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What’s so special about bank branding?

We’ve developed a lot of brands over the past couple of decades. Schools. Hospitals. Retail concepts. Consumer goods. Manufacturers. But there’s just something special about bank branding, and in particular community bank branding. There are several reasons:

  1. Bank branding is about trust. Because it’s so true, it has gotten to be a cliche—people do business with people. This is where community banks win in the great big-bank-small-bank wars. In every single community bank we’ve branded, there has been on person with a large personality, with deep roots in the community, with a distinctive philosophy, who has driven key branding decisions. All successful brands are about people. This is especially true for banks.
  2. The brand plays a key role in onboarding best practices. Banks live and die by their cross-sell ratios—the number of services or accounts per customer or household. In general, the entry point for this is core deposits. But the reality is that people either shop the market (dda here, CD there, line of credit over there), or they rely on a strong relationship. By starting with a strong, human, authentic brand, a bank makes itself attractive to the latter type of customers and prospects. So, from the very outset, you are working to build the relationship, rather than working to beat the rate or fee schedule down the street.
  3. A great brand can put the community in community banking. Great brands stand for something. They engage with their stakeholders on a practical level, an emotional level, and an activist level (they become causes). At the heart of the matter is a set of core values—things you believe in deeply. By wrapping your head around this, you can set about owning a cause—affordable housing, financial education, literacy, social justice, domestic violence, arts, sports…whatever. The key is to have a cause that aligns with your core values. This will enable you differentiate yourself by standing for something other than great rates, low fees, or large lines of credit. Of course, a cause is not a substitute for great products and service. But all other things being equal, having a cause related to your brand can be a huge bit of brand leverage.

Now there are a lot of great branding agencies out there. And each has its own processes and strengths. But the best branding agencies know that your brand is about you. Nowhere is this more urgently important than in branding a community bank.

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