My 2 ½-year old grand-daughter already scrambles up on my lap when I sit down in front of the computer, and asks, “Are you checking your e-mail?”
Even at her young age, she isn’t intimidated by technology. Her generation’s baby and toddler toys are geared to emulate or teach or entertain using technology. It stands to reason that today it would not be necessary for a bank to try and “humanize” its automated teller machine by putting a pretty face and cute name on it.
In those days, customers were accustomed to walking inside a bank and chatting with a pleasant teller. So First National named their ATM “Tillie the All Time Teller,” and put the face of a smiling blonde girl on the front of the machine. “Tillie” looked inviting to customers and suggested that the machine was highly user-friendly.
Did it work? In a word, yes. Tillie launched one of the most successful ATM systems in the banking industry.
In their efforts to promote Tillie, First National hired a blonde actress who wore a red and white polka-dotted dress in TV ads. She sang: “I’m Tillie the All time Teller, I work for First National Bank” as she stood beside the machine. In another Tillie ad, a balding, middle-aged man approached the machine singing, to the tune of the classic “If You Knew Susie”:
Oh, if you knew Tillie like I know Tillie
Oh, oh, oh, what a girl!
She works to please me, to make life easy
Oh, oh, she makes my banking smooth and breezy
Day or nighttime, I don’t care
When I need money, I know my all-time teller’s there!
If you knew Tillie, like I know Tillie
Oh, oh, oh!
For Tillie’s third birthday, she was toasted to the refrain of “For She’s a Jolly Good Teller.” As the song ended in the ad, a drawer opened and blew out three candles!
The bank also hired Tillie look-alikes to help customers at branches learn how to use the machine.
Personalizing this new technology worked for First Atlanta. Customers enthusiastically embraced Tillie and helped her maintain one of the highest transaction rates per machine of any such service in the country. By 1977, Tillie was so popular that three other banks purchased rights to the program.
I, however, am not one of them.
If only my TV remote, with its multiple buttons and options , was named Ralph and came with a soothing voice saying, “You can do this, you can do this!” I might be able to use my VCR/DVD player!