Five Must Read Branding Books

Five Must Read Branding Books

Everyone makes New Year’s resolutions or goals this time of year. One common ambition for many professionals is to read more. After all, the more you learn the more you earn. If you want to develop then you’ll want to read more.

A part of your regular reading routine should include blogs, magazines and newspapers. However, certain subjects require a deep dive analysis from time to time. And nothing is much more important at your organization than branding.

So what books on this key subject would I recommend you read in 2016? Here are five must read branding books:

  • Leading for Growth—While this is not a branding book per se, it contains tons of insights on the subject. This read is all about how Ray Davis led Umpqua Bank to incredible growth. Hint: one of the major strategies he implemented was an un-relentless focus on branding. One quote that still sticks with me is “you can’t have a strong brand and be lax about the details.” For my review of Leading for Growth check out this post.
  • Grow—This is becoming a new business book classic and you would miss quite a lot if you didn’t put it on your reading list. The subtitle sums it up perfectly: how ideals power growth and profit for the world’s greatest companies. Author Jim Stengel may use terms like culture and ideals but you’ll quickly see that many of the principles he analyzes in his exhaustive study of successful companies centers around branding. For my review of Grow, check out this post.
  • Difference—If you want to build a successful brand you have to make it different from the competition. But how? In Difference, author Bernadette Jiwa shows you how. She also gives an incredibly powerful tool as part of the book: the difference map. The difference model helps you focus on your principles, your purpose, your people and other key areas. For my review of Difference, check out this post.

Those are my top five. What about you? What other branding books would you add to this list?

Five Ways to Improve Your Marketing Today

Five Ways to Improve Your Marketing Today

In today’s fast and furious age, we are always looking for quick ways to improve. Fast diet plans that guarantee you can drop 20 pounds in two weeks. Quick exercise regimens that offer ways you can move from the couch to a 5K in a month.

Do those “get rich quick” type schemes work when it comes to marketing for credit unions and banks? Actually it does. While strategic shifts in your branding, culture and training take months and even years to fully execute, there are actually several things you can do immediately to increase your marketing’s effectiveness.

Here are five ways to improve your marketing starting today:

  • Use stronger visuals—People are drawn far more to pictures than words. In fact, they probably won’t read everything you write but they will see your photos and illustrations. Whatever you are trying to communicate, try to communicate it visually first (not as an afterthought). Lead with your pictures. And here’s another tip: use real consumers and not stock photography.
  • Rinse & repeat—Never ever do a “one and done” campaign. If you send one e-mail, one insert or one of anything, then don’t expect any results above a one percent return. You may get tired of saying the same marketing message repeatedly, but most consumers need to see your message at least seven or eight times before they even recognize it is from you. Repetition of message is a must.
  • Tell a story—If you want to connect rather than market (and trust me, you do), then try telling a story. Facts and figures are nice but stories are better. When was the last time you told a story about how one of your members or customers benefitted from your products? People are drawn to stories. So tell them.
  • Show the benefits—It’s an old adage but it’s true: features tell and benefits sell. Stop giving the features of your financial products (rate, terms, etc.) and offer how it helps the consumer (saves time, saves money, etc.). Show what your products do for people.

So there you have it. Five things you can do today to immediately improve your marketing. These are simple steps that provide powerful results.

Five Reasons Your Marketing Fails

Five Reasons Your Marketing Fails

We’ve all done it: fell into the false expectations trap. We think we have a killer idea to promote our bank or credit union’s particular product of the month. Maybe it is a new checking account, a special home equity loan or used auto promotion.

But for some reason we didn’t get the results we expected. The numbers fall short, the expectations are not met and the CEO or CFO are asking you some hard questions. So what went wrong?

Here are five reasons why your marketing is failing:

  • You target the all & not the niche—Stop marketing to all your customers or members. Focus on the ones that are the most profitable, the most likely to use your services and the ones that are your raving fans. Rather than send one piece to every prospect, use your database and MCIF tools to send multiple pieces to a select few. A small micro list is often better than a large macro list.
  • You promote product over brand—The most successful financial institutions are actually no longer marketing specific products and services. Rather they are promoting their brand. For an example, check out Umpqua Bank. Let’s be honest: financial services is a commodity business. There is not a great deal of difference between your checking accounts and loans than your competitors. Promoting your unique culture is better than promoting your generic products.
  • You put in too much information—Repeat these three words every time you create a marketing piece: “Cut the copy.” White space is a good thing. And remember to limit your item to one central message. For example, don’t throw in tons of details about other products when you are trying to promote a car loan. Less is better than more.
  • You promote features & not benefits—It’s an old adage but very true: features tell and benefits sell. Make your marketing about them and not you. Look at every one of your marketing items from the end-users view. The rate and terms are less important than how it saves the consumer time and money. Emphasizing your benefits is better than droning on about your features.
  • You don’t gain staff support—You can’t do marketing in a vacuum. No matter how creative your design is, it’s your front-line staff that often closes the sale. So make sure you give them selling tools and garner their feedback prior to a campaign launch. Involving staff is better than declaring from on high your marketing edicts.

