By: Scott Seroka
“Here’s the problem, Scott. We’re all regulated the same way, and we pretty much offer identical services. All we can build our brand on is delivering the best possible customer experience. In the eyes of many people, we’re viewed as a commodity because there are so many banks and we’re all regulated the same way. How do you build brands of differentiation in an industry where we all are viewed as the same, just with different logos?”
This was a question I received at my seminar, 7 Steps to Building a Compelling Brand.
This level of frustration is felt throughout many highly competitive industries, even outside of the financial industry.
Some banks have thrown up their hands and don’t even bother with brand anymore. After all, the banking industry is heavily regulated and people have so many options when it comes to selecting a financial institution that creating a unique or special brand is viewed as an exercise in futility. Consequently, more banks are relying solely on marketing, word-of-mouth and referrals to attract and retain new business. The problem with this approach is that it isn’t sustainable.
The good news is that it doesn’t matter how regulated your industry is or how many competitors are elbowing their way through it to capture more market share. Developing a strong and compelling brand for your bank is the only way to escape the black hole of commoditization.
The way out of commoditization is through delivering unique and unconventional brand experiences.
If we look to the successes of brands such as Apple, Tesla, and Under Armour, each tells a story of how they were able to swagger away from the world of commoditization by creating brand experiences people fell in love with. And although each of these brands may not be the largest in their respective categories in sales and profitability, all of them found a path to building a base of loyal customers. These customers are more than willing to pay a premium for their products.
For example, in the world of computers, iOS (Apple) may be outsold many times by Windows. But in the personal computing industry, when we think of a powerful brand, we think of Apple first – not Toshiba, HP, Dell, Lenovo or ASUS.
However, not all products and services are as seductive as computers, cars and shoes.
As you are selling financial products and services (which isn’t quite as glamorous), you can still differentiate your brand away from commoditization. This is done through a combination of attributes designed to build your reputation, such as:
- to be understood
- to be heard
- a genuine interest in them
- above all ─ to feel important
There are plenty of financial institutions that have built successful brands around one or two of the above attributes. Notice how none have anything to do with products and/or services – strong brands that change minds and influence decisions are focused on delivering those intangible assets customers value the most. The fact is, people don’t care about your bank’s products and services as long as you are reasonably competitive. People only care about the quality of the relationships they have with you and will pay little if any attention to your tangible weaknesses.
Take advantage of this climate where people have high expectations of brands, yet one where many are far from living up to those expectations. It’s the simplest and most effective way to truly be a leader.
Aiming any lower will keep your brand closer to the commodity territory – a dark and dangerous place to be.
If you would like to speak with us about how we may help you build a stronger brand, contact us. Brand development and brand rehabilitation is what we do!