Branding is your credit union or bank’s most valuable asset. Not your branches. Not your dollars you have on deposit. Not your IT equipment. Pure and simple, it’s your brand. But how robust is that brand? Is it weak, strong or somewhere in the middle? Most financial institutions probably need a little more power in their brand.

If you want to power your brand one of the best books you can read on the subject is Power Branding, by Steve McKee. Each chapter is short and easy to digest (one of the book’s best traits).

He begins with a simple principle: that when it comes to branding we need to flip the “Journalist’s Six” of who, what, when, where, why and how to:

Why > Who > What > How > Where > When

He notes, “By following this pathway, you can avoid a great deal of confusion, trial and error, and blind alleys, preserving your brand’s precious time and resources. Like putting on your socks before your shoes, doing things in order makes the difference.”

Below are three principles from the book and how we can apply them in the financial services world. For more details and ideas be sure to pick up a copy of Power Branding.

(1) ROI and branding are directly linked together

If you don’t think branding has a direct correlation to the bottom line, then you absolutely need to read this book. McKee cites a CoreBrand study that notes the positive impact branding has on a company’s stock performance (as much as five to seven percent or even higher). He says, “A brand is the only corporate asset that, managed properly, will never depreciate. Never depreciate. Software ages, buildings crumble, roofs leak, machines break. But a well-managed brand can increase in value year after year after year.”

  • Application: If you are having trouble getting buy-in from C-Suite executives or boardroom members when it comes to undertaking a brand initiative, use some of the statistics and studies in this book. Communicate to them the link between brand reputation and financial performance. Report regularly on the value your brand has in the marketplace.

(2) Find happy people

Throughout the book McKee uses multiple examples of companies that are branding incredibly successfully (the organizations that already are power brands). One of the examples he uses is Zappos and how they created a term called “Happy Hunters.” These are people who LOVE Zappos. The company studied these people who shared similar age, income, behavioral and attitudinal characteristics. Now they know who to target with their brand efforts.

  • Application: Study your current customers or members. Find the group of people who absolutely LOVE your bank or credit union (yes, people can actually “love” a financial institution). Then examine that group to discover the characteristics and traits they all share. Once you’ve developed that profile, there is your best target audience for new consumers.

(3) Internal branding is as important as external branding

One of my favorite quotes from the book is “Your most important target audience is the people who see your brand on their paychecks.” He notes that most companies overlook their own employees with their brand. This is often a fatal mistake. He even suggests reallocating some of your marketing budget dollars to these internal brand efforts.

  • Application: Conduct brand training. Not generic sales and service training but programs that teach your credit union or bank’s fundamental principles, values and vision. It doesn’t matter what you say your brand is, if your employees don’t live it every day it doesn’t matter. Most financial institution branding campaigns spend far too much time on external audiences. While that is all well and good, the reality is it is your own employees and their day to day interactions that play a larger role in branding than almost anything else. An investment in your employees will greatly increase your overall brand investment.

Those are just a few key points from three of the themes in Power Branding. The book is divided into logical sections and you can read most chapters in under five minutes each. It’s an easy book not only to read but to apply.

If you want to strengthen your credit union or bank’s brand—if you want to give it an extra “oomph.” then I highly suggest you read Power Branding.

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