It won’t be long now before kids and their parents hit the streets dressed in different kinds of costumes on their quest for candy, candy and more candy. In the spirit of Halloween, we thought we would have a little fun with our credit union and bank audience.
If you had to describe your financial institution in terms of a Halloween costume, which type would it be?
Cute – Who can resist those cute little kids dressed as lady bugs, kitty cats and assorted Disney characters? You just want to squeeze them – after you give them an extra piece of candy, of course. If your financial institution warm and fuzzy? If customers or members can’t wait to bring you extra business because your employees are just gushing with kindness and compassion, you might be sporting a cute costume.
Funny – We all have our own brand of funny, but generally speaking, something or someone is funny if they make people laugh often. Does your financial institution seem to exude laughter? Are your marketing materials and overall messaging humorous in nature? Does your brand have a reputation for being witty? You might just win the costume contest for funniest financial institution.
Scary – We have all had one of these in our lifetime – a financial institution that made you think twice before you picked up the phone to call them or walked into a branch. They are either extremely unhelpful, entirely too unfriendly or even worse, exceptionally incompetent. They treat you badly and constantly make mistakes. If this describes your financial institution, it’s time for a wardrobe change.
Superhero – Fighting villains around the clock, super heroes spend their time saving good people from band situations. If you save your customers or members from spending too much money, taking out expensive loans they don’t need and helping them avoid significant financial mistakes, your financial institution may very well be a super hero.
Huh? – And then there’s this – someone who shows up to your door wearing a costume that makes you go hmmmm. Did they just throw something on to get free candy? Your financial institution might fall into this category if your brand is confusing. Maybe you promise one thing (convenience, great products) but deliver something completely different. Perhaps your service is inconsistent. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes your employees are friendly. Sometimes they aren’t. If this is your financial institution, consider a brand workshop or marketing audit to focus your brand.
Halloween costumes are only temporary and brand personalities can be fixed and/or strengthened. If the costume category with which you most closely associated your financial institution is not where you want your brand to be, now is the time to identify your brand gaps and make the changes necessary to better define or strengthen your financial institution and its brand.
This post authored by Colleen Cormier, Account Executive for On the Mark Strategies
I love reality TV. I know. Cue the groans. I can’t help it. There’s something about bad parents, mean dance teachers, and yes, even the occasional Real Housewives cat fight that keeps me captivated. Oddly, the show that currently has me mesmerized includes none of the above.
Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Making the Team follows the audition process for the cheerleaders from the first day of try-outs through eight weeks of intense training camp. The female side of me is fascinated by women wanting this so badly that they are willing to hear people tell them they need to lose weight, take more dance classes, change their hair color, etc. The marketing side of me is in awe of how protective this organization is of its brand. From the curl in their hair to the placement of rhinestone stars on their shorts, these candidates are expected to be perfect. And if they don’t look good on the six-story-wide jumbotron at the Cowboys’ stadium, they get cut from the team.
What would happen if you put your financial institution’s brand on a jumbotron (which sees a whole lot more than if you put it under a microscope)? Would you see perfection, or would you find flaws that need to be fixed? Here are some things to look for:
- Employees are dressed appropriately, well-groomed and adequately trained
- Branch offices look attractive, not cluttered with irrelevant materials
- Branch offices and their bathrooms are clean and smell good
- Sales aids (brochures, product sheets, etc.) contain current information/pricing
- Tellers and loan officers are not eating at their desks
- Customers/members are greeted as they enter the branch
- Atmosphere matches brand personality (if you say you are fun, people should be having fun)
- Your marketing materials all have a branded look (can be recognized even without a logo
Obviously this is not a complete list, but it’s a good start on the things you should monitor on a regular basis. You should also put your expectations in writing so that every employee understands your brand and has the tools to live it every day. After all, they are your brand ambassadors.
No brand is perfect – not even the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Every so often, an employee has a bad day, your branch gets messy or cluttered or your employees get busy and forget to greet someone as they enter the branch. When you put your brand on the jumbotron, so to speak, and you take a hard look what is going right and what is going wrong, you give yourself the ability to fix flaws quickly and maintain a strong and healthy brand.
In the earliest days of civilization, before the advent of alphabets and written languages, stories important to a group of people (a family, tribe, etc.) were handed down by storytellers. These people, often held in the highest regard within their social groups, were directly responsible for saving, sharing and passing on the important history of their people.
