Your Bank or Credit Union and Brand Intimacy

Your Bank or Credit Union and Brand Intimacy

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?

Forget Share of Wallet; Go For Share of Heart

Forget Share of Wallet; Go For Share of Heart

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.”

Four Marketing Myths

Four Marketing Myths

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.

And just like the Myth Busters had to set us straight about if it’s possible to cook lasagna using a dishwasher as an oven, it’s time to bust a few myths when it comes to marketing.

Here are four marketing myths:

  • 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.

Having Fun and Putting Love In Your Brand

Having Fun and Putting Love In Your Brand

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.

Credit Union Has Fun, Makes Impact with Video

 

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.

How to Have a Successful Brand Day

How to Have a Successful Brand Day

Birthdays. Holidays. Gamedays. There are certain dates on the calendar we block off for special occasions and celebrations. And one such day every credit union or bank should have on their schedule is Brand Day.

What’s a Brand Day? A time when you gather your entire staff together to educate, reinforce and celebrate how you are unique in the marketplace. It’s not a time to conduct compliance or BSA training but rather a time help employees better understand your brand and most importantly better understand their role in living your brand.

But how do you conduct a successful brand day? I was fortunate to be a part of Blue Eagle Credit Union’s Brand Day recently and they offer the following insights into how to hold such an event (and make no mistake about it: brand days are “events”).

Know the “why”
“You have to make sure that your brand is top of mind with your staff,” says Laurissa Grubb, director of marketing for Blue Eagle Credit Union. “In our case, a large portion of our staff has less than two years tenure with the credit union.” She went on to say that employees need to understand exactly what branding is and how they can live it.

While Blue Eagle Credit Union does ongoing operational training on a regular basis, they felt it was critical to bring all staff together to focus on their brand. The training that day gave their staff the tools to engage with rather than sell to consumers.

Focus on the details
One of the things that made Blue Eagle Credit Union’s Brand Day such a success were the details. “The little things make a huge difference,” Grubb noted. “You don’t want them to just spend eight hours here and not get anything out of it other than having a good time with their co-workers. You want value for that time.”

One small thing they did was give every employee their own customized fruit box from Eddible Arrangements. The credit union has a file on every employee’s “favorites” including their favorite fruit. So rather than give everyone the same thing, the credit union customized a gift for every employee. That’s attention to detail.

Bring in outside help
“It helps having an outside person put your brand in perspective,” Grubb says. “They hear from us on a day to day basis. While we may be saying the same thing the expert speaker takes things to a different level.”

She went on to note that the outside person brings a different level of energy and gets your staff rejuvenated and refreshed.

Involve executives
The brand day is not about the outside speaker. It’s about your brand and your leadership. One thing we did was have Blue Eagle Credit Union’s management team come prepared with examples of what the vision is, how their staff was living the brand and what the brand meant to them.

“We couldn’t get them to shut up,” Grubb laughs. One of the most powerful aspects of the day was that unsolicited each manager got up and spoke about individual team members in a positive way: what they meant to them, how they were making a difference and stories about outstanding service. “It’s easy to think of the negative but we were reminded that day of all the things we do so well,” Grubb added.

Use a unique venue
Rather than hold their Brand Day at their credit union’s office, Blue Eagle Credit Union conducted their big event at a brewery. You read that right: they held it at Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers. While beer was not served during the event, the unusual location set the tone for the day.

“We looked for a fun venue because it set the stage and atmosphere for training,” Grubb said. “The fun factor was important.” There was even a cornhole game that everyone could play during breaks. Part of the training included a Blue Eagle Brand Jeopardy game we created and customized for the event.

So does all this “fun” and “brand training” impact the bottom line? Why invest the dollars into having a Brand Day? Because according to a study from McLean & Company, a disengaged employee costs an organization approximately $3,400 for every $10,000 in annual salary. So someone making $30,000 a year at your financial institution who is disengaged with your brand costs you over $10,000 on the bottom line per year—and that is just one employee. Imagine the revenue you can produce and savings you can earn by getting your staff engaged with your brand.

There are certain times of year when you pull your staff together for training activities. Turn those training days into Brand Days.

Branding Gives You Permission to Say No

Branding Gives You Permission to Say No

Credit unions and community banks are notorious for supporting every cause known to man. It’s in their DNA. It is who they are.

