While many things combine to make a successful brand, a common denominator is originality. Originality plays strongly into just how memorable your brand is in the minds of consumers. Think about it in terms of memorable pop-culture figures. Johnny Cash made a name for himself in country music as “the man in black.” In the early 1990s, a young Mark Wahlberg was the “it” spokesman for Calvin Klein. For years, when Apple CEO Steve Jobs walked out on stage in his trademark blue jeans and black turtleneck, you knew it was time for a new product unveiling.
You get the idea. Being original and memorable makes for a strong brand. The strength of your brand is critical to the success and growth of your bank or credit union. After all, Johnny Cash was hardly the only country music singer in his era and Mark Wahlberg wasn’t the only model hawking underwear and cologne. Being memorable matters.
Here are a few simple litmus tests to consider when asking the question “Is your brand memorable?”
- Does your brand represent the consumers we serve and wish to serve? In other words, do you look, sound and act in ways familiar with the people in your marketplace? If your brand serves a hip, upscale Millennial area, doesn’t look and sound like it? If your brand doesn’t (both visually and interpersonally) represent your existing and target consumer segments, it’s not likely memorable.
- Does your brand look the same across all channels? Take a look at the retail appearance and layout of your branches. Now check-out your website. Next, pull up your app on smart phone. Check out your billboards, banner ads and business development materials. Does your brand look the same across all these (and other) marketing/advertising channels? If your brand isn’t consistent across all venues, it’s not likely memorable.
- Does your brand make a personal connection? Are you reaching out to consumers with a voice they can understand, with images to which they can relate and in a way that encourages dialogue? Or are you simply pushing brochure-type language that focuses more on product features than benefits and using stock photography that any other financial institution could buy and promote? Most importantly, does your brand encourage a dialogue with consumers in which your bank or credit union takes the time to listen and educate as opposed to sell, sell, sell? If your brand doesn’t make a personal connection, it’s not likely memorable.
There’s a reason people talk about famous pop culture icons, sometimes even long after they passed away. These individuals found ways to promote an original and memorable brand for themselves. If your bank or credit union can craft, implement and consistently deliver a similarly memorable brand, it greatly enhances its chances of future success.
Taylor W. Wells, Communications Director for On The Mark Strategies, authored this entry.
While conducting a recent two-day, deep-dive member engagement program training with a client, a discussion arose about individual roles as related to the overall brand.
As part of the training, we take great pains to emphasize the importance of everyone’s role when it comes to supporting a financial institution’s unique branding culture. However, during this discussion, the words of one young woman were particularly poignant and relative to the discussion.
During the class, she meekly raised a hand and (bravely, I think) said “But I’m just a teller. Why is what I do important to the brand?”
I had a mixed bag of emotional reaction to this statement. First, I felt empathy for the young lady, having had many jobs in the past where I didn’t feel that my contributions really mattered. I also felt that she was courageous in sharing such an honest opinion. Most importantly, I felt this was a keen “teachable moment” to really drive home a key point with the class.
When it comes to your financial institution’s brand health, everyone plays a vital role. It does not matter if you are the CEO, VP of Whatever, a back office worker or certainly a teller. Everyone must support the brand, from top to bottom, in order for it to survive.
And while buy-in of the brand is critical from the executive leadership team, I would argue that their role is almost secondary to buy-in from frontline staff, such as tellers. After all, tellers have far more face-to-face consumer interaction than the typical back-office employee. Certainly, the executive staff has to believe in the brand. But if the frontline staff isn’t living it, every day, in front of every consumer, it’s dead on arrival.
Nobody is “just a teller,” “just a CEO,” or “just a back office worker” when it comes to the brand. Your brand is only as strong as its weakest link. And that weak link cannot exist at any level of the organizational chart.
The best strategic planning sessions use facilitators. Am I biased on this point? Of course (strategic planning is one of the core services we help clients improve). But as we tell credit unions and banks, we are also going to serve as your frienemy.
A frienemy is someone who is going to love you like a friend, yet challenge you like an enemy. That person who is going to get in your face. That partner who is going to hold you accountable.
As Jim Stengel says in his book Grow, “Remain stuck inside your current business model and your business’s days are numbered.” Too many financial institutions are stuck in doing business the old way because they are using old school facilitators and not new school frienemies.
A good frienemy will:
- Love you and challenge you. Notice that frienemy starts with love. But they are not there just to waive pom-poms. For example, they may acknowledge that your double-digit loan growth is awesome, when in actuality it could be more.
