“A brand refresh? We don’t need that!”
Good brands need time and investment. As marketers, we understand the value of brands. Vibrant brands do the following:
- Differentiate us from our competitors
- Create customer loyalty
- Support premium pricing
- Help recruit the best and brightest talent
- Increase focus and reduce costs
- Insulate the enterprise from reputation damage
In the financial services industry, a strong brand is particularly valuable because of its ability to differentiate a bank in an industry where products and services are virtually commoditized.
We marketers also understand that strong brands don’t just happen. They must be built and nurtured to remain authentic, differentiating, relevant and sustainable. Undertaking such an effort takes considerable time and investment.
To convince top management of the benefits of a brand building or refreshment initiative, start with some basic brand education. Explain that branding goes well beyond a logo or an advertising campaign. Point out that a brand is the essence or promise of the company, as well as what is delivered to or experienced by customers and noncustomers. Make sure that you use language that executives can appreciate, such as the bank’s reputation or customer experience. Investing in a strong brand is one of the single most important strategies that an enterprise can undertake to ensure continued relevance and growth in a rapidly changing market.
Even more important, however, is to remind senior management that strong brands translate into tangible value for the organization. Sharing examples of top-valued brands seems to be a very effective method of getting the concept across. Pointing out the value that’s attached to certain brands is also usually very effective. The fact that the Wells Fargo brand has increased over $7B from 2010 to 2011 while Morgan Stanley has decreased $1B during the same period is one of the many interesting brand statistics that are useful in driving home this concept.
Certainly financial performance is a major contributor to the value of the bank’s brand; however, there are many other factors that impact that value as well. One of the leading agencies that values bank brands, Brand Finance, looks at attributes such as
- Asset strength
- Market share
- Emotional connection
Once you’ve successfully completed the brand education, you will then need to make sure that top management understands the process that will be involved in building or refreshing your brand. This typically begins by taking an in-depth look at the organization, its business strategies, its vision and its mission. Diagnosing the overall health of the brand today should also be included. It’s imperative that the in-depth look at the brand focuses externally as well as internally, understanding all of the forces at play. The goal of this in-depth review is to uncover those “truths” that make the organization unique and compelling to target audiences both now and in the future.
The result should be a brand strategy, the core of which is the brand promise, a central thought that represents the emotional commitment of the organization. The promise defines not only what the organization represents, but also what it can stand for in the future – the golden thread that runs through everything the organization does. The brand strategy should support your overall business strategy.
Once this is in place the organization can begin to positively influence the way customers and prospects experience it via visual identity, messaging and communications. Most importantly however, the organization needs to define the overall customer experience.
Assuming that you’ve now convinced senior leadership that a strong brand is important and the process is sound, how do you know when the time and expense for a brand overhaul is truly warranted?
There are several catalysts for initiating a brand-building effort:
- A merger or acquisition
- The need to insulate the organization from growing competition
- A response to competitive moves
- A need to reinvigorate employee and customer confidence
- A change in leadership
On the whole, financial services, once considered one of the most trusted and stable industries, has suffered from a badly tarnished image in recent years. As a result, most banks can benefit from better “reputation management” or smart and thoughtful branding.
Obviously, the branding process described here is greatly condensed. Most organizations require the assistance of an outside objective third party that can facilitate the process and that has experience in guiding and developing brands. On Ideas prides itself on the countless brands that we’ve helped throughout the years. If you have any question regarding the strength of your brand, please call on us to be your expert partner.