There comes a time, however, when financial institutions have to ask themselves how much is too much. Is supporting your loan officer’s church pot luck the best use of your marketing dollars? Does your annual sponsorship of the Sweet Potato Festival make good business sense? That depends on your brand plan. A strong brand plan answers these questions.

“What I really appreciated about the brand workshop was that the end result was not my brand plan. It was our brand plan. Our entire leadership team is on the same page,” said Helen Gibson, vice president of marketing and education for Denver Community Credit Union. “When someone is tempted to go back to the way we used to do things, we have a plan that gives us permission to say no. Our marketing team loves that.”

Brand plans, when developed correctly, identify exactly who your financial institution is and what it is about. They outline steps and processes necessary to initiate and maintain a consistent and unified brand strategy for existing and potential customers or members.

Brand plans provide specific guidelines on who your target audience is – not just age, gender and buying habits, but also how they navigate the world from day to day. Brand plans pinpoint how you make customers or members feel about themselves. They even describe what people perceive about your financial institution.

In essence, your brand plan takes the guesswork out of your marketing plan. It tells you who to target and when to target them, with what types of offers and messages. It sets the tone and purpose of your messaging. It gives you permission to say no when a sponsorship or campaign you’ve always done no longer aligns with your financial institution’s brand vision. It also gives you permission to say yes to new initiatives you never realized made sense.

Branding is more than pretty pictures, a snazzy logo or creative tagline, and it’s not a one-time campaign. Branding is something your employees live. It’s your financial institutions identity and how consumers relate to you. Use your brand plan as a GPS for your financial institution and give yourself permission to say no.

 

 

Take Hoop Jumping Out of Your Strategy

Take Hoop Jumping Out of Your Strategy

This post contributed by Colleen Cormier, Account Executive with On The Mark Strategies.

I had the roof replaced on my house recently, and it was an experience. The roofing company was great. It was my mortgage company that had me jumping through hoops. I needed them to sign a check from our insurance company that was made payable to myself, my husband and the mortgage company. The easy process they promised over the phone turned out to be anything but easy. In fact, they lied to me on the phone, which resulted in several wasted trips to the branch. It was not their finest hour.

The customer or member experience is one of the most critical tools to providing excellent service. It’s so important that it should be an integral part of every financial institution’s strategy. That doesn’t just mean offering an experience. It means understanding the experience from the customer or member’s perspective. Here are three ways to ensure your customers or members are not jumping through hoops to do business with your financial institution.

Have employees beta test your digital services. When we conduct marketing audits for our clients, we test mobile apps and other online tools whenever possible, and we view websites from several different devices and screen sizes. That is the bare minimum you should be doing to ensure efficient and convenient service. Have a group employees test your online loan applications, mobile apps, online banking service and other digital offerings and get their suggestions on how these services can be improved.

Mystery shop your own branches. Digital offerings are only one piece of the puzzle. The way your employees treat consumers and the ease of your processes is equally important. Ask loyal members to mystery shop your branches. Have them open a new account, apply for a loan or just inquire about a product or service they don’t already have. Give them specific verbal cues and behaviors to look for, as well as ease and number of steps in a process.

Shop the same services at other financial institutions. Have you heard that saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know?” If you have employees who have worked at your financial institution a good while, there’s a big possibility you are their primary financial institution. They may not even have another bank or credit union. From an employer standpoint, that’s great. From an experience standpoint, it limits their point of reference to what your competition may be doing better. Pay them to mystery shop the competition. Again, have them apply for loans, open new accounts and test digital services, and report back on how the experience compares to the experience at your financial institution.

Sometimes financial institutions get so focused on streamlining processes for the back office that they forget the effect it has on the customer or member experience. Test your processes and overall service to ensure you are not making your consumers jump through hoops.

Finding Relevance: Netflix and Your Financial Institution

Finding Relevance: Netflix and Your Financial Institution

This article written by Taylor W. Wells, Communications Director with On The Mark Strategies

I was an early adopter of the Netflix platform years ago when it was solely a direct mail DVD subscription-based company. However, over time and due to (what I considered) a lack of interesting titles, I canceled my subscription.

