Ah, how I miss the 1980s. The movies, fashion, culture and the music. It all seemed somehow simpler and more fun than the troubling times we live in now. I guess every generation looks back with nostalgia this way.

One gem I recall from that decade are the “Cola Wars” between Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola. Ostensibly, consumers were blindfolded and asked to try small samples of both Pepsi and Coke and then choose which was their favorite. Now, I realize it’s all a matter of personal preference, but to me, Coke and Pepsi taste pretty much the same. Only my Texas-grown Dr Pepper is really worth drinking.

In a “Financial Services War,” could your blindfolded members or customers taste-test the difference between the brand identity of your bank or credit union and your competition?

While business models between soft drinks and banks and credit unions differ, the key branding element that answers the questions above is the same. What makes you unique and why do you exist?

This requires a lot of soul-searching on the part of your executive management team and board. Remember, you have plenty of competition. There are loads of other banks, credit unions and non-traditional financial services providers that say things like “our service makes us different” or “our friendly frontline staff makes us better.”

Balderdash.

Anybody can say this. You have to dig deeper. You have to be ready to take a long, hard look at your marketing and brand identity to find out the things you do well, things you suck at, the audiences you serve well and the audiences you can exclude from your marketing efforts.

Yes — these are difficult questions. Yes — they require soul-searching and vigorous debate. But if your bank or credit union wants to survive the ongoing “Financial Services War,” you’d better embrace them.

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