Love it or hate it, it’s definitely full-swing political campaign season in America. Candidates on both sides will spend ridiculous amounts of money and time trying to sway voters in their favor.
To differentiate amongst ideologies and compete for limited media sound-bite time, candidates often develop a core branding message. Republican 2016 front-runner Donald Trump, for example, has cornered the market on “Make America Great Again.” Bernie Sanders favors “A political revolution is coming.”
We also touched briefly on this subject early this year before primary season hit full-swing.
While discussing presidential campaign logos, a New Republic article gives three tips that could just as easily apply to the brand message of your bank or credit union.
- Your brand must embody an “essence of personality” and evoke an intended emotional response. In other words, your bank or credit union brand must offer the completely distilled, 99-proof version of who you are and what you do. Are you fast? Are you reliable? Are you friendly? Whatever your brand professes, your staff must live it. And the brand itself must also elicit some type of emotional response. Yes, emotions in banking are tricky, but not impossible. Your angle might be consumer relief in finally finding an institution they can trust, excitement over that first home loan or the warm fuzzy that comes from successfully saving for your childrens’ college education.
- Your brand must be timeless and memorable. You don’t want a brand that sounds terrific today but won’t work in a few months or few years. You can’t tie your brand to something date-specific or topical, cool or trendy at the time. For example, if you tied your brand to a “swinging disco” feel in the 1970s, it might not translate well today. Go for the ephemeral.
- Regardless of the medium, your brand must perform in a wide range of formats. Your brand must translate into all possible mediums. For example, does it perform well in print? How does it work on broadcast media? And how does it look and feel when positioned on social media platforms? Finally and most importantly, how does your brand translate through that most important of mediums — your staff?
It seems like we are always in some kind of political season and the 2016 general election is still months away. So hunker down and get ready for lots of mudslinging. In the meantime, give some thought to how your brand can learn from the presidential branding examples of the past and present and how you can use these ideas to better it.
I admit it – I am an adult fan of SpongeBob SquarePants. It doesn’t hurt that my kids love the show and that it seems to be on the television all the time. But I get a kick out of it, too. There’s enough adult edge in it to keep my interest and it offers the type of zany comedy that appeals to me.
There’s a ton of goofy and lovable characters in the world of Bikini Bottom, but amongst my favorites is the irascible Mr. Krabs, money-obsessed founder of local burger joint the Krusty Krab. Krabs, somewhat like the old Jack Benny radio character, values money above all else. He is also an absolute defender of all things Krusty Krab. The way it looks, the way it is run, how the food is cooked and presented, the way customers are taken care of — all of it. Mr. Krabs is, in many ways, the ocean world’s ultimate brand cop.
Following are a few examples of the way Mr. Krabs protects his brand.
- The Krabby Patty. Amongst all the fast food of the sea, the Krabby Patty and its secret formula are the stuff of legend. Mr. Krabs goes to great lengths to protect not only the secret ingredients to his patties, but also to ensure he has those ingredients on hand at all times to service customers the same addicting food.
Action Step: In many ways, your secret formula is your brand. You must work hard to protect the integrity of your brand and also ensure that it cannot be duplicated by a competitor. Your brand is the secret ingredient in what makes your bank or credit union unique in an ocean of competition.
- Uniforms. Much to Squidward’s chagrin, there is a required uniform at the Krusty Krab, right down to the nametag. Frequent uniform inspections help ensure all (two) employees are up to scratch.
Action Step: Presenting a unified visual front for all consumers is an important part of your brand integrity. Whatever route your bank or credit union takes (shirt and tie, business casual, logo wear, etc.) make sure that every employee is aware of the dress code and is also held accountable to it.
- Training. Krusty Krab employees are put through regular training that includes a manual and video depicting exactly what is expected of them as brand ambassadors.
Action Step: Training is not a department. Trading is a mindset that must permeate every level of your bank or credit union. While training may start with human resources on the first day of employment, it must continue in some way with all employees throughout their tenure at your bank or credit union. Employees that stop training stop learning and employees that stop learning stop caring.
All animated fun aside, there are definitely branding lessons for banks and credit unions here. For example, can your consumers expect the same treatment from every employee in every interaction? Is your staff attired in such a way that represents the brand in a positive manner? And are your employees regularly trained to the brand and held accountable to his standards?
If not, you could learn a thing or two from Mr. Krabs and his successful brand experience at the Krusty Krab. Make it the Best (Brand) Day Ever!
For a while we’ve heard about the importance of developing an “elevator speech” for your bank or credit union. The thinking here is that, as a brand ambassador for your financial institution, you should be able at all times to describe who you are and what you do in a few brief moments to anyone. In other words, you should be able to give an eloquent brand statement to a stranger in the amount of time it takes to get between floors in a high-rise elevator.
