If you’re like a lot of people, as a kid you spent time playing pickup one-on-one neighborhood basketball games. When you didn’t have enough kids for two full teams and you’re shooting on one basket (as was usually the case) this was the way to play.
Think about your focus in those games. You were solely keyed-in on your opponent. It wasn’t as if you were one player against many. In this one-on-one experience, you were able to channel your energies into (and against) one other person. This laser-focus was a key driver in whether or not you won the game.
The same thing applies to consumer brand experience. Bank and credit union professionals (especially marketers) tend to think about their brand touch as it applies to mass groups. For example, “how many people viewed this video?” or “how many direct mail pieces did we send last month?”
While it is important to expose as many people as possible to your brand, you must learn to do so with focus. No one bank or credit union can be all things to all people, and none should try. That’s a recipe for disaster. Digging deeper into your consumer field, finding out who these people are and then comparing that to your product and service offerings allows for a deeper brand experience focus.
Brand is also best expressed on an individual level. It’s great if 10,000 people liked your Facebook post, but it’s even better if a smaller number are exposed to a genuine and authentic brand experience sitting across the desk from one of your employees. Similar to the basketball game mentioned above, these one-on-one interactions are typically those which consumers recall and share with family and friends – all good news for your brand.
It almost seems antithetical, but your brand is better empowered by thinking in terms of smaller group exposure rather than traditional mass-marketing terminology. In other words, thousands of direct mail postcards, while perhaps offering a cursory glance to more consumers, aren’t worth as much as a smaller number of deeper interactions across desks, and lobbies and community events when your staff interacts with consumers and shares your authentic brand message.
The importance of using online video in your digital marketing portfolio will only continue to grow. Increasingly, banks and credit unions invest more money every year in using video to attract new consumers and retain existing ones.
While it is now obvious that consumers are drawn to video content online, you must remain aware of exactly the kind of video for which they look. Simply slapping something in front of the camera will not necessarily do the trick. According to a recent study from Accenture Interactive, there are caveats to consumer video affinity.
- You must use innovative video technology and strategies. Is your video content optimized for both traditional computer screens and mobile devices (smart phones and tablets)? Are you simply posting videos to your website, or are you concurrently running them on social media platforms where your consumers are likely to congregate? Golden 1 Credit Union recently utilized a compelling video strategy in a sneak-peek of the opening of the Golden 1 Center.
- You must support a cause in which consumers believe. More and more, consumers (especially Millennials) are drawn to brands to support causes in which they believe. Do your videos clearly show your bank or credit union involved in local community events?
- You must provide humor. Yes, humor is tough. However, the financial institution that can pull off genuine and authentic humor in its video strategy is a step ahead in the game. For example, check out this Pinterest page.
- You must provide visually appealing video content. Your video content must also catch the eye. You simply can’t get away with two people talking in front of a white background anymore. Your video, in order to catch the consumer’s eye, must offer deeper and richer visuals to compel attention. GTE Financial accomplishes this in their “Magic Minute Dash” video.
You spend time and money on your financial institution videos. It makes sense that you fine-tune them for success. Using innovative strategies, supporting causes, employing humor and presenting visually appealing content are keys to making this happen.
Your bank or credit union brand does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, it scrambles to survive amongst a cacophony of other voices vying for consumer attention, from other banks and credit unions to non-traditional new players in the financial marketplace.
The most powerful way for your financial institution can stand out amongst this crowd comes in creating a powerful brand. That brand, however, is driven not by massive amounts of direct mail postcards, online videos, social media posts or billboards. It is primarily driven by the story it tells and whether or not that story resonates with consumers.
In other words, generating more ad clutter does not equate to brand equity. Relatable storytelling does a much better job creating that.
The easiest way to tell your brand story is by listening to consumers. Seek out your happiest customers or members and ask them why they are pleased. While personal interviews generate terrific information, you can also try to accomplish this with online surveys. However, in order to capture the most authentic stories, you must be able to attribute them to members/consumers by name and (hopefully) with a photo of an actual person. Brand storytelling demands real names and real pictures, not generic aliases and stock photography. Depending on the size of your market, the people that see and hear these testimonials will likely recognize the people giving them, which lends further credence to your brand storytelling efforts.