- Push you when necessary. A good frienemy will not let you settle for the status quo. Sometimes the goals we set in strategic planning sessions do not stretch us enough. Consider the using the “BAM” technique: basic, awesome and miracle. Too many facilitators let us set basic goals, while a frienemy will make you stretch.
- Stand up when necessary. Yes, this could even mean standing up to the CEO or board chairman. That is hard stuff—after all, they are the ones signing the check! But the truth is everyone can be wrong: even those in leadership positions. Rather than take the organization in a wrong direction they know won’t work, a frienemy will serve as a guide.
- Tell you what you DON’T want to hear. In other words, they are more concerned about the financial institution than coming back next year. A lot of planning sessions have a lot of “yes” men and women in them. Make sure your facilitator is not one of those people. There is a place for good news. But there is also a place for a reality check.
The next time you seek a strategic planning facilitator, don’t. Rather, seek a strategic planning frienemy.
When discussing the importance of brand loyalty with banks and credit unions, we often touch upon the importance of “lovemarks.” Lovemarks are, as described by their website, “… the future beyond brands, they inspire loyalty beyond reason and deliver beyond your expectations of great performance. Simply put, they are products, people and places you love.”
Think about the brands you love and why you love them. Odds are, most are “sexier” brands, such as Apple, Amazon and Target. People are often loyal to brands such as these, beyond reason. However, one of the top brands people typically mention that they absolutely love is Harley-Davidson. Check out the photo above. Here is a man who, upon passing away, made it a part of his will that he be buried with his beloved Harley-Davidson. This is a man that definitely wanted to take it with him.
Is that loyalty to a brand beyond reason? That all depends on your perspective. To this gentleman, being buried with his Harley-Davidson was no more unreasonable than say, people waiting in line for days for the newest Apple gadget. Or people paying ridiculous amounts of money for their favorite designer cologne or perfume.
The point is — the brand was able to create loyalty in its niche base beyond reason. And there is no reason why your bank or credit union should not strive for the same.
Admittedly, financial products and services are nowhere near as sexy as souped-up motorcycles, fancy perfumes and cool electronic gadgets. But, people need the products and services provided by your bank or credit union. The trick becomes developing a relationship between your consumers and your financial institution that approaches the “lovemark” status.
When it comes to banks and credit unions, this is primarily driven by culture. When you think about it, pretty much every bank and credit union offers the same products. Sure, we may have different names for them and put different colored bows on top, but, for the most part, a checking account is a checking account and a used car loan is a used car loan. People are not likely to remember the bullet points describing the benefits of your products and services. But what they will recall, with ever-enhancing loyalty, is the way you made them feel when they interacted with you.
That is why it is so critical that every consumer interaction revolve around and reflect positively upon your vibrant brand. Your staff, from the back office to the front line, must remind every single consumer, every single day, about who you are and what you do. A great example of this comes from Southwest Airlines. Known for low-cost airfare, Southwest is also famous for its quirky, fun and off-the-wall flight attendants and flight crew. If you’ve been on a Southwest flight, you probably heard a or comment from one of these people that woke you up from the typical flight doldrums.
It is this consumer engagement, far more than mere product cross-selling, that can help you accomplish similar things with your brand. In fact, in order to truly develop deep “lovemark” relationships with your consumers, you may have to sacrifice short-term sales goals for long-term relationship goals.
Brand loyalty beyond reason is not a quick-fix proposition. It will take years of planning, development and training in order to work. In the end, however, it is only this type of consumer relationship building that can move your bank or credit union brand into “lovemark” status.
For more information on specific brand loyalty implementation, please visit this previous blog post. And Simple Bank founder Josh Reich offers additional great at “How a Bank Can Be a Brand You Love.”
And if you ever have a consumer so in love with your bank or credit union that he or she asks to be buried under the lobby, please let us know!
When conducting your strategic planning session, you spend time examining trends. What are big picture issues that are going to affect financial institutions in the coming years? What new patterns are emerging with consumers? Tools used for understanding these trends include CUNA’s Environmental Scan, Forrester Research reports, and reams of articles from The Financial Brand. We even provide our planning clients with an “M-Scan” report that provides details about what growing credit unions and banks are doing to succeed.
But rather than just the studying the obvious movements in our industry (mobile banking, the digital revolution, etc.) what if you looked for non-obvious trends?
That is exactly what Rohit Bhargava does with his latest book, Non-Obvious. The subtitle—How To Think Different, Curate Ideas and Predict the Future—summarizes what he tries to accomplish in a thought provoking read. The book is divided into three parts: how to curate trends, 15 non-obvious trends he currently analyzes, and how to turn trends into actions. He defines a non-obvious trend as “an idea that describes the accelerating present in a new, unique way.”