While there’s nothing wrong with elevator speeches, maybe it’s time to update our thinking. As an avid Twitter user, I can tell you that it is sometimes difficult to condense your thinking into a 140 – character tweet. The beauty of it is, though, the strict size limitation really requires you to pare-down your thinking to the essentials.
Therefore, it’s time to ditch the elevator speech and think more in terms of Twitter when it comes to your financial institution brand.
Using that 140 – character limit, how would you describe your bank or credit union to a complete stranger? With every character precious (including commas, spaces and punctuation) how would you choose to invest your space and words?
When writing your financial institution Twitter manifesto, consider the following:
- Link back to your bank or credit union website. This is a gimme. It takes little space and zaps the reader right over the plenty of information about your financial institution.
- Consider hashtags. These symbols give your tweets context and can help solidify brand concepts in just a word or two. Examples might include #memberserviceleader and #fastestloanreplies.
- Use images. Tweets with images really pop and you definitely want your brand to pop. Images also lead to greater social media engagement. What kind of picture would you include with your brand tweet? The logo? An ecstatic consumer?
Again, there’s nothing wrong with the traditional elevator speech. Just like there’s nothing wrong with the traditional eight track player. Both had their time and place and both are dated in a fun and quirky way. To bring your brand into the digital age, consider exactly how you would tweet and present it to consumers.
I recently bought a new pair of running shoes. Since I’m also training for a half marathon race, the next run in my training schedule was for 13 miles.
So the first run in my new shoes was for 13 miles. Bad idea. Note to self: never, ever go on a long run when breaking in a pair of new shoes. Needless to say, I developed one heck of a blister on the outside of my left foot (yes, lots of blood was involved).
In regards to size, the blister is not all that large. Yet it is still extremely painful. It’s hard to believe that something so small (a blister) can cause such pain.
It’s the same way with brands, however. Some small things can actually cause quite a lot of damage to your brand. Do you have any brand blisters? Here are a few examples of small “blisters” that create a great deal of damage to your brand:
- How your bathrooms smell—How your restrooms smell and how clean they are communicates something about your brand. When conducting marketing audits for clients, we routinely do the “bathroom smell test.” One of the best ways to improve your brand is to improve your bathrooms.
- How your employees answer the phone—People can hear your smile through the phone. Your employees should answer the phone with an engaged voice. They should also answer the phone the same way (you’d be surprised at the lack of consistency we hear with phone greetings). One of the best ways to improve your brand is to improve your phone greetings.
- How your employees dress—The first impression of your brand is often not a marketing piece but rather an employee. So how are they dressing and how do they look? Sloppy attire and poor personal grooming send the message that your bank or credit union doesn’t really care how its employees appear. One of the best ways to improve your brand is to improve your dress code.
When it comes to branding, details matter. Especially the small details. If you don’t pay significant attention to these details, then you will develop blisters. So make sure you don’t attempt a significant branding project without addressing some potential blisters.
When it comes to awareness most marketing professionals think about brand awareness. How well do consumers know about your financial institution? We conduct focus groups, complete market awareness surveys and study a myriad of other data to better understand if people are aware we even exist.
But when it comes to awareness, there is more than just a brand awareness gap. There often also exists a gap between your existing customers or members and your products and services. In other words, the vast majority of people using your financial institution probably don’t know half of what you offer.
Think about this: what if you didn’t add one single NEW consumer to your bank or credit union this year? But, you got all of your existing members or customers to add just ONE new product or service? What would that do to your bottom line? It would increase significantly.
All simply by closing that awareness gap.
Many financial institutions are obsessed with adding new consumers. While new people are both the “lifeblood” and “fresh blood” for you to mine the reality is you have quite a large pool of existing people to target. From a return on investment (ROI) standpoint, it is also about seven to 10 times cheaper to get one of your existing consumers to add a product or service than it is for you to acquire a new one. Closing that awareness gap internally is a good use of your marketing funds.
Remember this key point: while you know all about all your products your existing consumers do not. Never make the assumption they know all you offer.
So how can you close the awareness gap with your existing members or customers? Here are a few quick and easy steps to take:
- Teach your staff to close every conversation with “Did you also know we offer ________________? I can tell you how other people just like you are benefiting from it.”
- Place a marketing message on every single piece of material that leaves your financial institution. Whether it is teller receipts, e-mail footers, statements, letters, etc. have a place to highlight either a product benefit or a testimonial (note: you don’t market product features).
- Market checking accounts to people who have auto loans with you and promote auto loans to people who have checking accounts with you. Both of those products are “sticky” and if they have one with you they are more inclined to have both of them with you.
Not all of your existing consumers you talk with are going to take you up on your offers. But if five, 10 or even 15 percent did that would boost your bottom line significantly. I have heard many a consumer say, “I had no idea you offered XYZ product.”
The average consumer has 10 financial products and services spread across more than four financial institutions. You need to capture some of that business. And you can do so by closing the awareness gap.