By Cassandra Giovanni
The fundamental questionBanks cannot exist without customers, so why do we make branding all about “me, me, me”? Everywhere you look there’s a bank brand talking about how awesome it is. Whether it’s customer service, technology or some other ostensibly unique angle, at its worst, bank branding focuses on everything but the customers.
We must flip the script to survive. The conversation has to change to an actual conversation because when it’s all about you, it’s just a rant about what makes you better.
And that makes you look worse.
Use the four Ps to flip the branding script
We all know the traditional four Ps of marketing—product, place, promotion, price. But what about the 4 Ps of your brand? While the four Ps of marketing are a useful (albeit dated) framework for selling something, you’re not selling your brand in the traditional sense for which the framework was created. When we drive down to the core of your brand, it does have one element in common with the traditional four Ps, and that’s product. Whatever you’re selling, product is undoubtedly a core part of what makes you you. The other brand Ps also help craft the story of your brand—your people, the perception of your brand and finally, your presence.
To apply these four Ps, you need to look at each one through three lenses. First, take a hard look at who you are. Then ask yourself about your customers—their needs, their expectations and their feelings. Finally, combine those two perspectives and identify ways to bridge the gaps between them. Let’s break that down, part by part, p by p:
- What do you offer?
- What do your customers need?
- How can you better meet their needs?
Product may seem simple, but what I see time and time again are banks saying, “we have free debit cards, free online banking, free e-statements” etc., as if that adds value. Reality check: every bank has those things. Your customers expect those things to be free. Plus, those are all products that create efficiencies for you. Banking products have become static with the excuse that banking is a homogenous market. However, banks can make the decision not to stagnate by looking at their product sets on a routine basis. If you’ve had the same tired checking account suite for the past five years, it’s time to start making changes. Customers’ needs have changed over that period—have your products? People aren’t static, and your product set shouldn’t be either.
- Who are your people?
- How do the customers interact with your people?
- How can your people be better partners and allies to the customers?
Your people—your team members, front and back office—are a direct reflection of the bank and your brand. I think at this point, most people understand this, but many banks don’t have processes in place to ensure their employees get who they are. That’s why brand standards that are about more than just your logo are essential. It’s also why every team member should be welcomed to the bank with a brand orientation. (Check out my article on brand standards to learn more.)
- What does your bank stand for?
- What do customers think your bank stands for?
- How can you ensure that customers’ perception matches the bank’s mission, vision and values?
Perception seems to be one of the weaker points at many banks. To understand how your bank is perceived you must have benchmarks and procedures in place to survey customers and non-customers routinely. These surveys are an investment in understanding your brand and how it must evolve. Just as products can’t be static, neither can brand. I cannot emphasize enough the value in being who you say you are—and making sure that your customers know what you stand for. Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk—and make sure customers see you doing it. Only then will they believe in the genuineness of your brand.
- Where are you—and are you available to help?
- How do customers access your help when they need it?
- How can your bank make itself more visible and approachable?
It seems like a simple commitment: We’re here for you when you need us. Yet too often, customers feel like they’re all alone with their financial anxieties. Sure, it’s fantastic to be a part of the home buying process. The simple fact is, though, that some of the more distressing episodes of life are what drive customers to a bank’s doors—an inheritance, for example, a move or proceeds from a settlement. Being present for customers when they need you is about more than branch locations and hours. It’s about supporting them through challenging life choices and transitions.
This supportive presence must reach beyond just your customers. What about the community you serve? Banks must invest in corporate philanthropy—not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because as a brand it can make you completely different. It can make you stand out from the other free-checking banks of the world.
Create something bigger
When a bank asks itself these questions and shifts the elevator pitch to a conversation, something amazing happens: the brand takes on a life of its own. It becomes something bigger—it becomes a living, breathing being—and that is what people connect with.
Cassandra Giovanni is a passionate storyteller, whether it’s the hero’s journey in her fiction or crafting unique customer journeys for financial institutions. With more than a decade of experience in banking as front-end employee, assistant branch administrator and financial marketer, she helps make sure brands are looked at holistically, across all contact points. Reach out to her on LinkedIn, or visit her website cgiovanniauthor.com to learn more about her books.