By Eva LaMere
The financial services industry is more competitive than ever. How can your institution stand out from the crowd? By strengthening—or rebuilding—your brand. A “new and improved” brand can express specific financial expertise, a recalibrated attitude toward customers, and a human connection that organically advances your business goals.
But before you go throwing your time, energy, and money into creating a snappy new tagline and a revised corporate color scheme, you need to ask yourself what you want to accomplish in the rebranding process.
Rebranding is an opportunity to assess your organization and redefine your service to your customers. Identifying existing shortcomings and expressing new goals is the core of the process. The value of comprehensive, methodical, and objective research can’t be understated. Done poorly, you may even have to go back and repeat the rebranding exercise. That’s a waste of your precious resources.
Whether redefining—or just refining—an underperforming brand, a bank takes a calculated risk to improve and expand its business. So creating a new brand that performs to its maximum potential is essential.
To maximize the value of your rebranding, try these six simple steps:
1. Define your objectives.
What will a rebranding accomplish for your bank and your customers? Sure, that old logo may feel “so last century,” but is that what really influences consumer decisions? Your rebranding must fuel your business goals: Are you broadening your audience, geographically or otherwise? Are you offering new products or services? Do you need to compete more aggressively in a critical area? How will you best leverage your products and people to express your superior position in the marketplace?
2. Establish your budget and timeline.
While this is no time to skimp (your new brand should last you five to 10 years), you do need to be realistic about what—and how—you spend in order to achieve maximum impact. You and your rebranding partner should be able to calculate the upside revenue potential that will come after a rebranding launch. Timelines are critical, too—rebranding can easily take 12 to 18 months from start to finish. A typical financial services rebranding, for example, may involve three months of research, four months of creative development and refinement, six months of execution, and four months for the internal rollout and teaser campaign. Know what you’re getting into—and how long it will take—before you start.
3. Know your audiences.
Your audience is actually a cross-section of bank stakeholders, including current and prospective customers, your employees and key leadership, and even the broader communities in which you operate. Assessing qualities such as age and gender, customer spending and saving habits, and even their attitudes toward charitable giving can help you design an effective strategy that addresses the concerns of those audiences and is also in balance with your own mission. An effective SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis can also offer unique insight into your organization, how it is positioned and how it performs relative to each of these audiences. Proper positioning with each of these audiences can maintain your relevance and enhance your brand.
4. Determine the extent of the rebranding.
Several factors may influence this decision, including perceived equity in your current brand. Are you pursuing a brand refresh that simply refines your positioning, or a complete overhaul to address a new direction? Here again, research is an essential tool to evaluate the value of your current brand and its specific strengths and weaknesses. It’s a given that not everyone will be enthusiastic about your rebranding. Try to find a balance that avoids alienating current customers and makes them feel the value of the change without undermining your own efforts.
5. Create your brand strategy.
A new brand identity touches literally everything about your business, including stationery, signage, website, collateral, advertising, and even how your employees interact with your customers and how they talk about the bank. That’s why it’s important to include a master execution plan for changing over to the new identity. Your rebranding partner should be able to walk you through this plan—and help you execute it.
6. Set success measures.
You won’t know if you’ve accomplished your goal unless you can measure it—and then share it with your key constituencies. Defining those metrics is essential: Are you simply seeking shifts in attitudes and awareness? Are you looking to deepen customer relationships? Ongoing performance audits are important. You might want to conduct an annual usage and attitude study that specifically examines how consumers view your bank versus competitors in the market.
Leveraging your new brand to increase awareness, create positive perceptions of your financial institution, and highlight relevant differentiated benefits helps ensure that rebranding is not just swapping your old logo for a new one. Your new brand must accurately:
- Reflect who you are.
- Present an attainable positioning of what you aspire to become.
- Demonstrate how your customers will benefit.
These elements will help ensure that your new brand is an authentic one that internal audiences can embody and external audiences can embrace.
Eva LaMere is president of Austin & Williams, a WBE-certified, outcomes-driven financial marketing agency headquartered in Hauppauge, Long Island, NY, that provides clients with branding, advertising, public relations and digital marketing ideas that inspire action. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.