All About That Brand

All About That Brand

I have a confession to make. I like the Meghan Trainor song All About That Bass. I don’t just like it: I listen to it (even when my girls are NOT in the car). It’s on my playlist when I run. I even nod my head and tap my feet when it’s playing.

Don’t tell anyone this but I even know most of the words.

And speaking of the lyrics, what if we changed her song title to All About That Brand and updated the words just a bit. It might go something like this:

  • “I’m all about that brand, ‘bout that brand”—Is your credit union or bank ALL about your brand? The reality is branding touches everything. From the boardroom to the break room to the bathroom. If your brand is not permeating every department, every branch and every strategy then your brand will struggle. A strong brand is consistent because it’s “all about the brand.”
  • “I can brand it brand it like I’m suppose to”—When it comes to your employees, are they living your brand like they are suppose to? If you ask your staff, “What are we about?” would the answers be all over the place? Many financial institutions struggle with the brand because their staff is not living it. A brand is strong because their team members “brand it like they’re suppose to.”

For those of you that don’t want to change the lyrics, there are actually a couple of the phrases within All About That Bass that have branding applications. Consider the following:

  • “See the magazines working that Photoshop”—Do the graphics you are using in your branding and marketing materials contain “perfect people?” In other words, stock photography and images? Those people are not real! And most importantly, they probably don’t look like the consumers that frequent your credit union or bank. Use real people rather than Photoshop people.
  • “Don’t worry about your size”—Some financial institutions see their size as a negative. We are not as big as Bank of America, Chase or Wells Fargo. So what? Leverage your local involvement. Implement the “own the circle” strategy. Demonstrate how your level of personal service provides consumers an advantage that those big box banks simply can’t do. Use your size to your advantage.

According to Meghan Trainor, the key to attracting someone is to remember that “it’s all about that bass.” When it comes to attracting consumers to your credit union or bank, it’s actually all about that brand.

Giving Your Targets Grey Hair

Giving Your Targets Grey Hair

I recently applied for the TSA Pre-Check security clearance. As part of the process you visit a TSA office in person, provide the proper paperwork and answer a few questions. One of the questions they ask while you are there is “What color is your hair?” I said “brown.” The TSA agent looked at me and then keyed into the system “Grey to partial grey.”

Are you kidding me? If my hair is “grey to partial grey” it’s BECAUSE of the TSA! He made a cursory glance, saw ONE grey hair (okay, maybe more than one) and then assumed the rest of the answer.

But do credit union and bank employees do the same with our target audiences? In other words, do we make assumptions based on one minor (or potentially false) detail?

For example, we assume everyone who is older than 55 does not need a loan so we automatically try to cross-sell them a deposit product. Or we assume one person in the family is the financial decision maker and only talk to them. Or we assume only females are on Pinterest so we don’t market to men using that channel.

Assumptions, assumptions, assumptions. Do you assume characteristics about your target audiences? Do you give them grey hair when in fact they mostly have brown hair?

Marketers like to lump people into neat fitting boxes. There are generational boxes such as Matures, Boomers and Millenials. There are income boxes such as upscale, middle market and low-income depositor. There are racial boxes such as Hispanic, African-American and Asian.

However, assigning broad characteristics to particular groups is dangerous. No one wants to be stereotyped. Everyone is unique and everyone is different. The best way to reach consumers is to get to know them. Their individual traits, desires and dreams.

One of the best things your sales staff and marketing professionals can do is to engage consumers in conversations and get to know them. So stop marketing stereotypes and start engaging in conversations.

Of course, when I think of the TSA I’m not sure I want to have any more conversations with their agents. I’ve already been to second base with them a number of times.

Five Must Haves For Your 2016 Marketing Budget

Five Must Haves For Your 2016 Marketing Budget

I’m often asked, “How much should we be spending on marketing?” I always reply with a three-word joke, “More. Much more!” The best answer to that question is not so much HOW MUCH you spend, but WHAT you are spending it on.

We’re in prime budgeting season. Every credit union or bank marketer is sharpening their pencils and crunching their numbers. We budget for business development, give-a-ways, annual meetings, promotions, websites and more. There are GLs for every possible line item.

But are they the right items? As you prepare your 2016 marketing budget, consider the following five areas that need concentration. Each item will generate the greatest return on those precious marketing resources.

