Reinforcing Your Brand: First Franklin Financial Corporation, San Jose, California, Builds Its Brand Awareness among Brokers as a Leading Nonprime Lender with Several Different Approaches That All Reinforce Its Message

By Corsi, Stephen | Mortgage Banking, December 2004 | Go to article overview

Reinforcing Your Brand: First Franklin Financial Corporation, San Jose, California, Builds Its Brand Awareness among Brokers as a Leading Nonprime Lender with Several Different Approaches That All Reinforce Its Message


Corsi, Stephen, Mortgage Banking


CREATING A BRAND ISN'T JUST FOR RETAILERS ANYMORE. Wholesale nonprime lending is a business that could benefit from following a few of the tricks of the retail trade, especially when signs indicate the mortgage industry is looking less robust. [??] The threat of rising interest rates has started to discourage many potential buyers from investing in homeownership, slowing mortgage sales in both the prime and nonprime niches. There are fewer home loan applications coming to our mortgage broker customers, meaning less business for lenders. And when it comes to niche markets, such as nonprime home loans, business prospects are even smaller. Nonprime lenders will have to work smarter for market share. [??] So, how does a company like ours make sure that brokers send every nonprime deal our way? By applying retailers' integrated branding strategies to our wholesale brand. [??] The concept of integrated marketing is nothing new. By maintaining a consistent look, feel and message across your marketing vehicles, you'll achieve better recognition of your brand message among your customers. But creating that message (and image) is much more complicated within the wholesale nonprime mortgage environment. Your products and services ultimately benefit borrowers with unique financial needs, but the brand promise must also appeal to your broker customers' desire to find the right lender for their nonprime borrowers quickly and easily. [??] Discovering your brand promise will get you halfway there. A successful branding campaign is one that integrates your marketing message and your people. Without buy-in from your own employees--particularly salespeople, customer service people and those who have direct contact with your customers--your brand identity won't have much value and your marketing efforts will fall flat. To be successful, you need to integrate the right message, media and manpower into your branding campaign.

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Start by defining your business

What is the nonprime niche? There's no established Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac definition of a nonprime loan, so even seasoned mortgage brokers may not understand what types of borrowers would fit into a nonprime program.

Who is a good candidate for a nonprime loan? It could be someone with a good credit history, with a FICO[R] credit score around 700, who would prefer a zero-down-payment home loan in order to protect existing investments. It could be a self-employed borrower with no W-2 and hard-to-verify income. Or it could be a cash-strapped buyer with a past bankruptcy and a 540 FICO score.

The nonprime niche isn't just a FICO range; it's a range of services offered to a variety of borrowers. But your brokers may not think of your company's products as a good fit when these borrowers come to them for mortgage advice.

You can't be everything to everyone, so your brand's benefit to your customers must be explicitly clear. The primary goal of your branding campaign should be to create connections between what your company stands for and your brokers' customers. If your company's brand is at the top of brokers' minds when a nonprime loan comes through the door, you'll be the first lender they'll contact to help them get the deal done.

Unless you're a new nonprime lending company, you may already have a brand identity that resonates in your brokers' minds. But is it the right brand? My company, First Franklin Financial Corporation, San Jose, California (www.ff.com), recently went through this exercise to discover that many of our brokers had no idea who we were or what we stood for.

Some thought we were just an 80/20 combo shop. Others only thought of us when they were funding cash out refinances. Even though we had been around since the early 1980s, our brand identity was all over the map.

Much of it was our own fault. Having gone through several logo and tagline changes over the past five years, we knew that we needed to establish a strong brand identity or we'd lose market share--particularly in the potentially tougher times ahead in the industry. …

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