Increasingly, you hear people talk about getting consumers to like your brand. But liking a brand isn’t enough. For your bank or credit union brand to succeed, your consumers must love it. And for them to love it, they must feel some sort of intimate connection with it.
Yes, that’s right — intimacy.
While intimacy and a financial institution brand may not seem to go hand-in-hand, there is definitely a place for it at your bank or credit union. So, how can a bank or credit union establish an intimate bond with its consumers? According to a recent report, the top five brands with intimate connections to Millennials are Apple, Nintendo, Netflix, Amazon and Disney. There are lessons to learn here. And don’t shy away because of the Millennial reference. The examples below apply to any age demographic.
While the companies listed above may not have a lot in common on the surface, they all demonstrate ways in which brands can connect intimately with their consumers. Consider the following for your bank or credit union:
Emotion over logic. Generally, consumers don’t make purchase decisions based on logic. They are driven primarily by emotion. Companies like Disney do a terrific job of establishing that emotional connection. Are there cheaper places to take your family for vacation than Disney World? Absolutely. But consumers will pay that premium because of the emotional connection, memories and family fun. Your financial institution must also give consumers a reason to choose it when logic says otherwise. For example, while your competitors may have more branches or better rates, you must offer something (generally along the lines of superior experience) that provides an emotional connection and generates brand loyalty.
Content is king. Your bank or credit union must provide terrific consumer information in order to stand out from the competition. Simply going for “sell, sell, sell” all the time will only turn off consumers. Companies like Amazon do a great job providing content for consumers (an example of this are customer reviews on Amazon). Your financial institution must also be a leader in content if it wants to establish intimate links between its brand and consumers.
Actively listening to consumers. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates famously remarked “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” This definitely applies to banks and credit unions. While we all love the glowing reviews, don’t turn a blind eye towards upset consumers. Hear what your consumers are saying about their pain points in doing business with you and actively work towards remedying those. For example, if you’re getting a lot of complaints about your outdated website, take a serious look at a redesign.
In order for brand to work, your financial institution executive management team must lead it. Your staff must live it. Only then can your consumers love it. Love, in great measure in branding, is determined by intimacy with consumers. So — just how intimate is your bank or credit union brand?
Every credit union or bank wants to increase their share of wallet with consumers. They want more business with existing customers or members. If someone has a checking account with you but no loan, go for that auto loan. If they have a checking account with you but no credit card, go for the plastic. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that approach. In fact, gaining more wallet share is often a key strategy for most financial institutions and an easy way to increase profitability.
But what about gaining more share of heart?
When I mention “share of heart” I’m referring to how the consumer feels about your credit union or bank. Not whether or not they use your products or services but rather what images or thoughts come to mind when they think of you. The more positive feelings they have towards you then the more share of heart you have. And if they don’t feel anything about you (positive or negative) then you don’t have a large share of heart.
Here are three ways to increase the share of heart someone has with your financial institution:
Improve your brand—The best brands going today are the ones that engage consumers emotionally. Think Apple and Amazon. People love those brands. They don’t just have consumers’ wallet, they have consumers’ heart as well. Don’t think a financial institution can illicit positive feelings because banking is boring or a chore? Then think about USAA and how it consistently ranks number one in net promoter score. If you know someone who uses USAA chances are you know someone who loves USAA. Improving your share of wallet will mean improving your brand.
Update your marketing—The marketing at most financial institutions focus on particular products’ features. The rate, the term, the function, etc. However, to truly touch consumers’ hearts your marketing should emphasize your products’ benefits. As someone once said, “features tell, benefits sell.” When we conduct marketing audits for our clients it is amazing to see how much of their material is dry, boring and a feature dump. We encourage many clients to make sure their marketing is emotional. Gaining more love for your bank or credit union will mean updating your marketing.
Change your training—No matter what you say your brand is and no matter how cool your marketing messages look, it’s your people who have to deliver (or sell) to consumers. So when was the last time you really trained your staff to your brand or trained them on connecting with consumers? Too much training within the financial service industry is focused on basic service skills, product knowledge or operational issues. Rather than offering the usual training material, try doing generational training, brand training or engagement training. Connecting deeper with consumers’ hearts will mean changing your training.
So does all this love really impact the bottom line? Absolutely. While love may be a squishy subject it is also a realistic profit driver. As Ray Davis, former president of Umpqua Bank said in Leading for Growth, “If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know that your brand is just about the most valuable asset you’ve got.”
In recent posts I’ve talked about Four Branding Myths and Four Strategic Planning Myths. While we referenced Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster and Elvis, we also “myth busted” a few common assumptions when it comes to branding and strategic planning.
The same holds true for marketing. There are many myths, half-truths and false assumptions when it comes to the important role marketing plays in the growth of your financial institution. It’s critical that executives don’t fall for these marketing folk tales.
Marketing is advertising—When you say the word “marketing” most people immediately think of their favorite TV commercials, radio spots or billboards. The reality, however, is that those are just advertising mediums. Marketing is WAY more than just advertising. As Alex Goldfayn says in The Revenue Growth Habit, marketing is “systematically communicating your value to people who can buy from you.” The reality is marketing is goes beyond what you say in your ads.
