While you may think you get to decide if your bank or credit union brand story/identity is authentic and meaningful, quite the opposite is true. Here’s the potentially painful revelation — the final arbiter of your brand identity (and its authenticity) is completely in the hands and voices of your consumers.

Maybe you really push the brand story that you are noble (for example your bank or credit union’s community activism or charitable donations). Or perhaps you’ve gone the accessibility route, really hyping your brick-and-mortar and digital access points. Or, like many banks and credit unions, you push the tried-and-true (but also boring and vulnerable) “we are the friendliest in town” mantra.

Regardless of your brand story, what you say must be what you present. There are plenty of brand standard guideline documents out there not worth the paper on which they are printed because they just don’t truthfully reflect consumer’s actual experience with your bank or credit union. Maybe you do a lot with the community but just don’t promote it and consumers don’t see it. Maybe you launched an app last year thinking that was an achieved goal only to find your competition launching new and updated apps that are a heck of a lot better than yours. Or maybe, as is too often the case, you preach about friendliness yet the staff your consumers encounter are anything but.

Since your consumers are the ones you desire to fully embrace your brand, you simply must relate a brand story that is authentic and that with which they can emotionally and mentally connect.

The only way to figure this out is by deep-diving into your bank or credit union corporate culture to find out two things:

1) What you do well and 2) What your consumers expect.

The intersection of these two things is your brand sweet spot. Anything outside that runs the risk of inauthenticity and rejection by your target audiences

The lesson here, the how-two, is simply living a brand that is authentic to who you are as a bank or credit union. One terrific example of this is UniWyo FCU based in Laramie, Wyoming. Fully embracing the wide-open Western heritage of their location and membership, the credit union adopted a brand of “Live Life Boldly” and does so on a daily basis. Terrific examples of this can be found in their many video posts.

Since it’s the consumer that ultimately owns your brand, not you, do the best you can to nurture and sustain it by living a brand that is both unique and authentic to your cultural identity.

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