Mapping the Brand: How State Bank, Atlanta, Used a 'Strategic Brand Road Map' to Enable Executives to Envision How They Wanted Their Brand to Evolve

Article excerpt

THE INPUT OF BANK EXECUTIVES IS CRITICAL TO A BRAND'S SUCCESS. They can affect both employee and community attitudes toward the brand. Unfortunately, top managers are often busy with other issues and are sometimes detached from both brand and marketing strategy.

Recently, executives for a Georgia bank went through a two-hour exercise that was designed to involve the executives more directly as participants in the evolution of the brand.

The process, called "strategic brand mapping," was intended to both chronicle the history of the brand and also to help brand evolution. It was hoped that the exercise would help the bank to avoid costly brand "detours" and to ensure that the brand stayed on a successful track.

Here's the story of how the bank went about creating and using a brand road map.

A newly organized bank

State Bank in Atlanta, Ga., was formed in the height of the recession--and in one of the states hardest hit by bank closures. It was brought together by the purchase of six bank subsidiaries totaling assets of $2.8 billion.

The new bank hit the ground running with a brand launch that blanketed its communities with visibility and name recognition. The brand campaign was designed to restore confidence in a demoralized market. Once initial growing pains were behind, the bank turned its eyes on innovating and setting new benchmarks. Within a few years, State Bank became the number one performing bank in the country in 2011, according to Bank Director magazine.

State Bank's brand is simple and straightforward: It is built around the idea of being a bank that can "absolutely" make it happen.

With its early success, the bank wanted to keep the momentum of the new brand going. A bank's brand is never stagnant; it is as alive and ever changing as the bank itself--and never more so than with a new bank.

The bank consulted with its marketing agency partner to establish a process for maximizing brand momentum. The goal was to do a brand review through the use of a visual device that was both interactive and panoramic.

After some thought, the agency came up with the idea of a "strategic brand road map." A meeting with bank executives was scheduled and the agency created a large banner (3 feet high and 8 feet long), printed on durable paper, that outlined brand strategy with "before" and "after" snapshots of the brand's launch and results.

Included were images of promotional campaigns, and offline and online strategies. The banner had blank space that could be used for outlining the brand for "tomorrow," as well as for listing client concerns, opportunities and ideas.

The banner was intended to enhance an exercise to fine tune the brand and create a foundation for tomorrow's campaigns--that is, ways of sustaining the brand.

The exercise consisted of two parts: review and discussion. For review, the bankers were invited to approach the banner and examine each featured item in detail. The executives provided feedback by putting different colored post-it notes marked with their initials on each marketing piece featured on the banner: green post-it notes meant the item was "on brand:' well-liked and successful; yellow post-it notes indicated items of "concern"; and pink post-it notes (because we've never seen red ones) pointed out items that just seemed "off brand" or going in the direction opposite to the one desired.

The colored notes served several purposes. First, they allowed the work group make sure that every marketing piece was "voted" on by every decision-maker present--thus enabling the group to address internal differences; get to the root of core concerns; and determine which marketing pieces were gaining the most approval.

The agency head acted as the mediator, reviewing each item with the bankers to find out what was working about the brand, what wasn't and why.

During the session, the agency head asked key questions: Is the brand visually cohesive? …