If you’re in a bank management position today, you might feel like you’re standing at the intersection of Disruption St. and Uncertainty Ave., an outdated roadmap in one hand and a wonky compass in the other — that’s how a Pandemic will make you feel. There’s no question that the rapid adoption of digital banking has been further fueled by the absolute necessity for customers to bank from home, thus creating the most disruptive era the industry has seen in a long, long time. When and where things will normalize is anyone’s guess, but people’s banking habits and perceptions of what banking means to them are most certainly being formed.
So now it’s up to you and your team to take the lead in effectively positioning your bank or credit union for continued success against the throngs of traditional brick-and-mortar banks, digital banking disruptors and app-based FinTech offerings. All while remaining relevant to younger digital natives, delivering a best-in-class, no-contact, digital banking experience. But your goal isn’t to just survive these times. You want your bank to thrive. In order to do so, you’ll invariably find yourself asking “Is our brand still relevant for where we are and where we want to be?” “Is it time for us to reposition and rebrand to remain relevant to the ways consumers are conducting banking today?”
You’ll ask that because at the end of the day, all banking products and services look the same. It’s the strength of your brand that will set your bank apart and determine whether your bank is high on the consideration list among your prospects. We know that people tend to change banks when they reach a point of failure in their existing banking relationship. This switch dynamic is even more pronounced today as consumers are reevaluating and considering almost everything they do. So when customers decide that they want a more safe and convenient way to bank, you’ll want to be the top choice.
We’re also facing an era of consolidation driven by the need for smaller community banks to achieve scale to enhance their digital banking platforms. Add to that our newly inherited economic uncertainty, and consolidation might start looking a lot more attractive to some banks and credit unions. In this type of M&A environment, the stronger brands tend to prevail. So if you’re thinking about a merger or some strategic acquisitions, you should probably be thinking about a rebrand.
When we’re discussing rebranding initiatives with our clients, we ask some key questions of our own. The first is simply whether your situation calls for a refresh of your existing visual identity or a wholesale change to your brand positioning and messaging architecture. If your bank has started to have similar conversations on their own, it’s an indication that you might sense a disconnect between your brand, your mission and your target audiences. Is there no longer real meaning behind your brand promise, is it still relevant to your customers and target prospects, or is your brand’s visual identity no longer distinctive and memorable? And with the encroachment of a whole new cadre of FinTech offerings and disruptor banks, the banking category is starting to get muddied.
Perhaps the most important question to ask is whether your brand is making an emotional connection with consumers. Is your brand still relevant to their lives today? We all know that consumer decision making is driven by 50% rational choice and 50% emotional engagement. Is there a disconnect between your strategic direction and your brand voice? If you’re pivoting to leverage new market opportunities, your brand identity needs to demonstrate that.
To truly know the answers to those questions, you’ll need to conduct a brand audit, starting with an internal workshop involving front-line staff, middle management, bank leadership and perhaps your board of directors if you’re looking for buy-in from the top. It’s important that you gain perspective from all levels of the institution, which is generally easier and more effective when led by an objective, outside marketing agency.
You’ll also want to gain perspective from both existing customers (members) and non-customers (non-members). In order to get both directional qualitative and quantitative feedback, the methodology mix might include email surveys, informal focus groups and person-on-the street interviews.
If this discovery process reveals that your brand messaging is still relevant and aligned with your bank’s strategy, a fresh new logo and visual identity system can serve to reintroduce your brand to market in an exciting way, create a spike of brand awareness and resurrect consumer engagement.
If this exploration determines that your current brand position and messaging strategy isn’t aligning with your goals or resonating with your target prospects, then it’s time for you to consider a more holistic rebrand. Most often this requires a new brand positioning and messaging architecture, the creative interpretation of your brand message and a supporting logo and visual identity system to deliver your brand story to market in a fresh and convincing way.
With either of these approaches comes the halo benefit of reinforcing the idea that you believe in your own brand, that you’re willing to invest in what you believe and that you intend to deliver on your brand promise at the highest level. In essence, by investing in your brand, you’re signaling to your audience of stakeholders, employees competitors and customers that you’re here to stay — it’s a message that gets noticed and instills confidence. In comparison, a complacent brand fails to attract new customers and leads to higher customer attrition rates, stagnant wallet share and employee disengagement and turnover.
With all this market disruption underway, combined with the recent shift in the way consumers are conducting their banking, the talk surrounding the importance of a strong brand will continue to crescendo. As digital banking becomes an essential part of people’s lives, and FinTech banking options continue to provide alternative app-based “contactless” banking solutions, this already fragmented market will fragment even further. Community banks will continue to merge and introduce new bank brands, and financial institutions and FinTechs will partner to introduce new products — and people will be exposed to more brands and have more banking options. Without clarity and focus, your brand could be at risk of getting lost in this brand soup.
So what’s the right strategy for your brand and visual identity system? Does your brand appeal to your customers of today, or your customer of tomorrow? The answer lies in your bank’s underlying strategy, mission and vision; the new unmet needs of its customers and prospects; the environment that your bank or credit union is competing in and what position your bank needs to own in order to achieve its highest level of success.
Your brand needs to be aligned with your bank’s mission, vision and strategy. It has to be reflective of your core values, personality and place in your community. It must be relevant to your audience, be distinctive versus the competition and position you for today’s market, with tomorrow in mind.
If you suspect that your brand might not be meeting some of these benchmarks, take the next step toward considering a rebrand.
Download our white paper, “Things to Consider When Rebranding Your Bank” today or reach out to our team to learn more about the rebrand process and how we can help.
We help brands identify the often hard-to-define intangibles that set them apart, and then craft and effectively tell their stories across any and all appropriate channels. It’s what we do, and we’d like to do it for you.