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Historically, the idea of branding was contrary to the bank culture. The idea being that to brand something was to impose some artifice onto it, as opposed to the low-profile, three-button, wing-tipped, dry, trustworthy image that professional bankers enjoyed projecting. In fact, there was a time when marketing of all types was seen as unethical. Then came deregulation, and competition from both bank and non-bank competitors. Suddenly there were other places to put your money. Other places to get your loan. Suddenly, banks needed to be known...and to be differentiated.

While everyone seems to agree, at this point, that branding is necessary for a bank. It's still tricky. Because a bank's brand still has to be an authentic representation of the bank itself-it has to be the bank's personality, with the bank's vocabulary, and the bank's own clothes (trade dress). A bank still has to be calm, low-profile, trustworthy, dependable. It just has to be branded so that those qualities SCREAM! Kidding.

A bank brand has to take into account the community it lives in. The people it serves. The history and vision of the bank. And, especially in times like these, a bank needs to be seen as humble, hard working, sound...anything but flashy. Probably, a bank brand needs to take into account the times when a bank should be invisible.

In the past two decades, we've seen some bank branding that has backfired in the past few months. Nobody really wants a fun bank these days. Or an opulent bank. Or a high-flying bank. People want banks that WON'T WASTE MY MONEY.

We're excited about the opportunities for banks as the economy starts to lift a bit. I predict we'll be seeing the role of community banks become much more important across the country. As people start to get back to business, will they want to be in business with Wall Street...or Bank of America? Or will they want to do business with Andy, John, Cindy, Dean, Shields, Diana, Mays, know...people who are from here.

It'll be fun to see what happens. Well, maybe fun is a little too strong a word. It will certainly be interesting.

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