Five Roadblocks Banks Face When Branding

By: Scott Seroka

FACT: There are too many banks pushing soft, blurry, irrelevant brands – brands that do little if anything to convince customers to consider a relationship with their banks. Perhaps you’re one of them?  

It’s frustrating, and the reason they find themselves in this predicament is because they rely on an old and antiquated way of building a brand – one that has been proven to be ineffective for quite some time.

What’s worse is that building a marketing campaign around a soft brand actually does the bank more harm than good. Think about it – all the bank is doing is saying “Me too!” or promoting things customers really don’t care about. Believe it or not, in my community, there is still a bank with a sign that reads, Ask us about free checking. Another advertises that it is Wisconsin’s leading business bank. Oh yeah? How? Prove it! By what survey or measure? There is none.

I get it – you’re in a saturated and regulated industry. So, how many different ways are there to differentiate and compete? Quite a bit, actually.

The path to building a strong brand for your bank will require you to overcome these 5 common roadblocks:

  1. Placing too much emphasis on creating a brand that merely sounds and looks better than competing banks. Instead, focus on building a brand that leverages a combination of your bank’s intangible assets, such as intellectual property, specializations, expertise, processes, awards and service strengths. These are the brand attributes customers value the most in a banking relationship.
  2. The inability to reach a conclusive decision internally on what the brand should be. If you find yourself in a perpetual state of rebranding, the best remedy is to start your brand development process with an internal (employee) and external (customer) brand audit to get your arms around how your brand is perceived. Next, assemble a leadership team of people representing different roles at your bank to unearth your distinctive value propositions (see #1 above). If you would like guidance in these areas, contact us.
  3. Failing to consider or recognize the valuable insights people from all roles within the bank can bring to the brand development discussion. This ties in well with #2 above. You may be the CEO or president, but the fact is, you simply cannot build your bank’s brand on your own. And why would you? Assuming you’ve hired smart people, everyone at your bank views your brand in their own, unique way. I’m not suggesting you invite all your employees to actively participate in the brand development process. What I am suggesting, and encouraging, is to have the leaders from the different departments at your bank provide thoughts and insights into what the brand could be. They will most certainly bring thoughts to the table you may have never thought of.
  4. Playing it safe by creating a brand that is different, but not too different from the competition. Isn’t this the reason banks are struggling to win new customers?
  5. The inability to think through a compelling and meaningful answer to the question, Why should our bank be given top consideration? This requires you to be brutally honest with yourselves. Most bank CEOs are unable to answer this question with a high level of confidence. This is where you’ll need to circle back to #1 above. Switch out of the mindset of attempting to distinguish your bank based on your product and service offerings. There isn’t anything there, and there never will be because most banks offer nearly identical products and services. However, not all banks offer customers identical experiences.

Yes, there’s a lot to think about here, but it’s certainly worth your time to do so. Of course, if you would like guidance in any of these areas, contact us. Building stronger brands is what we do!