Mantras That Retail Financial Institutions Can Follow to Build Outstanding Brands

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Everyone will readily agree that brands are synonymous with identity and reputation; in effect, a brand is a visual representation of the identity and trust you want to build in the minds of your target audience. More than anything else, a financial brand seeks a distinct identity that stands for a certain credible reputation for delivering an expected experience. It is thus a promise that the brand makes. According to, the brand is unarguably the biggest lever any business has for improving profits and protecting itself against competitors. A quick look at the various aspects of branding that can define your retail financial institution in the minds of the people:

Clarity on Who You Are and What You Stand For

For a brand that is truly outstanding, it should be able to define what it is and what it stands for. Most financial institutions tend to enunciate concepts like “value” and “service”; however, generally, these are just clichés dressed up as brand positions that most people find easy to agree on and feel good about. In reality, most financial companies find it very difficult to define a USP and unless that can be done in a convincing and truthful way, it can just mean a confused struggle to arrive at on any clarity on the brand in terms of what customers need to think of it. It is absolutely essential to define a specific and narrowly defined target audience that the brands want to address with its offerings to meet their unique needs. You simply cannot try to be a brand with universal appeal. You also need to have clarity on what you offer; financial services are obviously what you are engaged in as a category, the answer needs to focus on a specific activity that can range from SME lending to consumer lending or even debt relief like, depending on the expertise of the organization. The more specific you can be, the better the focus on and clarity of your brand.

Is the Brand Compelling

For a brand to be successful, it is not enough for people to need your brand but to want it. It is important for them to believe genuinely that no other brand can fulfill their requirement. There are quite a few devices that can help you to map out the function of your brand, the McKinsey-authored Antes/Drivers graph being a popular one. The exercise comprises the mapping the brand promises on the X and Y-axes to find how relevant and differentiated they are to your target audience. The X-axis places your brand on a scale that ranges from being identical to the competition to something that is truly unique while the Y-axis, you determine the importance of the brand promise from low relevance to highly important. The resulting four quadrants tell you where your financial brand is when mapped in the minds of consumers. The lower-left quadrant contains elements that really do not matter either because they are irrelevant or because everyone else can say the same thing. The upper left quadrant contains elements that while being important to the customer do not provide any competitive differentiation. Despite that, you do need brand positions that are in this quadrant because they are essential for you to exist in your domain. The lower right quadrant contains the distinctive elements unique to you; however, they may not be relevant to the customer. It is actually the upper right quadrant that your brand should strive to be in because these are brand promises that not only separate you from the competition but also are important to the customer.

Consistency from One Touchpoint to the Next

You simply cannot create a brand if you keep on confusing your target audience regarding its formation, colors, and the way it is presented. To enable the brand to have an identity in the minds of the audience, it is necessary for the brand to be consistent; not necessarily only in advertising but also across all customer touch points, across channels, and across promotions. A brand image can take a lot of time to achieve the recognition it should have for it to achieve distinction and carry home the brand promise so you should be careful about not killing off your campaigns without giving them a chance to gain traction. Typically, the marketing team gets frustrated even before the audience does but it is important that brands can only be built with lots of consistency and patience. Consistency should cut across all not only all advertisements and promotions but also be the same across all opportunities for the customer to experience your organization. For example, the brand attitude that is conveyed in your advertisement needs to be carried through to the ambiance of your retail counter or office where the customer steps in to conduct a financial transaction. Unless all your actions are aligned the same way as your brand, you will have customers experiencing a brand gap.

Commitment to Make the Brand Thrive

After delving deep into the why and how of branding, you would have evolved a brand that truly stands for who you are and what you deliver to the customers, however, to make it grow and become an asset that contributes significantly, you will need to put in a lot of effort, time, and money. Without organizational commitment to make it thrive, it will remain unproductive and is likely to die a quick death. If the financial brand has to remain relevant to the company and its customers, the brand strategy cannot be consigned to a file that nobody bothers about. Brand building should be a part of the discussion agenda every month, not only in the marketing department but across the company. Establish a separate budget for it so that it never comes subservient to your marketing imperatives.


Brands are not built by accident but as a result of deliberate and conscious attempts to establish a distinct identity and presence in the minds of the target audience. The brand owner should be very clear regarding what the brand stands for so that the resultant clarity is also communicated to the customer. To be successful, the brand needs to be compelling and represent unique elements of your organization that are at the same time important to the customer and represented in a consistent manner across all channels and customer touch point so that there is never any identity clash of confusion. Organizational commitment to support the brand needs to be all-pervasive and growing the brand should be very high on the priorities of all departments.

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