Society, and the advertising industry which feeds it, is increasingly obsessed with the notion of being different. And while there’s nothing wrong with a diversity of appearance and ideas, simply being different for the sake of being different isn’t enough to drive a successful bank or credit union brand.

There are many ways in which a financial institution can try to be “different” in its brand. You can go for a quirky name, fun corporate culture or dive hog-wild into community events. Then again, while there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those things (as long as they are true to your unique bank or credit union culture) simply doing those things to be different isn’t enough. More important than mere differentiation is consumer buy-in. In other words, your members or customers must actually care about who you are. Following the tried-and-true consumer formula, most are concerned with “what’s in it for me?” and whether or not your bank or credit union aligns with their personal values.

Merely being “different” is not enough to solicit this deeper emotional idea of consumer care. For example, in the 1980s Coca-Cola launched a new flavor that famously flopped. Life Savers flirted with a soda (and tanked miserably). One of the stranger examples comes from Clairol’s late 1970s combination of yogurt and shampoo (consumers rejected this in droves). Turns out, just being different isn’t necessarily a golden ticket to brand success.

In order to establish genuine differentiation and consumer connections, your bank or credit union must establish a brand and value proposition that resonates internally and externally. This effective technique is not something you develop in a thirty-minute meeting. It requires the input of your leadership team, employees, current consumers and potential consumers. Typically, successful brand and value propositions employ the help of an outsider’s perspective.

Being different is fine. If every brand looked and acted the same way, consumers would have little reason to choose one way or the other. But just being different for the sake of being different is also boring (and potentially financially detrimental). To avoid fading-out in all the white noise blasting consumers, you must go for the genuine one-on-one brand experience that only a narrowly-focused game plan offers.

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