Ideas to Build and Live Your Brand

Ideas to Build and Live Your Brand

Building and living your bank or credit union brand is challenging. After all, if it were easy financial institutions would be perceived as an Apple, Google or Coca-Cola (some of the best brands going today). Instead, most banks and credit unions come across as boring.

Why? Because most financial institution brands are boring. One way to avoid becoming a boring brand is to read 30 Ideas to Build And Live Your Brand.

I review multiple business books on this blog. You can check out some of my favorite reads on these links:

So now I’m going to review my own book. Yes, I’m the author of 30 Ideas to Build and Live Your Brand. So I’m obviously biased. But before you think I’m just writing this column to sell more books, keep in mind that I’m offering the e-book for free. That’s right. You don’t have to pay a dime for it. Not because it’s not worth anything! Because I’m passionate about branding and the role it plays in your bank or credit union’s success.

So what are some of the key ideas? Here are just a few.

  • Know What Branding Isn’t—Rather than start the book with some academic definition of branding, we start by examining what branding is not. Bank and credit union professionals can learn a great deal about the true nature of branding by spending a little time learning what branding is not. We explore more about what branding is not in the book.
  • Avoid Death by a Thousand Cuts—Brands are living, breathing entities (good ones, anyway). But just as brands can live, they can also die. While brands can die quickly, a slow erosion is more likely to take place. In other words, your bank or credit union brand can die a death by a thousand cuts. We examine multiple ways you can avoid this brand death.
  • Send The Right Message in Every Detail—Everything in your credit union or bank is communicating. While marketing pieces are important, they are just a tiny blip on your branding radar. As many branding experts say, “Everything matters.” But not only does everything matter, everything communicates. There are thousands of details every day that are sending messages to consumers about your financial institution. In the book we look at the top five.
  • Maintain Brand Momentum—This is a common problem many financial institutions face. Let’s be honest: branding often fails at the staff level. The executive team and board draft a brand plan, identify key targets, develop a vision, mission and message and train employees on the new brand. Then three months later it all dies when the staff doesn’t live the brand. We must reinforce the brand with employees every day. But how do you do that? The book gives five suggestions.

Those are just a four of the tips from 30 Ideas to Build & Live Your Brand. The book offers 26 more ways to help your brand grow.

If you want your credit union or bank to succeed with your branding efforts, then download your free copy of 30 Ideas to Build and Live Your Brand today.

Conduct a Brand Audit

Conduct a Brand Audit

Note: The following is an excerpt from 30 Ideas to Build and Live Your Brand. For a free copy of the complete book, click here.

Your brand is everything your financial institution does and stands for – products and services,

customer service, branch appearance, marketing collateral, employee appearance and even restroom cleanliness. Any one of these details can make or break your brand, which means you need to monitor them regularly and audit them occasionally.

Similar to a marketing audit, a brand audit assesses the marketing collateral in the branches – how you display it, if the look and message are consistent on every piece and whether it is neatly displayed or looks cluttered. In the audits we have conducted for clients, we typically have found too many pieces with a look and message that are all over the board and lack consistency.

Mystery shops by an objective third party (not an existing customer or member) are an important piece of your brand audit. An effective auditor talks to your branch employees, taking note of how they greet people and how they treat people. He or she inquires about products and services and may attempt to open an account. This type of feedback from an objective source goes a long way in helping you measure the true member or customer experience.

Western Sun FCU in Oklahoma gained valuable insight when we evaluated its brand as part of a recent marketing audit. We mystery shopped each of its branches and four of its competitors. In one of its branches, our shopper sat for at least five minutes before anyone acknowledged him. After that initial contact, he waited so long for someone to help him that eventually he left. This is information your brand needs to improve.

“They did a fairly thorough review and were brutally honest with their feedback, which was good,” said Western Sun CEO Rob Taylor. “It wasn’t easy to hear everything they had to say, but it was information we needed to know.”

That’s exactly the point. A brand audit is a performance evaluation for your brand. It gives you the information you need to make the changes that will result in a stronger brand. It’s not about pointing fingers and assigning blame for what isn’t working. It’s an opportunity to shine where you excel and improve where you don’t.

If your financial institution isn’t improving, it’s either embracing status quo or moving backward. Neither of these options results in a strong brand. Think of your brand audit as a GPS. If you start heading in the wrong direction, a brand audit helps you get back on track. It helps your organization be accountable for the details that define your brand.

