In an era where consumers are immersed in a digital whirlwind, every interaction with a brand matters more than ever.
Consider that a 2022 survey of more than 1,000 IT leaders across industries found that a whopping 70% of their companies’ customer interactions were digital. To keep pace with these market changes, many are undergoing a digital transformation.
Banks are no exception.
However, the human touch remains a pivotal factor that sets successful banks apart. As banks continue to focus on deepening relationships with customers and attracting new ones, a compelling brand experience is imperative to stand out from the competition.
Breathing Life into the Brand Story
Consumers today are voraciously consuming content, expecting banks to provide experiences on par with any other product or service.
This means a bank’s brand story can no longer be confined to static logos or catchy slogans. It’s about the experiences that unfold when customers interact with the institution.
In helping Bremer Bank transform its brand and web experience, we set out to infuse its authentic story across every digital touchpoint. Customers needed to feel a connection to the brand and have a consistent experience, regardless of what channel they used.
“Banks need to draw from their history, while having the courage to evolve in unexpected ways.”
Aa a community bank, the 80-year-old Bremer in St. Paul, Minn., supports small business clients and the communities in which it operates. Given the reputation of the bank, and the strength of its relationships, the focus on personal connection was critical.
This realization was the cornerstone of the brand evolution, a fact that we weaved into the revamped website. For example, we did an extensive photo and video shoot of real customers so that we could tell their story about how Bremer Bank partners with them. These videos are featured on the website.
In a world dominated by digital, the craving for genuine human connection remains unabated.
Unpacking Key Branding Considerations
An authentic brand story needs to permeate every aspect of a bank’s digital experience. It’s not merely about emphasizing the technology and ease of use, but also about communicating the very essence of what the brand represents. To achieve this, banks must first deeply understand their consumers — their demographics, psychographics, and aspirations.
Moreover, evaluating the past successes that have genuinely connected with the audience is pivotal. Banks need to draw from their history, while having the courage to evolve in unexpected ways.
We’ve witnessed organizations undertake rebranding initiatives with a primary focus on logo and aesthetics, neglecting the strategic underpinning that guides a powerful brand relaunch.
The consumer landscape has evolved; banking brands — especially those with traditional brick-and-mortar branches — must evolve with it.
The Telltale Signs a Bank Needs to Rebrand
A common pitfall among banks is overlooking the signs that point toward the need for a rebrand.
If a bank is not acquiring new customers or is experiencing stagnant website traffic, it’s an indication that the brand might need a fresh approach. The historical timeline also serves as a marker: When was the last time the brand underwent a significant transformation?
While the leadership’s vision for the future plays a crucial role in the rebranding decisions, it can also be an obstacle. Starting with internal surveys and candid conversations with employees can provide insights into how the current brand is viewed and where disconnects may exist.
One critical step that is often overlooked is completing full market research. Dismissing this step is a mistake. It can surface the proof points to show leadership and board members how a rebrand can reinvigorate the bank and be a critical strategy in deepening relationships and acquiring new depositors.
The Lessons We’ve Internalized about Branding Success
For 77% of financial institutions, improving the digital experience for customers is a top strategic priority, according to the 2023 Digital Banking Report.
Yet, the biggest barrier to achieving true transformation is often that “legacy culture becomes a barrier to change.”
This friction between desire and culture results in banks hesitating to take the necessary risks to stand out and truly achieve the transformation that all financial institutions are striving for. Many organizations are eager for a fresh look but fall short on foundational research and strategy.
Successful banks, on the other hand, recognize that an impactful brand isn’t just about aesthetics. Defining the story and the audience is what results in strong campaign resonance and improved customer experience.
Read about these rebranding efforts:
- Inside Umpqua’s Rebranding: New Logo Is ‘Nike’ Strong
- Flagstar Bank Embarks on ‘Lifestyle Brand’ Makeover
Pioneering Future Marketing Trends
As technology continues to redefine how the next generation interacts with brands across all industries, financial institutions can’t take a back seat. To match the strides of other brands, banks must explore a broader array of mediums and tactics. Influencers, digital ads, and experiential marketing are not reserved solely for consumer products; banks can leverage these strategies to connect with their audience in authentic ways.
However, in order for these channels to be successful, strong brand messaging that resonates with consumers is essential. So is speaking the language of your target customer. Ads with APY are not only time-sensitive, but don’t speak the language of the consumer or highlight the value of an institution.
Furthermore, it’s time for financial institutions to stop bucketing competitors by labels like “digital-only” and “traditional” banks. Every bank should adopt a robust digital-first approach, recognizing that the online and offline worlds are intertwined.
“Every bank should adopt a robust digital-first approach, recognizing that the online and offline worlds are intertwined.”
Banking isn’t just about transactions; it’s about building relationships and providing unparalleled experiences. Without a strong brand presence, banks will continue to compete with products, a never-ending cycle that has many consumers splintering their business across three or more financial providers of all types.
The banking landscape is rapidly evolving, and a robust, authentic brand is the cornerstone of success. Infusing every digital touchpoint with the brand’s essence not only enhances customer experiences but also creates a lasting connection.
To thrive in the future, banks must embrace technological advances and dare to tell their story with courage, creativity, and authenticity.
About the author:
Joe Cecere is chief executive and chief creative officer at Little & Company, a branding agency based in Minneapolis.