This continued even with the coming of alphabets and the written word. Oral storytellers became historians that, with chisel and stone, papyrus and later paper and ink, collected, archived and shared important stories. And the trend continues in our digital age. When you think about it, many aspects of social media are simply storytelling that reside on digital platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The power of storytelling is alive and well. Is your bank or credit union taking advantage of this art when it comes to sharing its own unique story? If not, you are missing out on a powerful marketing and branding tool.
Consumers are attracted to the stories of others. Often these come in the form of testimonials. If you think about it for a minute, you can likely come up with a quick list of consumers that, for a variety of reasons, are happy to be a part of your bank or credit union. Maybe you were able to save someone a chunk of change with a lower interest rate. Or perhaps you were able to offer a second-chance checking account to someone recovering from financial calamity like divorce or bankruptcy. Or maybe it’s simply a lifetime relationship with a member (or a family) that has existed for decades.
Point being — there is power to the stories. Far more power than simply slapping up a bullet-point list of product features. You might convince a few consumers to read a list of features, but the benefits (as told in their stories) are far more convincing forms of marketing and branding.
So tell your story. Be unique to who you are as a financial institution. Harvest and share the stories of your consumers and leverage them as powerful tools to attract and retain new members and customers. It doesn’t matter if we’re telling stories around the campfire or sharing them digitally online. The core subject matter is the same — and the subject matter is the powerful and unique story of your bank or credit union.
Great examples of this consumer story-telling ideal are seen at Prime Financial FCU, First Abilene FCU and Darden CU.
Taylor W. Wells, Communications Director for On The Mark Strategies, authored this entry.
While conducting a recent two-day, deep-dive member engagement program training with a client, a discussion arose about individual roles as related to the overall brand.
As part of the training, we take great pains to emphasize the importance of everyone’s role when it comes to supporting a financial institution’s unique branding culture. However, during this discussion, the words of one young woman were particularly poignant and relative to the discussion.
During the class, she meekly raised a hand and (bravely, I think) said “But I’m just a teller. Why is what I do important to the brand?”
I had a mixed bag of emotional reaction to this statement. First, I felt empathy for the young lady, having had many jobs in the past where I didn’t feel that my contributions really mattered. I also felt that she was courageous in sharing such an honest opinion. Most importantly, I felt this was a keen “teachable moment” to really drive home a key point with the class.
When it comes to your financial institution’s brand health, everyone plays a vital role. It does not matter if you are the CEO, VP of Whatever, a back office worker or certainly a teller. Everyone must support the brand, from top to bottom, in order for it to survive.
And while buy-in of the brand is critical from the executive leadership team, I would argue that their role is almost secondary to buy-in from frontline staff, such as tellers. After all, tellers have far more face-to-face consumer interaction than the typical back-office employee. Certainly, the executive staff has to believe in the brand. But if the frontline staff isn’t living it, every day, in front of every consumer, it’s dead on arrival.
Nobody is “just a teller,” “just a CEO,” or “just a back office worker” when it comes to the brand. Your brand is only as strong as its weakest link. And that weak link cannot exist at any level of the organizational chart.
Most statistics indicate Millennials now comprise about 25% of the total US population. That equates to roughly 81 million people. Millennial females make up about half that number, or around 40 million people. As the rise of the millennial generation continues, bank and credit union professionals must focus their efforts more specifically on its female component in order to establish firm market share in the future.
According to the recent article “The Millennial Mystique,” today’s young women do not necessarily share the same values and priorities that their mothers and grandmothers did. Rather, this generation of young women has a different set of values and expectations as it relates to work, money and life experiences. Several statistics from the article relate directly to millennial females relationship to their bank or credit union.
- 87% indicate they are not afraid to chart a different course than their friends
- 84% get excited when something is new or different
- 68% say managing their household is extremely important
- 78% say money is very important in their lives and is also the greatest source of dissatisfaction and stress
- 69% are actively saving for their future
What can bank and credit union professionals gather from the statistics? Plenty.
For example, since something new or different is important, if your financial institution has not rolled out a new product or service in the last 12 months, you are missing the boat when it comes to attracting Millennial females.
Also, with nearly 3/4 of this demographic sharing that managing their household is important to them, banks and credit unions must make financial education a priority in order to attract this population.
Lastly, with so many indicating that money is a continuing source of stress, banks and credit unions should look at this is an open door to combine innovative financial products and services with education in order to cement lifetime relationships with millennial females.
What works for Gen X and Baby Boomer women will not necessarily translate to success when applied to Millennials. Take heed of this generation’s unique financial needs and expectations to improve your financial institutions chances at success with them.