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Branding Matters – The Top 3 Things to Help Strengthen Your FI’s Brand

In today’s ever changing banking environment how does your institution standout and separate from the crowd. The answer is through branding.

In the wake of the worst financial crisis this nation has faced, many banks and credit unions are finding that consumers have a bad outlook on the financial sector. It’s never been more important for a financial institution to reassure their clients that their bank or credit union is safe, secure, and trusted. Your brand plays an integral role in providing this assurance. What is a brand and why does it matter to a financial institution? Most think a brand is the front facing name, term, tagline, design or symbol that creates a distinction amongst competitors. Although this is true, more importantly, a brand is the sum of the values, services, and morals of your company. When enough people share the same feelings about your company, it becomes your brand.

Anne Rivers of BrandAsset Consulting, which surveys 16,000 consumers quarterly, says commercial banks have some of the weakest brands in the financial industry, falling below credit card companies and investment banks in terms of reputation. In fact, it is estimated that the average financial services company has only about 7 percent of its total value in its brand, a weak ratio in comparison to other industries. Brand strength can be measured on aspects such as differentiation, how well-regarded the brand is, relevance to the consumer, and the consumers knowledge of the brand.

So what does this mean to you? In this day and age, success has become increasingly dependent on an institution’s ability to cohesively communicate its brand, position, and its uniqueness. Gone are the days of stale coffee, long lines for tellers, and leather back chairs.

It’s easy for the MEGA banks with unlimited resources to reach consumers with television campaigns and sporting event sponsorships, but how can a small community institution strengthen its brand on a limited budget? According to an article in the American Banker, there are three things an institution can do:

First, dedicate an internal team as your “brand gurus”.

Provide them with training on your business and strategies, philosophy, and customer service policy. Instilling ownership of the brand concept will help to rally co-workers throughout the company. Ensure that this team meets regularly to monitor the health of your brand.

Second, stay consistent with your external message.

Branch marketing, signage, website design, and advertising should stay simple and tied together. A consistent display in these areas will create better awareness of your brand and your value as a trusted partner.

Third, have a mission for your institution.

Educate your employees on this vision and stick to it. Your employees are the face of your brand and help to deliver a solid image. No matter the size of your institution, the ability to influence your brand will attract and retain customers and strengthen valuable relationships.

In most cases a complete reinvention is not necessary, as many institutions have established business models, brands, customers, and delivery networks. One of the best ways to revisit your institution’s brand strength is to perform a Brand Assessment. This assessment will help determine the attitude of your institution to ensure that your brand and strategic growth goals are aligned and to make sure all of the products and services your institution offers are represented by your brand.

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