Marketing is a department—Who is in marketing? The answer to that question should always be “everyone.” Every single person at your credit union or bank is in marketing. Yes, even your collectors and accounting personnel. In fact, your staff are not just employees; they are brand ambassadors. The reality is marketing touches everything.
Marketing is an expense—Ask any CFO what marketing is and the vast majority will say it’s an expense. As John Wanamaker once family said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Therefore, marketing should provide a return on investment for those marketing dollars. If you try and cut marketing to save your budget dollars this year, what are the long-term impacts of that down the road? The reality is marketing is an investment.
Marketing is just about creativity and having fun—In one of my favorite Dilbert cartoons, his boss family says “You will now be working in the marketing department until further notice.” Then on the next frame you see the doorway to marketing, which says “Marketing Department: Two Drink Minimum.” Unfortunately, that is the perception of most marketing departments: it is just about creating pretty pieces and having a good time. However, marketing is more and more about data and analytics. To succeed in reaching consumers today, you must mine all the data you have on them. The reality is marketing is just as much science as art.
Obviously, there are key aspects to marketing that involve advertising, marketing personnel, money and creativity. However, to believe those things are the keys to marketing is to believe in a marketing myth.
It’s February, which means Valentine’s Day is upon us and, for many, love is in the air. The deeper question however, is this – do consumers love your bank or credit union?
Notice I didn’t say the word like. It’s too easy for a consumer to like a particular product, service or retailer. Many people, for example, might say they like a particular motorcycle but typically only Harley-Davidson owners will jump up on a table, proudly show you their logo tattoo and proclaim undying love for their bike.
Similarly, lots of consumers may say they like a particular cell phone, but you don’t find many people camping out on sidewalks four hours (if not days) in advance of a new phone launch like you do Apple fans.
Obviously, love plays into the notion of particularly strong brands. And while potential institutions may not outwardly seem to have the same potential feel for consumers, with the right people and the right brand, they can achieve the status of a loved brand.
What are some ways that you can inject the idea of love into your bank or credit union brand? First, run your brand through the love – respect axis. This is a terrific book and website that explains the deeper idea of loving a brand and will give you great insight on how members/consumers feel about your financial institution. Second, develop a staff that openly loves your brand. If your staff doesn’t love the brand, they won’t live in front of consumers and those consumers will quickly pick up on the inauthenticity of your brand. Lastly, make your brand fun. Fun brands are easier to love. Harley-Davidson and Apple are good examples of this. Other popular brands (some of which, like financial institutions, may not seem overly open to the notion of love) that do the job include Charmin, Old Spice and Taco Bell. And check out their social media sites (particularly Twitter) to get a better feel for how they inject fun and love into brand.
If you don’t think a financial institution is a retailer for which consumers and feel love, think again. Many banks and credit unions, with a deep dive into branding, have developed cultures which consumers love. A great example of this is USAA.
No doubt about it, in our competitive modern financial services environment, it’s simply not good enough to be “liked” anymore. If your consumers don’t love you, they don’t have much a reason to stick with you. Therefore, it is critical banks and credit unions create brands that develop lovesick consumers, not those that are merely satisfied with their products and services.
in Laramie, Wyoming is well-known locally for having a fun, vibrant and college-centric brand (which makes sense, as Laramie is home to the University of Wyoming).
However, a 2016 college football upset victory gave a whole new meaning to the words “fun and vibrant.” Playing against ranked Boise State at home, UW notched a last-second safety for the victory. The ensuing end zone dance (paired with the 1982 Men Without Hats pop hit “The Safety Dance” led to some great video/brand thinking at UniWyo FCU.
“The whole town was fired up after the game,” said UniWyo VP of Marketing Mindy Uitterdyk. “Laramie is a college town and our credit union is proud to serve the students and staff of the University of Wyoming. In our marketing and brand, we strive to create a voice that will resonate with this market. After the upset victory over Boise State, and using a little pop-culture knowledge, doing our own ‘Safety Dance’ video was a no-brainer.”
The credit union created its own version of the now-famous end zone celebration dance by taking a crew of managers (including its president) to the actual end zone of War Memorial Stadium to have a little fun with the music and the dance. “The university actually put on a “Best Safety Dance Video’ contest in which we were happy to take part,) added Uitterdyk.” We did have to show some of the younger staff members the classic video so it would make more sense, but everybody had great fun with it in the end.”
The credit union heard terrific feedback about the video from its members and the community at large. “We really think the video speaks to the culture of our credit union”, said Uitterdyk. “We recognized that our college crowd was totally hyped over the game and we decided to join in on the fun with a video that capitalized on the moment and helped express the cool, generationally-impactful brand we’ve developed over the years.”
The credit union used the video across various social media channels, including Facebook, YouTube and its own website where, in total it has gathered thousands of views, comments, likes and shares.
As we have noted in past blog articles, video is a terrific way to attract consumers. UniWyo FCU hit on all cylinders when it comes to their recent “Safety Dance” video, including an innovative strategy, supporting a cause in which consumers believe and employing humor. Other financial institutions can learn from this compelling example.