In 1967, when Ralph Lauren opened his first shop, a necktie store, he had a vision for a powerful brand. And today, over 40 years later, it’s obvious that he was very smart for investing so much time, money and energy into building his family of brands. In fact, Interbrand reports Polo Ralph Lauren is the 99th strongest brand in the global market, with its brand alone worth nearly $3.1 billion.
That’s a lot of money for investors and execs. But who really benefits the most from the strength of the Polo Ralph Lauren brand? The consumers who use his products.
When the horse-riding polo player is stitched on my shirt, that little equestrian icon becomes my way to help shape the way you think about me. And it’s not by chance. I carefully chose that brand to reflect the way I want to position myself in your mind. When I wear a Ralph Lauren shirt, I know people will judge me…which is exactly what I want. I choose Ralph Lauren because I want you to see me as “classic,” “preppy,” “upscale (but accessible),” “successful,” etc.
Now, let that sink in for a moment, because chances are this represents a 180-degree shift in your thinking about your bank or credit union brand.
You probably think your brand is a tool to shape people’s perceptions of your organization, and you’re right. But your brand is also a tool for people to shape the way others perceive them. This concept is simple but fundamentally profound.
People use strong brands as tools to communicate things about themselves. They use brands — quite literally — as badges on their sleeves to send messages to people around them. The message is, “This is how I want you to judge me. I want you to think of me as a Polo kinda guy.” When your bank or credit union’s brand is really reaching its potential, your customers will want to use it to shape the way people perceive them.
Key Question: When people whip out their debit/check card with your financial institution’s logo on it, how do they feel? Do they feel proud? Indifferent? Embarrassed? When others see that logo on your debit card, what does it make them think about you?
Reality Check: In all probability, people are not using your brand as a badge.
Why not? More importantly, what can you do about it? Spare us all the boohooing about how “banking is too boring to build a brand around.” Of course banking is boring! But that doesn’t mean your brand has to be boring as well.
About the author: Jeff Stephens is founder and CEO of
Creative Brand Communications (CBC), a full-service bank and
credit union branding and marketing agency. CBC helps financial
institutions find their story, tell it, and most importantly, prove it.