How Financial Institutions Can Clean Up Sloppy Brand Habits

Your brand is visible nearly everywhere, all the time. Multiple channels allow marketers to reach audiences in more ways than ever, but it’s easy to get careless because there’s so much to manage. Here’s how to stay focused, engage teammates and build a seamless brand experience.

Customers are more connected to you digitally than ever before. They’re also coming to your lobbies and drive-throughs and seeing your bankers out in the community at events, restaurants and businesses, at least when Covid permits. In short, your brand is visible nearly everywhere, all the time.

While these many channels allow you to reach audiences in more ways than ever before, it’s easy to inadvertently get sloppy on a consistent, seamless brand experience because there’s so much to manage.

Financial marketers must bring renewed focus on speaking with a brand voice that’s cohesive everywhere: owned media, paid media, earned media and in real life. Below we look at each of these in detail.

1. Don’t Squander Owned Media

Start with the media you have complete control over: website, social media and collateral materials. They represent your opportunity to tell your story in whatever way you choose. Don’t let them go to waste.

Social Media: Lookalike social posts are so pervasive that bank and credit union brands blend together in a Facebook feed. That’s a waste of precious time and resources. Instead of relying on stock photos and platitudes, do the hard work of taking your own photos, sharing unique posts about your bankers and customers, talking about your brand promise and how you uphold the values and beliefs that differentiate your institution from the others. Let your bank’s personality shine through and generate conversations and connections.

Envista Credit Union’s LinkedIn posts regularly feature photos of real people. These posts highlight both customers and bankers. When Envista uses stock photos, they incorporate a branded graphic treatment that helps differentiate the institution.

Website: If the website is designed and run by IT — with little or no input from marketing or HR — it’s time for a change. Successful financial websites need strong technical bones, but they also need heart. That’s where a team approach matters. Together, devote time to analyzing the site traffic: observe where users are going, what they do, how long they stay and when they leave.

Make sure you’re regularly adding content and functionality that users are coming to find and the brand stories they love. Remove the obstacles that get in their way.

It’s easy for websites to get unwieldy and hard to navigate as content is added, added and added — but never curated. Like the person who tells the same story repeatedly, this can become tiresome to your audiences. Use your brand voice and brand promise as a yardstick to help guide what you say and how you say it. Keep it fresh and relatable with your purpose at the center.

Collateral Materials: Whether your materials are printed, digital or both, they often get pushed to the bottom of the marketing department’s priority list. Shake the figurative dust off of them. Be relevant, relatable, au courant and branded.

Other owned media that should be evaluated:

  • After hours phone greetings
  • Employee email signatures
  • Name tags
  • Lobby graphics (don’t forget what can be seen behind the teller line from the drive-through)
  • ATM signage and on-screen graphics
  • Marquee messages

2. Maximize Paid Media

Start with a helicopter view. You may be surprised to find that media is being placed and paid for by colleagues outside the marketing department or by well-meaning individuals in branches who want to support local efforts in their own communities. If this is happening, even your best efforts at being a brand steward are hampered.

It’s critical to regularly look far and wide across your entire organization to keep your brand on course. Gather samples of all your paid media and zero in. Use this checklist for a comprehensive analysis:

  • Print ads (trade publications, newspaper, business magazines and the local high school and college publications)
  • Playbill and sports program ads
  • Online ads
  • Employment/recruitment ads
  • Event sponsorships and the accompanying signage
  • Radio/streaming radio scripts
  • TV spots
  • YouTube videos
  • Trade show displays, ads and presentations
  • Media sponsorships like weather or “brought to you by” messaging and logos

Be vigilant for brand creep. As the steward of your brand, you must ensure that messaging and all other elements of your brand story stay within standards. Once they go out of bounds, it’s difficult to rein them back in. If it’s time to change, do it intentionally, because brand evolutions should be purposeful, never by chance.

A search for banking jobs in Dallas on Indeed served up a variety of positions at community banks and larger institutions. Though they were for banks of different sizes, nearly all the job descriptions looked generic. There was virtually no differentiation. In this climate where many employers say it’s difficult to fill positions, it’s surprising institutions aren’t better at marketing themselves to prospective employees. Most likely, these paid listings originated from HR without input from Marketing.

Read More: Top Brand Experts Identify 5 Critical Issues Facing Bank Marketers

3. Leverage Earned Media

Earned media can be challenging since you’re relying on reporters and their interpretations of the interviews they’ve conducted with someone at your bank, along with online searches. Though you can’t control everything, you should always be well-prepared to put your best brand foot forward with every media effort.

  • Use a standard branded “about” slug at the bottom of all press releases.
  • Train your leadership team to be sure they know good interview techniques and are ready to use the same elevator speech and brand messaging when talking to the media or anyone from outside.
  • Incorporate the elevator speech and “about” copy in all speaker introductions for colleagues who present at events or webinars.
  • Keep a 1-sheet reference guide about your institution at your fingertips for easy reference when a reporter calls.
  • Establish a bankwide policy for who may speak to the media.
  • Prepare a crisis communications protocol with multiple “if/then” scenarios so communication missteps are less likely to occur.
  • Foster relationships with news directors and reporters so when they need a trusted source, they come to you first.

Read More: How Financial Marketers Can Break Away from Lookalike Brand Strategies

4. Smarten-Up Personal Interactions

Your people are powerful brand ambassadors when they’re trained and prepared. As with other media, this requires a team approach. Enlisting the support of HR, IT, Operations and other departments is essential to success because they have the power to deliver — or dilute — a seamless brand experience.

Here’s a list of items to consider:

  • Personal greeting: Establish how people are greeted on the phone, at the drive-through and in the lobby.
  • Networking functions: Arm bankers with ways to talk about what’s happening and what’s different at the bank instead of falling back on the too common, “We are so busy!” answer to a question.
  • Sales calls: Prepare bankers with conversation-starter techniques and collateral like business check-up worksheets so they have fruitful conversations instead of sales pitches.
  • Apparel: If branded apparel is part of your style, consider establishing a corporate webstore to help avoid renegade employees ordering work wear with logos in colors or styles that detract from your brand.

Your financial brand is evident in many more places than you may realize, and it’s likely time to clean up your act. Make time for an audit. Gather your team and build the systems that make your brand unbeatable.

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