What is different about Financial Service brands today? – Part I

Financial service brands are experiencing an identity crisis. The bank failures and global economic crisis have created skepticism and mistrust among customers for good reason. At the same time, financial institutions lack differentiation. The industry palate is bland. And no amount of marketing spend can fix that if the brands do not resonate. It’s like putting lipstick on a pig. Right now, the industry is perceived as a bunch of talking heads because there is no substance to what the brands are saying.

Money is serious business

Why does the substance of the brand matter so much in financial services? When consumers make a decision to purchase a soda or candy bar, if the product does not deliver on the brand claims, the consequences are fairly insignificant. But financial service brands deal with someone’s money, which brings with it a whole different set of requirements. Customers are looking for integrity and trust. Whether it is an individual’s money or corporate assets, they want to know that their money is safe and in the best hands. They want an enduring relationship with their financial service brand, whether it’s a bank, an investment firm or a financial advisor.

Start with DNA

Brands are much more likely to be perceived as believable and real if they are based on the company’s DNA. This means getting down to the very core of the values and the corporate culture, which in turn should ultimately drive the products and services that are unique to them. It is the sum of all these parts that creates the foundation for a brand that will resonate and deliver.

Don’t overpromise

The amount of skepticism that exists in the industry today means that financial service brands have to find the sweet spot between the need to attract customers with a compelling brand promise, and the ability to deliver. Moreover, there is a real risk of consumers rejecting the brand if they perceive the promise to be unbelievable.

There is significant opportunity for financial service brands to create an identity that stands out in the industry of homogenized offerings. Much of that opportunity lies with the brand and how it is shaped.

Part II of this blog will be posted on April 3. It will discuss what is required to build a strong financial service brand in this new environment.

Michelle Stearns is a brand strategy consultant with BrandTaxi, a world-class branding firm that delivers powerful insights and branding ideas to drive business growth and bottom-line results. Michelle has almost 20 years experience in classic CPG and corporate branding and marketing. She helps shape brands that resonate with audiences and create long lasting relationships to deliver the greatest value possible. Visit the BrandTaxi blog page.