Bank Branding Dos & Don'ts

Remember how disruptive the first automated teller machines were for banks? Neither do we. Whether we recall it or not, the arrival of ATMs did set off a kind of brand disruption for financial institutions, and point toward a list of branding dos and don’ts that remain relevant today.

Arrival of ATMs Yield Brand Chaos

When they were widely adopted in the early 1980s, ATMs were touted by bank marketers for their convenience. But it got ugly real fast. In an attempt to maximize its self-service features, but allay fears about the lack of human interaction, bank marketers developed folksy or jargon-y identities for their ATMs: Anytime Annie, Cash On-line (remember, this was pre-internet) or our favorite, Tammy the Timeless Teller. The result? Brand chaos. The bricks and mortar branches, designed to project trust and stability, collided with the newfangled ATMs and their awkward mashup of future/folksy branding. Lessons were learned, and eventually financial institutions managed to do a more effective job of absorbing this new technology into branding and marketing efforts.

New technology spurs awkward changes no matter how hard everyone involved tries to smooth out the transition. A brand is the unique name, symbol, and other features that sets an organization apart from its rivals. Smart marketers know a consistent, focused brand for their bank or credit union can help smooth out the transition to any new technology or other change on the horizon. As they navigate this path, here’s a few bank branding dos and don’ts to keep in mind.

The Dos and Don’ts

DO your homework.

Before a logo is introduced or a new ad campaign launched, develop a compelling narrative that clearly communicates what you do, and why it matters. A brand should have a solid messaging and positioning strategy behind it, as well as reflect a fierce analysis of the challenges and opportunities presented by the competition.

The perils of failing to do your branding homework are widespread. Not long ago, a local bank rolled out a new identity with a bike as its signature symbol. The problem: while visually attractive and memorable, it had no intentional connection to the bank it was supposed to represent. At the end of the day, the bike was just a bike, and failed to amplify the brand attributes of the bank.

DO match your digital and in-branch presence.

According to bank branding expert Colin Jacobs, financial institutions have achieved some level of digital transformation. “But the reality is that many customers still favor traditional channels.” Customers appreciate the convenience and 24/7 availability of online banking, as well as the increasingly sophisticated levels of customer service they provide. When they do visit or seek out a bank branch, they expect it to be connected to what they encounter online, both from a visual and a customer experience perspective.

DO provide a fully integrated omnichannel experience.

When The Financial Brand polled financial institution leaders about the top banking trends for 2018, the highest ranking prediction was that the industry must remove friction from the customer journey. While that carries several implications for bank operations, making sure customers have an equally positive experience across all channels digital, physical or call center — is critical for raising customer satisfaction levels. In addition, social media channels should be included in building this experience. By answering a query in real time via Facebook, your customer gets a firsthand experience of knowing there are real people behind those social media channels.

DON’T let one ray of daylight open up between what your customers care about and what you care about.

You can’t afford to be pursuing your own sales or marketing goals independent of customer needs and desires. Sales should come out of the process of knowing the customer as a person, and not a prospect for more revenue. Financial institutions that support the sales process with a strong, consistent and fully integrated brand will always prevail over the competition.

DON’T rely on longevity or tradition, and its corollary, DON’T embrace the new just because it’s new.

Customers certainly want to trust their financial institution to be a wise steward of their assets, but a fussy or old-fashioned brand won’t cut it. Conversely, a bank that suddenly rolls out a suite of new products with a hip, cool identity, but fails to consider how the customer might engage or understand them, won’t get very far.

As bank marketing strategist Jill Kurtz maintains, “Banks need to serve older generations who expect the banker in their neighborhood to know them by name as well as younger customers who are digital natives and trust online relationships to guide their decisions.”

Banks and credit unions face a lot of challenges in 2018, but branding that is inconsistent, not fully integrated, or not customer-centric shouldn’t be one of them. Let your branding support and extend the value you bring to your customers.

Financial institutions need a technology platform that supports their efforts to maintain a strong brand, meet customer needs, and grow their business. Find out how 360 View can help you meet your objectives with a free Growth Assessment.