One of the C’s of a strong brand is consistency. You can say your brand is one thing, but if everything your organization does says something else, you have not created a brand that is meaningful to your customers or members. You haven’t created a strong lasting brand. A branding audit will quickly help you determine where you are today.

For a free copy of 30 Ideas to Build and Live Your Brand, click here.

Fresh Content Ideas for Boring Financial Institution Newsletters

Fresh Content Ideas for Boring Financial Institution Newsletters

If you spend any amount of time either working on or reading the newsletters of financial institutions, you’ve probably come to a singular conclusion — most are about as interesting as watching paint dry.

Actually, if it was a nice light pastel, I’d rather watch paint dry most of the time.

Here we’re talking mostly about bank and credit union newsletters. After many years of both writing, producing and reading them as a consumer, I can verify that the vast majority are just plain boring.

Yes, they contain information consumers must have. This includes things like disclosures, upcoming business and new product and service announcements.

But holy cow – many financial institutions basically reprint the same newsletter every quarter, and just slap a new date on the cover. Inside, you’ll get the same old spiel — here’s our exciting new used auto refi loan promotion, here are the required annual ATM safety tips, here is the annual call for candidates for the Board of Directors, ad nauseum.

It’s no wonder fewer and fewer consumers actually take the time to read these things. And any information that you might really want to get across to them is drowned by the sea of anticipated boredom.

To help bring new content ideas into your boring newsletter, consider the following ideas.

  • Write about your consumers. People love to read about themselves. Therefore, make every effort to include consumers, their pictures and their stories in your newsletter. This could include things like people celebrating milestone anniversaries with your financial institution, their kids with awards and sporting achievements, etc. Get more of your consumers in print and they are more likely to read your content.
  • Drop the dry and boring financial talk. Yes, sometimes it’s necessary to get the point across about a particular product or service. However, here we’re talking about your vernacular. The vast majority of your consumers are not suit-and-tie financial institution stuff-shirts. Write to people in a language and a tone with which they are comfortable. This doesn’t mean that you dumb-down your language – rather, it means that you choose your words and your tone in such a way that it meets your consumers in their comfort zones.
  • Stop trying to constantly sell something. This is really going to drive your VPs crazy. The simple fact of the matter is, however, people hate to be sold (although they love to buy). Therefore, try to keep your newsletter to a roughly 80/20 principle. That is, 80% of your newsletter should be educational/entertaining and about 20% should be soft-pitch sales.
  • Don’t write about yourself. Your consumers simply do not care about the internal workings of your bank or credit union. I hate to tell you that, but it’s the truth. Unless it directly affects them and their relationship with your financial institution, they just don’t care. They want your doors open at 9 AM, short teller lines and decent rates. Other than that, they just don’t care. So don’t write about it.

Tedious. Dull. Monotonous. Repetitive. If any of these words come to mind when you or your consumers think about your financial institution newsletter, consider a few of the ideas listed above to help improve your newsletter.


To Re-Name or Not to Re-Name

To Re-Name or Not to Re-Name

A recent article in Adweek magazine highlighted the absurdities in a number of Internet start-up company names. These ran the goofy gamut from Qoop and Heekya to Fairtilizer and the surreal Doostang.

The crux of the article is that social media platforms are slowly coming to realize that company names should do more to reflect the power of individual and unique brands, rather than simply try to play off odd, made-up words.

This same tenet applies directly to financial institutions. As consumer demographics and population centers change, more and more banks and credit unions either have or are seriously considering changing their names. While these changes are for any number of good reasons, the end goal is the same — to increase brand visibility and consumer wallet share.

However, for banks and credit unions considering a name change, the road is steep and treacherous. Many decide to enlist the service of qualified vendor-partners to help guide them through this critical process. And while typically financial institutions can realize their growth goals with a comprehensive rebranding effort, from time to time a new name is genuinely required.

Keep in mind, a new name is simply the tip of the iceberg. The much larger (and more important) piece is the rebranding effort. What are a few basic guidelines to follow when looking at potential new names? Following are a few ideas.