Additionally, everyone at your bank or credit union must be on-board when it comes to brand storytelling. This responsibility does not fall solely to your marketing department. Your board and executive team must be on the hunt for authentic consumer stories. Your employees (particularly front-line staff) must also engage with consumers and ask the kinds of questions that elicit brand-fan stories. Certainly your marketing team must be efficient in telling the stories so that your consumers perceive them as authentic and compelling. In 2015, Gesa Credit Union did a terrific job with a member testimonial/storytelling campaign in their “My Gesa Story” initiative.
Think about how stuffed your mailbox (both digital and physical) gets every week with flyers and ads. Most of these go straight to the trash. The last thing your bank or credit union needs is another pile of useless advertising clutter that is simply flushing money down the drain. Compelling financial institution brands are built on storytelling, not marketing debris.
There are many myths in our midst today. Bigfoot is roaming the Pacific Northwest. The Loch Ness Monster is swimming in Scotland. Elvis is still alive and eating donuts in a coffee shop. While those are somewhat innocent or goofy folk tales, there are serious myths when it comes to branding.
And just like the Myth Busters had to set us straight when it came to what duct tape can actually do it’s time to bust a few myths when it comes to branding.
Here are four branding myths:
- Branding is visual—When most people think of branding they think of logos, colors and pretty printed materials. While all that is well and good, those should be the last steps in a branding effort. Research and strategy are far more important when you are studying ways to improve your communication efforts with consumers.
- Branding is external—When you embark upon a branding or rebranding effort much time is spent on your target niches. While that is certainly critical to your success, it’s important that you begin with an internal look. What is your vision? What are your core values? Why do you exist as an organization? Branding requires you spend a great deal of time looking inward.
- Branding is a one-time project—As Tom Asaker, author of A Clear Eye for Branding, says,“There is no such thing as a branding ‘project.’ Branding is an ongoing process of renewal.” To some degree you will always be doing branding at your credit union or bank. In fact, the most successful brands today (think Apple, Amazon and Starbucks) promote and focus on their brand much more than their products.
- Branding is marketing’s responsibility—Let’s make this clear: everyone has a role to play in branding. In our trademarked branding process, we say executives and managers lead your brand, employees live your brand and consumers love your brand. If you don’t spend a ton of time with your staff on brand training, your branding efforts are destined for failure.
Obviously, there are key aspects to branding that are visual, that are external, that are one-time efforts and that mostly involve marketing. However, to believe those steps or those parts are the keys to branding is to believe in a branding myth.
Focus On Your Audience, Not The Competition
In the financial services industry we can obsess over our competition. What is Jones National Bank doing in the community? Have you tried the mobile app from Big National Bank Brand? How is ABC Credit Union opening so many new accounts?
While it’s important to maintain a healthy eye on your rivals, when it comes to branding your credit union or bank you should focus your efforts on your audiences and not your competition. Why? Because branding is often more about internal aspects than external factors.
One of the main internal components of your brand plan is your audience (and note, we’re not using the term “target” because that implies you are going to shoot your targets (no one wants to be a target audience).
Here are three ways to make sure you maintain your focus on the consumers and not the competition:
- Study your consumers—You can’t reach those you don’t know. So learn as much about your potential niche groups as possible. For example, many financial institutions want to get younger so one of their target audiences is “the Millennial Generation.” But as we noted in this post, that is way too broad and vague; there are several sub-groups of the Millinnials (like HENRYs, Millennial Moms, DINKs, etc.).
- Develop a brand plan—Every financial institution needs a brand plan, a document that details its vision and its messaging. One of the brand plan’s key components is a list and description of whom your financial institution is trying to reach. You cannot be all things to all people. So stop trying. Determine which consumers you want to focus your branding and marketing efforts.
- Train your staff—Once you have your key consumers identified, then you can provide specific training to your employees on how best to connect with those key consumer groups. For example, we’ve conducted generational training for some of our clients. This instruction helps employees learn how to talk with consumers that are different from them.
Please note I’m not saying the competition doesn’t matter—it does. As you develop your brand you certainly want to create one that is unique and different in the marketplace. Of course, the only way to do that is to make sure you don’t replicate what others are doing.
However, the best brands worry far more about the consumers than the competition.