Get Real: Does What Your Bank Says about Itself Align with the Reality That Customers Encounter? in Today's Experience Economy, Customers Increasingly Expect All Types of Businesses-Including Financial Institutions-To Represent Themselves "Authentically."

By Pine, B. Jospeh, Ii.; Gilmore, James H. | ABA Bank Marketing, May 2008 | Go to article overview

Get Real: Does What Your Bank Says about Itself Align with the Reality That Customers Encounter? in Today's Experience Economy, Customers Increasingly Expect All Types of Businesses-Including Financial Institutions-To Represent Themselves "Authentically."


Pine, B. Jospeh, Ii., Gilmore, James H., ABA Bank Marketing


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In the financial services industry today, customers interact less and less with people and more and more with machines, whether ATMs, voice response systems or Web sites. Such technological intrusion means that every real, live, personal dealing financial service institutions have with customers--whether over the counter or in the drive through with a teller, across the desk of a vice president, or over the phone with a call center representative--takes on heightened importance.

This is especially true in this age of increasing self-service, poor service and no service, here people no longer accept the fake flom the phony; they want the real from the genuine.

This is becoming of paramount importance because in today's Experience Economy--where people increasingly bypass commoditized goods and services to spend time with companies that stage engaging experiences-authenticity is becoming the new consumer sensibility. Both consumers and business-to,business customers now- purchase offerings based on how well those purchases conform to their own self-image. What they buy must reflect who they are and who they aspire to be in relation to how they perceive the world--with lightning-quick judgments of "real" or "fake" hanging in the balance. People no longer accept fake offerings from slickly marketed phonies; they want real offerings from genuinely transparent sources.

Identity vs. representation

To be perceived as real, therefore, every financial institution should seek to understand its own identity, what it is. What is the self to which you and your offerings must be true? What is the essence from which all your values flow, and how have your values evolved--for better or worse--over the course of your history? What are the defining characteristics that set you apart from every other company, not just in the financial services industry but in the world? How would you delineate this identity for your enterprise? If you do not know, you cannot possibly hope to be viewed as authentic relative to this key standard, being True to Self.

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But there is a second standard of authenticity, one directly under the purview of the marketing director, and the one at which so many of them fail because of their advertising campaigns: Is What It Says It Is. What you say about your bank and its offerings must match the reality people encounter. What exactly does your bank say about itself?. What does it lead others to believe? How does it reveal itself through its words and deeds and how it represents its service and its offerings?

As a group, such statements comprise what the branding community likes to call "identity," often modified by "brand" or "corporate." However, such use confuses actuality with representation. Corporations, places and offerings have actual identities (the selves to which they must be true to be perceived as authentic), not just articulations of those identities (the representations that must accurately reflect those selves to be perceived as authentic). There's an old saw in advertising circles: Nothing makes a bad product fail faster than good advertising. There should be a new one in branding circles: Nothing makes a real branding effort fail faster than a phony product or service. Such phoniness results from representations detached from the reality of a business' actual identity.

Identify your statements

For this standard of authenticity, there are five key elements that, although not exhaustive, together help to understand the substance of the other-focused task of representing your identity in the marketplace.

Assigned Names = Dimensions + Designations

Who you call yourself the formal designations used to designate various dimensions of your self--especially the names assigned to your bank, your brands and your individual offerings.

Many meaningful names readily connote authenticity. …

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Get Real: Does What Your Bank Says about Itself Align with the Reality That Customers Encounter? in Today's Experience Economy, Customers Increasingly Expect All Types of Businesses-Including Financial Institutions-To Represent Themselves "Authentically."
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