If you feel your marketing is failing on a regular basis, one step you can take is to conduct a marketing audit. A thorough review of your specific marketing efforts will yield additional feedback and insights.

And by analyzing your marketing through the above lenses you’ll make sure your efforts don’t fail but succeed.

Execute Brand Discipline – Just Say No

Execute Brand Discipline – Just Say No

Picture it. You are ABC Bank or Credit Union, proudly serving your customers or members since the beginning of time. As part of your mission to provide the best possible financial solutions to your target audience, you have formed partnerships along the way which provide additional benefits to members or customers – maybe investment services or discount programs to save them money. As you grow, you see the value in supporting meaningful outreach programs like the Children’s Miracle Network. Who doesn’t want to help kids? All of these partnerships fit into your brand and make your customers or members genuinely proud to do business with you.

Sounds good so far, right? As time goes on, you agree to help promote these corporate partners. After all, you want your target audience to know these benefits are available to them, right? You put a stack of brochures here, a small banner ad on the website and maybe an article in your e-newsletter…for every single partner. Before you know it, an innocent desire to promote a partnership makes your financial institution look more like a bus station or one of those welcome centers you stop at after crossing the state line on a road trip. Brochures everywhere! The only problem is, they’re not yours. STOP. THE. MADNESS.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. We find this in our marketing audits all the time. We call it marketing collateral crap, and it literally just creeps up on you.

“We learned some surprising things in our marketing audit. We had 35 brochures in our lobby and our lobby looked cluttered. Less is actually more,” said Glenn Styer, retired CEO of Bucks First FCU (Now Inspire FCU).

This is particularly true on your website. A cluttered desk may be the sign of a creative mind, but a cluttered website is the sign of a confused brand, which only serves to confuse consumers. Your website is precious space. Your branches are precious space. You must control the marketing clutter and say NO when something doesn’t match your brand.

Remember, attention to detail is critical to your brand – including how you present yourself to consumers. You must make your financial institution memorable for the right reasons, not because your branches look run down and your website is too overwhelming for people to navigate.

“Branding is about getting your prospects to see you as the only solution to their problem,” writes Bob Frankel, author of The Revenge of Brand X.

No doesn’t necessarily mean never. Your might rotate ads for your partners once a week or once a month on your website. Or, create a partners page on your website and put all of their logos and special offers there. It may not be prime real estate, but you’re probably not on their home page, either.

For brochures, display one small row of partner brochures in an inconspicuous spot of your branches. Maybe set up a small space for a community bulletin board and dedicate that space to your partners.

Compromising with partners does not mean compromising your brand. You must execute brand consistency to maintain a strong brand.

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

Five Yoda Quotes Every Marketer Should Memorize

Five Yoda Quotes Every Marketer Should Memorize

It’s FINALLY here: the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As an unabashed Star Wars nerd and fan I’ve anticipated December 18 almost as much as I anticipated the birth of my children. Ok, that’s a bit of an overstatement (but not by much!).

While I won’ dress in costume for the opening show I will be thinking about my favorite characters like Luke, Han and Chewbacca. And how can you think of Star Wars without thinking about Yoda, the greatest Jedi Master in the history of the Galaxy.

One of Yoda’s most endearing traits was his ability to dispense sage wisdom. He often did so with pithy quotes. It turns out that many of Yoda’s favorite sayings actually have marketing wisdom associated with them. In fact, there are several lines from Yoda that every marketer should memorize.

Here are five of my favorite quotes from Yoda and ones that have special meaning for marketers:

  • “Do or do not. There is no try.”—When it comes to marketing, it’s not just about planning: it’s about action. So implement your ideas rather than just talk about them. You should not go into a marketing campaign with an attitude that says, “Let’s give this a try.” That attitude is more desperation. So don’t try a branding campaign: do a branding campaign.
  • “Patience you must have”—Many marketing efforts are not quick fixes. Effective marketing takes repetition, which of course implies more time. The most successful campaigns (especially with branding) are long-term efforts.
  • “You must unlearn what you have learned”—Many of the traditional marketing techniques you learned in college (the 4 Ps, traditional advertising, etc.) no longer work or are no longer applicable. One of the best things you can do as a marketer is to be a life-long learner. I recommend spending a few hours every week reading blogs/business books as well as attending professional conferences on a regular basis.
  • “The dark side I sense in you”—Do you ever get challenged and have people belittle marketing? There are probably people (even executives) who do not place a very high value on marketing. If they start to give you a hard time or undermine your efforts, just whip out your best Yoda impersonation and tell them “the dark side I sense in you.” That will put them in their place.
  • “Size matters not”—Every marketer wants a larger budget. But the reality is that most marketers have to do more with less these days. Your ideas and strategy matter outweigh how much money you have to spend. Good products and word of mouth trump big budgets every time. You don’t have to outspend your competition when you outthink them.

So there you have it: five Yoda-isms every marketer should memorize. What about you—do you have a favorite Yoda quote you would like to add to the list?

And don’t forget—may the force be with you.