Is a Bank by Any Other Names as Effective in Era of Change? the Financial Industry Faces Issue of Rebuilding Images as Its Markets New Services in the Climate of Deregulation

By Petruno, Tom | American Banker, August 24, 1984 | Go to article overview

Is a Bank by Any Other Names as Effective in Era of Change? the Financial Industry Faces Issue of Rebuilding Images as Its Markets New Services in the Climate of Deregulation


Petruno, Tom, American Banker


Is a Bank by Any Other Name As Effective in Era of Change?

The Financial Industry Faces Issue of Rebuilding Images As It Markets New Services in the Climate of Deregulation

When Cambridge Reports, Inc., a Cambridge, Mass. research firm, asked consumers earlier this year to rate 15 major industries for how favorable or unfavorable an impression they impart, banking ranked third overall in favorable responses--topped only by computer companies and food companies.

Does that sound like an industry with an image problem?

Yet when the White House Conference on the Consumer and Financial Services Revolution convened in Dallas late in June, the consensus that emerged from industry participants was that many consumers are hopping mad at their banks.

The reason: growing discontent over such sundry transgressions as rising fees, pressure to accept automated teller machines, and delayed-funds availability.

Does that sound like an industry with an image problem?

Bankers may be excused if they have trouble reconciling the gulf between those two views. But there may be a simple explanation:

Overall, consumers still have a favorable image of the industry from the viewpoint of management, safety, and soundness--the standards banks were measured by before the advent of deregulation.

But by the standards of today's intensely competitive market--creativity, quality of products, value of products, and concern for customers' well-being--consumers' image of individual banks varies widely, and in many cases it may be just awful.

If you haven't already addressed the issue of your image, many leading corporate consultants insist it's only a mater of time before you'll be forced to do so.

The goal of every bank should be a harmonious, professional, and attractive identity--a central theme that flows through all communication with your various publics.

"It's increasingly difficult to differentiate between the services banks offer --they've become commodities. So you have to differentiate the institution,' says Edward E. Furash, head of Furash & Co., a Washington, D.C.-based management consulting firm to financial services companies.

In an era of burgeoning competition, "Banks now need to coin an image much the same as a consumer product coins an image,' adds Michael F. Purvis, vice president of S&O Consultants Inc. in San Francisco, a design consulting and marketing firm.

Understandably, some bankers are apt to balk at the notion that they need to market themselves like breakfast cereal or laundry soap. But experts say there is much more to the creation of a new image--or the repositioning of a basically good but outdated image-- than simple promotion of a brand name.

The initial element of any image-evaluation program is a thorough review of how you are currently perceived by four major constituencies: consumers, corporate customers, investors, and your own employees.

"You want to find out what people know about you--your strengths and weaknesses,' says Joel B. Portugal of Anspach Grossman Portugal Inc. in New York, an image-consulting firm.

Many larger banks already do extensive and regular consumer attitude surveys. Bank of America, for example, performs surveys of thousands of consumers twice a year, to help reveal "what we're doing right and what we're doing wrong,' says John Mickel, executive vice president.

Sun Banks of Florida currently is surveying 6,000 customers in an effort to check product awareness, the degree to which customers use the bank, and "how well Sun measures up' against the competition, says N.W. "Red' Pope, senior vice president of marketing.

"The feeling that a lot of bankers have is that there's change going on, but they're not driving,' Mr. Pope says. The consumer attitude surveys help dispel that feeling, he says.

Not surprisingly, the banks that have the most to gain from consumer surveys often are those that haven't read the marketplace in a while. …

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