  • Avoid unusual spellings. This is a pet peeve of mine. In every town, it seems like there is a restaurant named “Kountry Kitchen.” Why spell the word “country” with a K? If you’re going that route, since both words start with the same consonant sound, why not just call it “Country Citchen?” Because it looks ridiculous, that’s why. Stick with spellings that work in the minds of the majority of people.
  • Keep it easy to pronounce and recall. If your new financial institution name doesn’t immediately roll off the tongue, people are not going to take the time to learn how you think it should be pronounced. And if they’re not going to take that time, they’re certainly not going to remember it. Keep in mind — the biggest reason consumers don’t do business with you a second time around is because they simply forget who you are. A goofy name definitely hurts that recall effort.
  • Ensure the name is actually available. You’d be surprised how many financial institutions latch onto a new name only to find out later that somebody else has already trademarked it. A quick and easy search on the U.S. Patent and Trademark website will let you know if your catchy new name is legally available. You may also want to enlist he services of your own qualified trademark attorney.
  • Keep it short. Similar to keeping it easy to pronounce and recall, keeping your name short enables the average consumer to remember it. Some financial institutions are guilty of long formal names that they then turn into awkward and ugly acronyms. For example, if your new name is Greater Springfield Valley and East Mountains Federal Credit Union, no one is going to take the time to say it, let alone remember the “GSVEMFCU” acronym you slap on marketing materials.
  • Make sure the name you pick is available as a website address. Sometimes financial institutions find themselves in a pickle by selecting a new name and then finding they can’t get the website address. Your website is your brand’s flagship — make sure your new name is available as a domain, especially in the most common formats such as .com and .org.

Nobody is saying that going through a new name process is easy. Far from it. However, it just makes sense for financial institutions considering a new name to look into a few simple guidelines first. It can save major headaches later.



Label at Your Own Risk

Label at Your Own Risk

Marketers love labels. After all, labeling helps us focus our promotions. Since we know for a fact certain demographics are drawn to certain products and services we design entire campaigns geared to one or two groups with mediums we know they use.

But what if that perceived knowledge has some false assumptions in it? Please note I’m not saying target marketing is dead or that you should market to the masses. Far from it. You can’t be all things to all people and niche marketing should absolutely be a major component of your brand.

However, in our efforts to segment consumers we sometimes develop false labels.

Here are 10 labels to avoid:

  • Seniors hate and don’t use technology—The fastest growing segment of Facebook users are actually older adults. Just because someone has grey hair doesn’t mean they won’t use mobile banking or your other e-services.
  • Boomers are aging—Boomers will never grow up, never grow old and never die. They constantly see themselves from a youthful lens. That 60-year old Boomer perceives himself or herself as a young and vibrant 40 year old. Don’t market your investment services with pictures of old people sitting in their rocking chairs.
  • Generation X is lazy—More new businesses today are started by Generation X (those born between 1961 and 1981). It’s not that Xers don’t want to work: it’s that they don’t want to work for you. Generation X is in the prime of their careers, which means they are now in the “C” suite and starting their own companies.
  • Generation Y feels they are entitled to everything—Okay, this label is true!
  • Blue-collar workers have no assets—As some of the hardest working people in our country, those with blue-collar jobs actually have financial resources. If they are government or civil workers, they often have a pretty good pension plan as well. With this group, don’t get caught only measuring household income.
  • Hispanics have no money—According to the latest statistics, Hispanic consumers have over $800 billion in buying power. To assume they are only migrant workers or day laborers is making a huge marketing misjudgment.
  • Everyone is on Facebook—While still the dominant social media channel, Facebook is succumbing in popularity to other social networks. Whether it’s Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat or Vine, there are many other tools in your arsenal other than Facebook to reach consumers using social media.
  • Young adults today don’t listen to their parents—These young people genuinely like and respect their parents. One of the best ways to reach the Dot Com Generation is through mom and dad.
  • Business owners are males—There are tons of “mompreneurs” in the market: females who are starting their own business. Many are even doing so while their young kids are at home. Females don’t just control the pocket book in their own household: many control the finances of a small business.
  • Every Texan owns a pair of Cowboy boots—As a native Texan, I had to throw in one reference to stereotypes of my beloved home state! The point to remember is that we also have to watch regional labels in our marketing efforts as well (and yes, I do own a pair of boots).

And by the way, before my Gen. Y friends bellyache and bemoan my comment about how they are entitled, keep in mind that Gen. Y is one of the most influential generations we’ve seen in quite some time. They are influencing technology, consumer trends, marketing and just about everything they touch.

While labels are indeed useful, they are also dangerous. Just as important as it is to know marketing rules, it’s also important to understand marketing exceptions. Look for those exceptions when it comes to labeling certain groups.