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Your Brand Isn’t What You Say It Is

Your brand isn’t
what you say it is.
It’s what they say it is.
— Marty Neumeier,
‘The Brand Gap’

You can have a carefully calculated brand strategy, ripe with insights and good intentions. You can have a multi-million dollar marketing campaign. You can run your billboards, TV commercials, print ads, radio spots — all delivering a consistent message, paid off with a snazzy sounding slogan.

But it’s all meaningless if the actual experiences you deliver don’t align with your brand’s messages.

Reality Check: All talk and no walk = branding fail.

Key Takeaways:

  • Your staff are the real secret sauce behind your brand. They must “buy your message” before consumers do. Savvy brand builders will engage staff around the brand and keep them informed. (Make sure you check out the three hotlinks in this paragraph.)
  • Don’t rebrand publicly unless you are ready to deliver. Cosmetic brand changes never work because they fool no one. This is a message to be taken to heart by financial institutions (and their agencies) who believe you can advertise your way to greatness.

Bottom Line: Your brand isn’t what YOU say it is. It’s what THEY (your consumers) say it is. No matter what your financial institution may say, ultimately your brand is built by what you do. Consumers judge brands the exact same way they judge people — by their actions, not their promises. Do you follow through? Hypocrisy undermines any brand message you send, which damages trust — that almighty bedrock of financial relationships. Everything boils down to what kind of experiences you deliver.

All content © 2017 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.

Digital Banking Report | 2017 Marketing Trends


  1. If you have a bad reputation (think Martha Stewart and Britney Spears) all the marketing in the world won’t help you. Sometimes you need to do the right thing. Put some panties on before you leave the house, go to prison and knit a cape and for god’s sake, put the kids in a car seat.

    Tiger? You listening?

  2. Jeff Stephens says:

    Thank you for italicizing the word “do” in the sentence “ultimately your brand is built by what you do.” Doing is what branding is really all about, but “saying” is what marketing is focused on. That’s why marketing is not a good brand builder. “Do” is at the center of the “prove the story” mantra we have for building experiential brands at CBC–you can “tell your story” all you want (and you should) but you can’t stop there, you have to “prove” your story with the things you do. And prove it clearly, obviously and undeniably.

  3. Jeff Stephens says:

    Marketing does definitely play an important role, but until you “do,” your marketing is just words and pretty pictures on paper. Anyone can say what they want in their marketing, but it’s the way you demonstrate your brand with your actions that creates an experiential brand. In other words, marketing without “doing” is cosmetic BS. Marketing + “doing” is a strong brand.

  4. I wouldn’t say “marketing is not a good brand builder.” It may not be the primary brand building tool, but I don’t think any organization in any industry anywhere in the world can build a brand without marketing.

  5. I don;t think it’s an “all or nothing” equation though. FInancial institutions can create the best brand experience in the world in their branches….but if they don’t tell people about it through their marketing efforts, their “doing” is more ore less useless too. I think it;s a combo of doing and marketing that’s the key. And let’s face it…..customers are going to think something about your brand, one way or the other. Only makes sense to point them in the direction you want them to think.

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