Hitting the Clear Branding Strategy Bullseye

By John Oxford

Marketing legend Seth Godin makes his living talking about the power of brand in marketing. One of his often used examples is the idea that if Nike had a hotel, it would already be a stronger brand than most hotel chains. He then flips the idea and says if Hyatt, as an example, were to make a shoe, you would have no idea what it would be or how it would look because Hyatt, in his opinion, does not have a strong brand.

In reading and listening to Godin, I’m really glad he chose hotels as his example instead of, you guessed it, banks. As much as I despise the worn out usage of Nike for branding comparisons and examples, Nike would also be a much better bank brand than the vast majority of banks and certainly more than the 62 percent of banks that share a common word in their name.

Taking Godin’s thoughts on brand into consideration, how is the bank brand you manage set apart from the brands of other financial institutions? Let’s look at some ways to set your bank apart even though there are not easy fixes, or cheap ways to brand your bank:

Are you a brand or are you a bank? This is a serious question to ask your organization. For example, if you dropped the word “bank” from the name of your brand, would consumers know what you do? Even deeper here, if you were to make a digital ad or even an old school magazine print ad, but leave your logo and name off, would a consumer in your footprint know that it was an ad for your bank brand? If you answered no to these questions, time to get your branding on.

What’s in a name? I’ve beaten this drum for a long time now but if you have a name such as First, Citizens, etc. in your name, you are not a strong brand as broad branding goes, by definition. That doesn’t mean you are not a strong bank. But if a Google search has 90-some banks with the name First Bank, you can see how easily a consumer can be fooled. And with online account openings now growing at an unprecedented pace, it’s highly possible someone could open an account at the wrong First Bank or First National Bank. So buck up and approach your management about a name change if you do not have a unique name for your institution.

What’s your signature dish? When you visit a restaurant, depending on the type, there are the go-to staple offerings and then there is a signature dish. Even fast food has a signature dish. See Big Mac, Whopper, etc. With this in mind, what is your bank’s signature dish? And as much as you want to be everything to everybody, you can’t. So choose your signature dish wisely. Is it relationships? Is it the best rate or superior products and service? Is it specialty lines, community banking, locations or private client banking? Beyond a name and a logo, knowing your key benefit and then communicating it to your current and future clients will only strengthen your brand and your brand promise.

I hope that during this time of branch closers and now reopening, you, my bank marketing brothers and sisters, didn’t miss the opportunity to take a deep dive into setting yourself apart with a clear and unique branding strategy. But there is still never a better time to start than now. As it has been said before, your brand is a promise delivered by experience. Make sure you make it a brand name that can be remembered as well as the experience your bank provides.

To hear more about setting your bank apart with its key benefit and values, listen to this week’s Marketing Money Podcast with Josh Mabus of the Mabus Agency and me.

John Oxford, director of marketing at Renasant Bank, and Josh Mabus, president of the Mabus Agency, are co-hosts of the Marketing Money Podcast.