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3 reasons community bank branding builds customer loyalty.

Every business wants to grow. And there are a limited number of ways for a community bank to do so-gain more customers, expand your footprint, or onboard the customers you have. By far, the least costly of these is onboarding. And yet, bank marketers do relatively little to expand the cross-sell ratio.

This may be because much of what you do to build multiple-service relationships is invisible. The things that get you talked about around town are splashy billboards, televisions commercials, radio spots, and sponsorships. But the things that impact loyalty are strategic touch points, and what you do with them. It's blocking and tackling.

A well-conceived brand will include a people strategy that puts the right people and skills in the right chairs. Branding done-right provides documented best practices for brand actions, brand voice...even brand taste and smell. There is a very logical reason for this (even though it may seem a little "emotional" to some bankers). Research shows that people build cognitive files for their favorite brands in a mechanism similar to that used to remember important people. Literally, people think about brands the way they think (feel) about people. And these memories are driven more by sensory elements (brand music, voice, smell, taste, touch) than by logical facts or attributes.

Considering the cost of generating a new customer relationship and the value of a long-term, multiple-service relationship, it makes a lot of sense to invest in the elements that create loyalty. And these elements tend to revolve around branding. For example:

  1. "I like people (and brands) that are like me." If people build relationships with brands the same way they build them with other people, then a brand should focus as much as possible on elements such as brand personality and brand character. A particular brand character my not attract certain consumers, but it will create a strong attraction to others (which is kind of a definition of loyalty). But a nondescript (soft brand) character, built simply on a list of products or fee structures will never be sufficiently attractive to or create affinity with anyone.
  2. "I can't explain it, but it's how I feel." Studies indicate that certain sensory stimuli create emotional bonding in ways that are not even rational. Smell, for example, creates an uncontrollable connection to emotional memory. Your brain will actually process a signature sound before the visual that comes with it. Music dictates mood. In fact, the very same dialog can go from funny, to silly, to edgy, just by changing the soundtrack music. So, a well-conceived bank brand, that makes full and consistent use of visual stimuli, smells, tastes, sound design, music, copy tone, and materials, will actually create an emotional bond with certain high-value customers.
  3. "I connect with people who know how to treat me." If people think of brands as people, then they will take it personally when your brand treats them in a certain way-either good or bad. This is where brand personalities and brand actions come in. Not everyone is attracted to, say, a sophistication brand. Some may be offended, intimidated, or mistrustful of the trappings of that style. But some people have a natural affinity to that style. If that is your brand's inherent personality, and if you build your best service practices in support of that personality, people who identify with that style will make irrational emotional connections to your brand. It's simply a matter of how you treat people.

Honestly, the biggest mistake your competitors make in branding is that they are not intentional or consistent about it. They don't step out and claim their personality. So they lose out on the loyalty connections available through sensory branding. You can create a huge advantage, just by knowing who you are and being bold about expressing it.

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