Below are a few on the non-obvious trends Bhargava identified and how banks and credit unions can apply them.
(1) Glanceable Content
“Our shrinking attention spans and the explosion of all forms of content online lead curators to optimize content for rapid consumption,” is how Bhargava describes this trend. He notes that our attention spans are down to 8 seconds, which is less than a goldfish. You have to capture consumers’ attention in a fleeting moment.
- Application: Cut the copy. It’s that simple. Stop trying to over communicate multiple messages in a single piece. You must make your newsletter articles, e-mail messages, billboards, websites, etc. brief. Many successful financial institutions are conducting marketing audits to get an outside opinion on how they can improve their marketing with shorter pieces.
(2) Reverse Retail
Bhargava says reverse retail is “brands increasingly invest in high-touch in-store experiences as a way to build brand affinity and educate customers, while seamlessly integrating with online channels to complete actual purchases and fulfill orders.” He noted how consumers are now “showrooming,” where they will visit a physical location to check out a product and then actually purchase that product online.
- Application: Branches are not dead. They are changing. Multiple surveys from various sources indicate that between 60-80% of new banking relationships are established through the branch network. Of course, once those relationships are made, then consumers are migrating to a variety of banking delivery channels. You must consider not your branching strategy, but rather your omni-channel network: combining the physical, automated and virtual channels into one experience.
(3) Small Data
Bhargava challenges the concept of “big data” by saying “as consumers increasingly collect their own data from online activities and the Internet of Things, brand-owned big data becomes less valuable than immediately actionable small data collected and owned by consumers themselves.” He notes that brands must create value and link big data with small data.
- Application: Use the data you have to personalize messages and offerings. Stop sending mass communication in the form of “e-mail” and send what Seth Godin calls “me-mail.” You know tons about your customers/members: their credit score, how much money they make, where they shop, etc. That’s valuable data retailers would kill to have. But it’s useless data if you don’t mine it to help consumers make their financial lives better.
Those are a few of the trends from the book. To learn the rest of Bhargava’s 15 non-obvious trends you’ll want to read Non-Obvious, which I highly encourage you to do. I found the non-obvious trends section most helpful. His insights were spot-on and will certainly help you think more strategically.
If you want to improve your insight for your next strategic planning session, then read Non-Obvious.
I recently had the opportunity to hear Kelly McDonald keynote a session at the National Speakers Association on “How to Market To People Not Like You.” It is based on a book with a similar title: Crafting the Customer Experience for People Not Like You: How To Delight and Engage the Customers Your Competitors Don’t Understand.
“If I can figure out what you value, I can get into your wallet,” McDonald said. When defining diversity, she went on to explain that she actually doesn’t like that word. “It’s really more about people who are not like you,” she said. For example, she does not have children so those people that have kids are not like her. Therefore, people not like you comes in many forms: gender, religion, age, generation, ethnicity, geographic, etc. (this list is endless).
“Understanding someone different from you means understanding their life,” McDonald added.
She offered six strategies for marketing to people not like you:
- Be relevant—“You need to identify what people want and then give it to them,” McDonald said. She noted that Target succeeded where K-Mart failed because Target’s strategy of “style on a budget” resonated with women.
- Tap into their values—Different people value different things. For example, women do more research online and value testimonials and reviews while Millennials value diversity and interaction.
- Use key customer insights to sell more effectively—The more you know about your target audiences, the more effective your marketing to them is. She used gender as an example to support this point. She noted that women value expansive choices (they want to see a lot of options) while men just want three options (less than three is too few and more than three is too much).
- Pay attention to trends—“Fads come and go while trends are shifts and movements,” McDonald said. For example, social (not necessarily social media) is a trend. “People take selfies to share them; we are never going to stop sharing.”
- Figure out your FAB—The acronym FAB refers to features, attributes and benefits. “Nobody cares about your company,” she said. “They only care about what you can do for them. Focus on selling your benefits and not your features.” She used Bluetooth technology in your car as example: Bluetooth is the feature, hands free talking is the attribute and safety is the benefit.
- Be fearless—“You can’t stay in your comfort zone,” McDonald said. She noted how Harley Davidson recently changed its marketing strategy from one that targeted Boomers to now one that targets females.
She summed up her talk with one final thought: “Helping beats selling. Find out what your targets are struggling with and how you can help them with a solution.”
If you ever have the opportunity to hear McDonald speak, I highly encourage you to do so. And if you can’t catch her at an event, pick up a copy of Crafting the Customer Experience for People Not Like You: How To Delight and Engage the Customers Your Competitors Don’t Understand.