Here are thirteen relevant checkpoints bank and credit union marketers can use right now to build a healthy, holistic, results-driven and integrated brand in 2013. Use this list to guide your strategic vision and define your marketing priorities.
By John Mathes, Senior Brand Strategist at Weber Marketing Group
Predictions abound at the start of any new year, so it can be easy for some messages to get lost in the din of prognosticators pumping out their take on marketing trends. So know in advance that what I’m about to share with you isn’t guesswork. It’s based on real-world, front-line experience gained by working with hundreds of retail banks and credit unions. Granted, not every item in the list will apply in every situation, but many financial institutions struggle in one (or more!) of these areas.
1. Unchain Your Name
Is the name of your organization constrained by geographic boundaries, past associations, or legacy mergers? If so, there’s no volume of marketing and advertising that can overcome consumer perceptions. If your name is BigCo Employees Credit Union, most people will think that it “isn’t a place for me.” If your name is holding you back, don’t put it off any longer: adopt a new, inclusive name now.
2. Differentiate Your Brand
It’s a noisy and crowded financial services marketplace full of me-too competitors. If your brand isn’t well defined and clearly different, you’re not going to stand apart from the fray and get noticed. As marketer Jack Trout famously said: “Differentiate or die.” If there is one thing all ten of the Top 10 Banking Brands to Watch have in common, it’s that they know how to differentiate themselves from everyone else. Think about it: When you have a brand that stands out and gets noticed, you’re leveraging every marketing you spend.
3. Evangelize Your Associates
From front-line associates to the entire c-suite, everyone in the organization should bleed the brand and embrace the culture, values and promise behind it. People make the difference if they’re fully onboard. Don’t believe me? Pick up a copy of a Zappos.com culture book. You’ll be blown away. It is absolutely imperative you institutionalize branding across your organization. Build a brand book, have a staff event and make sure HR is involved.
4. Create Brand Advocates
After things are squared away internally, you’re ready to focus on end-users. Increasing the proportion of advocates for your brand will drive acquisition, elevate retention and turn your referrals into solid gold. Advocates have higher balances, higher NPS and utilize more products and services. Advocacy rules and makes marketers drool. Even if you don’t have a stellar reputation to start, you can read how to convert detractors into brand advocates in this article, “Angry Customers are Gifts.”
5. Practice Storytelling
Storytelling is at the very heart of how we humans share and connect with what we value about our heritage, our families, our communities and ourselves. Brand storytelling is about connecting a deeper emotional level that a brand should evoke, with the inner feelings of the recipient. There must be a deep affinity between the two or the relationship is just a forgettable transaction or a low price commodity. Check out the video story for Solarity Credit Union here.
6. Refine Your Message
Edit, condense and simplify your marketing communications to fit in the sound-bite sized world we live in. Treat all of your messages as if they were going up on a billboard. Keep them concise and clear — no more than 5 or 6 words. Yes, it’s hard, but you can do it. And the rest of all that “body copy?” Try a Twitter-style constraint of 140 characters. It will drive higher recall.
7. Elevate Your Creative
If the suit makes the person, then your creative makes your image. You’ve got to step it up. Style, tone, imagery… it really matters in image building. Sure, you can shoot your new television spots on the intern’s video camera, but when they play next to the professionally produced spots in the same break, how are they going to portray your organization? Head over to YouTube to see how Elevations Credit Union has ratcheted up their television and video creative.
8. Define Your Target Audience
Ask a retail financial institution to define its target audience and you will frequently hear something like, “All people ages 18-55.” They might say it “skews slightly towards women.” This is essentially the same thing as saying, “We’re targeting everyone with money and a pulse.” That isn’t a targeted market segmentation strategy, it’s basically the same thing as saying “we serve the entire market.” Why keep saying “everyone in the community?” Unless you have a global brand like Pepsi or Nike, you can’t craft an efficient media strategy for “everyone.” You can’t craft an effective and relevant brand message for “everyone”. Segmentation leads to targeting, which leads to relevant effective offers, effectiveness, which, in turn, generates ROI. Benefits go well beyond media; targeting focuses your entire organization, your brand and your unique competitive advantages.
9. Utilize a Strategic Media Mix
Multiple studies have found that advertising on multiple platforms substantially increases consumers’ ability to remember an ad campaign compared to when the ad is viewed in one medium alone. Research reinforces this idea and reminds us that a well-targeted mix favorably impacts consumer recall as well. The consumer shift to online and social media alone requires that you adapt and add a balanced approach.
10. Get Socially Engaged
Having the right conversations with the right people is the right idea, but it’s much more than social media alone. Social media is just another tool in a marketer’s toolbox, albeit an increasingly important and local one. Find ways to get totally immersed and involved with your client base first before you try and get them to ‘Like’ you. Then make sure your dynamic content strategies have them coming back for continuing conversation. For a great example, check out the on-going conversation over at OnPoint Credit Union’s “Share Your Story.”
11. Evolve Your Branch
The branch is now the alternate channel. Its traditional role as the main transaction center will continue to diminish. Are you adapting your network using new technology and developing advice and knowledge centers where you can deliver a brand experience that builds your advocate base? You read about these two steps above, didn’t you? Revitalize the branch today before it becomes a brick & mortar albatross you can’t sustain. See first hand how Vancity Credit Union underwent a major transformation in its branch channel.
12. Embrace Technology
If you don’t evolve mobile banking, and specifically mobile deposit and apps, then this is the year you get left in the dust. Arm your in-branch associates with tablets for robust consumer interaction. Install multi-tasking transaction equipment and bring fewer tellers out front to manage them… just like Home Depot and the airlines do with one associate and six self-serve registers/kiosks.
13. Go Geo-Local
Despite everything going on with transactions, branches, POS, technology, etc., the battleground for wallet share remains grounded at the local level, and more specifically, in the footprint of your individual branches, storefronts and ATM locations. As they say, “think global, act local.” Target your marketing and advertising into these footprints and don’t worry about the entire market unless you have complete saturation with your network. As Willie Sutton almost said, “Spend your marketing dollars where it makes the most sense, because “that’s where the money is.”
There you have it: thirteen specific paths to pursue that can affect a transformational change across your entire organization. What would you add? Where are you going to start? I’d love to hear from you!
John Mathes is the Senior Brand Strategist at Weber Marketing Group, a strategic branding and marketing consulting agency focused on the financial industry. John has 30 years of branding experience honed at some of the nation’s largest ad, branding and branch strategy firms. He operates from Weber Marketing’s Atlanta office. You can follow him on Twitter @john_mathes, reach him directly at 206-576-1457, connect with him on LinkedIn or send him an email.