By Andrew GaldiHave you ever been in a marketing meeting where new copy or designs were being presented for the company, and no one on your team can agree on the message, look or feel? Even worse, maybe you were the person presenting your ideas, only to find your colleagues criticizing and ripping them to shreds. Well, you are not alone. This kind of frustrating situation is a common experience for many marketers. The issue—an identity crisis within the organization.
Many companies struggle with what their identity is, and how to properly communicate it, both visually and verbally. Within the financial industry, the problem is two-fold as bankers do not always consider brand identity as something worth allocating time and budget. The misconception is that all banks offer the same products and services, so there is no way to differentiate yourself from the competition.
A bank’s reputation, quality, and trustworthiness are what potential customers look for and what motivates them to choose you over the competition. By choosing to focus on your bank’s identity, you set yourself apart and become more visible and credible within the financial industry.
But which message is the right one? Is your bank the authority who can lead customers where they want to go? The advisor with great wisdom who will help solve their problems? The partner who will provide good service and attention to others’ needs? Each one is a good identity, but which one is right and sends the correct message?
Archetypes as a blueprint
Archetypes are culturally recurring themes or narratives that are universally understood. They transcend time, place, gender, age and drive human motivations. The hero, for example, is always easily identifiable in any Disney movie. Look for the strong, well-built character who is brave and adventurous while also possessing a weak side, afraid of showing vulnerability.
You can also find these recurring themes and characteristics in your company. They are the foundational elements of the collective organization. They are the ways employees behave, work with each other and interact with customers. And they help answer those important identity questions about your organization:
- Who are we?
- What do we provide?
- And why is that important to us?
That is how archetypes can provide the blueprint to help an organization understand and agree on how to present itself with the right marketing message, imagery and strategies. Once you have that internal clarity, you’re able to communicate consistently with customers and the public in a way that is relevant and captivating. Archetypes can also help answer more difficult questions like:
- What are the challenges of our identity?
- How do we compensate for them and use that to our advantage?
This is a great way for a company to understand its place within an industry and how to differentiate itself from the competition. By identifying with an archetype, you have a model that defines your organization’s language, behavior and beliefs.
How does this lead to success?
Archetypes are powerful because they inspire fundamental human emotions that function on both the conscious and subconscious level. So consider the influence your organization’s identity could have on its customers. When you have a well-defined identity and internal culture of motivated employees to back it up, the message will come through clearly and resonate with your customers—even when they’re not actively thinking about banking.
Banks with a clear identity are successful because they offer an experience that inspires confidence, trust and loyalty. And it is that customer loyalty that feeds into and builds a stronger foundation, which raises your identity and the value of your financial institution. Consider Apple, Nike or Coca-Cola—three very different companies that started out with a strong, well-defined identity and went on to inspire trust and confidence in their customers. All have a very loyal following, which includes people who want to align their own self-image with those distinct brand identities: Apple the innovator, Nike the fearless competitor and Coke the American classic. In fact, their identities have become so strong and powerful that even the marketing is recognizable without their logos.
Using an archetype to define your identity tells your customers what kind of experience they can expect to have when doing business with your bank. Whether you are a long-standing business or a new startup, aligning your identity with something that is embedded in your customers subconscious will make you memorable and more relatable.
Do your homework
Nobody likes to hear those words, but in this case it makes a difference. Taking time to understand the twelve different archetypes, how they are all defined and how they interact with each other will go a long way toward helping you understand which one best defines your organization.
The basic archetypes are very simple and are organized along two dimensions: self-focused vs. group-oriented and order vs. change, as illustrated in the graphic below.
Keep in mind that archetypes are metaphorical, and some of them won’t apply at all to any bank brand. (It’s hard to imagine a bank brand that would identify as the “lover,” for example, or the “innocent.” However, the process of thinking through these universal archetypes provides a starting point for identifying your bank’s essential characteristics in a way that provides clarity to customers.
Does your bank embrace order—like the “ruler” or the “caregiver”? Or is change its primary value—as with the “hero” or the “explorer”? While all banks need to reckon with both ends of the spectrum as a practical matter, brand themes and messages can be crafted so that customers know—and even feel—what the brand is really about.
The process may also reveal contradictions in your bank’s identity. For example, your advertising message may be more casual while your website is more formal in tone. When customers encounter inconsistent messaging and identity, it undermines their sense of trust.
Fortunately, there are many resources available in print and on the internet to help you really dive deep into archetypes. The Hero and The Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes by Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson is a great book for navigating through the process. There are also many consultants who specialize in this field.
Exploring your bank’s identity can be a difficult process—your customers may have a perception of you that is completely out of alignment with the audience you want to serve. However, once you understand who you are in the eyes of your customers, you can figure out the true identity of your financial institution. Ultimately, that will help your employees understand what the proper messaging is and empowers them to communicate that with customers in a way that is consistent and builds trust.
At the very least, you will avoid all those frustrating meetings with your marketing team arguing back and forth about designs and messaging.
Andrew Galdi is a digital marketing strategist at BankBound Marketing, a results-driven agency that works exclusively with local banks.