Fast-forward a decade and I now find myself once again a Netflix customer. However, this time it is to take advantage of their huge library of streaming online content. Add Hulu to the mix and I had a compelling question jump out at me when I sat down to pay my most recent cable bill.

Why in the world do I need cable?

I actually called the cable company and asked the same question. In many ways, this is similar to a question we ask banks and credit unions during the mystery shop process of marketing auditsWhy should I do business with you? What’s the compelling reason to bring my business here? Why should you matter to me as a consumer?

The cable company representative was as taken aback by my question as most bank and credit union professionals are when I pose it to them during a mystery shop. She really didn’t have a good response. That’s one of the reasons why I will more than likely drop traditional cable in the next month or so.

Banks and credit unions face the same dilemma in many ways. The financial landscape is not what it was ten years ago. A host of upstart nontraditional financial institutions have entered the landscape. Crowd-sourced lending is now an option many consumers seek before even checking their local bank or credit union rates.

The lesson here? Banks and credit unions must constantly search for reasons and ways to remain relevant to modern consumers. If you don’t offer what consumers desire, there’s plenty of competition out there that does.

While the quest for relevancy involves many factors in a constantly-evolving technological landscape, there are several things on which your bank or credit union can focus. First, you must be simple with which to do business; as simple as your favorite retailers, like Amazon, Apple or Zappos. If you’re not, consumers can easily find someone who is. Second, you must demonstrate your relevancy to younger consumers, particularly Millennials. Millennials need a reason not just to need you but also like you. What are you doing in your community and are you telling your story? A great example here is AmeriCU CU in upstate New York and their military member outreach as part of the Mountainfest concert series. Lastly, you must keep consumers at the center of every decision you make. Before taking on a new strategic planning initiative, training program or brand plan, ask yourself — will this benefit our consumers and how?

Banks and credit unions face the same uphill climb as any other retailer when it comes to maintaining relevancy in the eyes of consumers. Take a look at the struggles that slammed once-popular retailers like Blockbuster Video, Radio Shack and The Limited. However, by focusing on simplicity, cultivating fans amongst younger generations of consumers and focused decision-making, they greatly improve their chances of success.

Cigars and Your Financial Institution Brand

Cigars and Your Financial Institution Brand

This article written by Taylor W. Wells, Communications Director with On The Mark Strategies

Consider the following scenario — you are a small “boutique type” brand up against fierce local and digital competition and in a seemingly constant battle with federal government over-regulation at the hands of a specific agency.

Sound like your bank or credit union? In a lot of ways, it probably does. However, this scenario also aptly describes the conditions a small upstart cigar brand faces as detailed in a recent issue of Cigars and Spirits.

Far too often banks and credit unions think only in terms of financial institutions, so taking a look at an outside example offers invaluable insight and expertise. In this particular article, a cigar company executive described the challenge his brand faces in a way quite familiar to most banking credit union professionals: “I knew that … this storytelling construct was a perfect fit for what we wanted to accomplish with our brand — an iconic narrative that would stand the test of time.”

This lesson is directly applicable to banks and credit unions. We, too, face an oversaturated market full of traditional and non-traditional competitors (think online startup financial institutions like Simple Bank or Ally). We, too must establish iconic brand narratives that tell the stories of our financial institutions and give consumers a reason to stick with us.

The question becomes — how?

The cigar example gives additional terrific “outside the financial institution box” direction. If you have ever walked into a well-stocked cigar humidor, you know the feeling. It can be overwhelming. Hundreds of different brands offering thousands of different shapes, sizes, flavors and textures. Successful cigar brands find their niche, establish an iconic narrative that tells the story of their brand and rely heavily on consumer word-of-mouth and testimonial in order to thrive and survive.

Your bank or credit union brand can learn from this example. You must first accept the fact that you cannot be all things to all people. Any financial institution that tries this approach to branding will only succeed in being mediocre. Find your niche, what you do well and your best target audience and stick to that formula. Develop your own iconic narrative that is true to who you are and what you offer consumers. And strive to develop vibrant positive word-of-mouth testimonials from consumers that they in turn share with family and friends.

While it may seem a stretch comparison at first, the world of boutique cigars and banks and credit unions are very similar when it comes to branding. By taking a closer look at this outside-the-industry example, bank and credit union professionals can learn a valuable lesson.