Magic That Endures: Tips on How to Maintain and Reinforce Your Brand without Spending Big Dollars

By Loughhead, Bob | ABA Bank Marketing, October 2009 | Go to article overview

Magic That Endures: Tips on How to Maintain and Reinforce Your Brand without Spending Big Dollars


Loughhead, Bob, ABA Bank Marketing


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In financial organizations, the first budgets that get cut in lean times are the ones for branding and marketing. Too often these are seen as expenses rather than as investments--something that can be trimmed to help the bottom line. Thus it becomes a short-term fix with long-term consequences. But whether your budget has shrunk or you had a small brand budget to begin with, there are steps you can take to manage--that is, to reinforce and maintain your brand--that do not require significant budget allocation.

Here are some high-impact initiatives that can have big returns, not only with employees but also with customers.

1. Crystallize your position.

Take a close look at your brand platform and ensure that it's being communicated to your target market in an easy-to-understand way, with a compelling message (and while you're at it, make sure that it also supports your vision, mission and business strategy). Make the most of your assets and strengths, focusing on what makes your institution fundamentally different from competitors.

The former National Bank of Commerce (assets: $1.9 billion) in Starkville, Miss., had a positive and proud history, but wanted to adjust its positioning to focus on a wider range of customers, especially a younger audience. Managers saw the need to reposition the bank as a more vibrant, innovative, and responsive organization, aligning their name and brand strategy with their business strategy. The chosen name, Cadence Banking, crystallized their approach to being distinctively "in tune and in step" with their customers. All banks within tile original entity were consolidated under one brand. This type of master branding can represent a savings in marketing and branding costs for many financial institutions, since the marketing investment is in one brand rather than a number of separate bank brands.

The recession has made "small" the new "big," in terms of stability and public perception, with larger banks experiencing well-known difficulties and receiving negative press. Smaller financial institutions can take advantage of the local, personal, service-oriented attributes that they've always been known for. But now they can do so in an environment that carries more of an additional "safety" factor.

Smaller is also bigger when it comes to communication: Simplify your messages to customers and prospective customers. Many financial institutions try to communicate too much in a brochure, ad or promotional campaign. People can process only a certain amount of information at a given time. Focus on the main message and stick to it.

Many banks overlook the value of promoting their involvement in their communities. Some either don't feel the need to publicize their activities or don't want to be viewed as blowing their own horn. If your organization is doing something good, however, you need to let your market know about it. It's a basic concept, but it's important to focus on maximizing all communications opportunities--especially if you have the in-house capability to write press releases and inform media outlets about your activities.

When banks are scrambling to adjust to constant changes in the marketplace, marketing goals can become short-sighted and reactive. Regardless of the financial environment, however, the brand focus must be on your long-term goals what you have to do now to get where you want to be rather than react to ripples in the economic waters. This is not news to marketing directors who have been repeating and emphasizing it to CEOs and CFOs every year during budget reviews. Whether the brand budget is large or small, the brand-building target must be clear. Every penny should be an investment in hitting that target.

2. Evaluate your brand execution and rationalize your spend.

Review your internal distribution channels for brand information. Is it easy for employees, vendors and customers to find and understand? …

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