble too.

But you don’t get to choose the hand your dealt.

the lord of the rings GIF

If you find yourself in a crisis, and your business has the opportunity to genuinely help people affected, you may as well handle it the right way.

Hopefully, this post can serve as a road map for any founders and marketers finding themselves in a pinch in the future. Just remember:

  • Don’t be cute
  • Stay classy
  • Double Down
  • Move quickly

If you enjoyed this, I publish content like this weekly in my newsletter, Up and to the Right linked here: https://upandtotheright.substack.com/


3 months ago

Founder Associate @ Platform Venture Studio


Brett Wischow (core team)

Mar 16, 2023

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