Here are the five must haves for your 2016 marketing budget:

  • A Micro-Local Emphasis—You probably already know the importance of investing your dollars in local events and marketing. Doing business locally is certainly a trend. However, as you examine your 2016 budget make sure every single expense ties back to the micro-level. In other words, if something (billboard, event, etc.) does not take place within three miles of one your branches don’t do it. This ties back to a strategy I wrote in a post called “Own The Circle.
  • An Outside View—We all need feedback and an outsider’s perspective regarding our particular area of expertise. Marketing is no different. Marketing audits help maximize and grow your marketing results. A thorough marketing audit will give your financial institution strategic and tactical suggestions for immediate improvement.
  • A Millennial Focus—During almost every single strategic planning session we conducted this year, the topic of “getting younger,” “reaching the Millennial Generation” or “serving the youth,” was a topic of discussion. As noted by MarketMatch, according to a recent survey from Bank Director, only 40% of bank CEOs feel their bank has the appropriate products, services and methods of delivery to meet the needs and demands of Millennials. That Millennial train has left the station. If your marketing budget includes items (direct mail, Facebook, newsletter) that reach old people, reallocate those resources to avenues designed for the young (Instagram, Vine, video).
  • An Ambassador Emphasis—Everyone is in marketing. Even if you’ve spent significant time and money in developing a strong strategic brand with a great tagline and pinpointed target markets, that doesn’t matter if your staff does not live your brand. Your employees are not your staff; they are your brand ambassadors. Too many marketing efforts fall short because the staff is not engaged in marketing. Stop doing generic sales training and rather spend more resources in training your front-line staff to your brand.
  • A Digital Strategy—According to CU Grow, 71% of financial marketers do not have a defined digital marketing strategy and 70% believe their greatest challenge is lack of budget and people. Those numbers are staggering and point to a serious deficit in many marketing budgets. Your budget scales should already tip heavily to digital.

Those are a few suggestions. As you prepare your 2016 budget where are you spending more and where are you spending less?

“It’s Not In The Budget” Is Just An Excuse

“It’s Not In The Budget” Is Just An Excuse

“It’s not in the budget.” “We don’t have the budget for that now.” “We didn’t budget for that item this year.”

If you have ever worked in a credit union or bank, you have surely heard those words. Or should I say excuses? Because that is what those phrases are.

Technology, marketing and training. Those seem like the areas hardest hit with the budget axe. But the “not in the budget” excuse can strike every part of the operation.

How do you avoid the excuse trap? Here are four ideas:

  • Shift dollars—The budget is probably the budget. There are certain net income numbers you are striving to hit. But that doesn’t mean when a new idea or project arises that you should automatically rule it out because you didn’t budget for that item. Just pull the dollars from another project. For example, if you don’t have the budget for a marketing audit then pause an advertising campaign because you feel the audit will improve your overall marketing efforts.
  • Admit it’s not a priority—You need to align the budget with what is most important to your financial institution. So be honest when it comes to talking numbers. Is there really no room in the budget for a particular item or is the honest truth you don’t want to spend the money on it? For example, you may say you want to be a fast follower in technology but your financial priorities are more important than offering an awesome mobile platform.
  • See the ROI—Return on investment is hard to calculate for some expenses (training in particular). Rather than having a “no budget for that” mentality, dig deeper into what the actual return on a particular item can yield. Examples include higher employee engagement, better member service and improved product penetration. Also ask this question, “what is the cost of NOT doing a particular project?” Looking at the negative outcomes of not taking action gives additional insights.
  • Invest in staff and strategyJohn Maxwell once wrote, “you will never regret the amount of time you invest in people.” Your staff and your strategy are two of the most important assets you have (even though they are not on your balance sheet at all). Not conducting a strategic planning session and not training your staff has long-term negative repercussions. As Stephen Covey once said, “If you have to cut things out you just cut people; you cut training and development; you kill the goose that lays the golden egg.” Remember that your staff and strategy are your golden eggs.

The bottom line is you have the budget for what your priorities are. Stop using the budget as an excuse crutch and instead invest in the items that will yield the greatest impact.

Millennials are NOT Slackers

Millennials are NOT Slackers

I had a very interesting (and in some ways disturbing) conversation last week about the work ethic of millennials – people born in the 80s and 90s. A friend of mine mentioned how his company was focused on hiring more millennials to fill open job positions. He also said the company was training employees on how different generations tend to communicate.

I told him I was impressed with his company’s proactive approach to better communication and helping different generations work together more efficiently. Many companies overlook it completely. Others in the room didn’t see it my way and went on somewhat of a rant about millennials being lazy. It was disturbing to me how many older people still think of millennials as slackers. They are far from it.

Part of their “slacker” reputation came from circumstances beyond their control. Older millennials entered the job market during the economic downturn caused by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Young millennials entered the job market during the Great Recession. They couldn’t find jobs and had student loans the size or mortgages to start paying. Many lived (and continue to live) with their parents longer out of financial necessity.

“Millennials are hungrier and more well-educated than any generation in history, and they understand technology,” said Andrew Challenger, a vice president at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, in an article at

Millennials want to be valued for their knowledge. If you spent $100,000+ on your education, you would want that, too. Value them for their strengths, and be mentors to them in areas where they lack knowledge and experience.

Read the rest of this blog post in the latest issue of my monthly e-newsletter and learn why it’s time to embrace this group of people. Also in the newsletter, I give you a real-time example of how social media can get out of hand when businesses don’t adequately plan or put the manpower in place to handle it. Use this information in your in your annual planning sessions to assess your social media goals and determining what resources you will need to meet those goals.