Generic products with blank white label on a pink background. Photo credit Birgith RoosipuuBeing a generic financial brand is costing you big. It’s costing you new customers right now, and it’s costing you future customers because what you’re saying about your brand is so milquetoast it doesn’t strike a chord with anyone. It doesn’t get noticed, and it certainly doesn’t attract fans.

There are already so many institutions with similar names that confusion runs rampant. If you can’t do something about your name, you have to work even harder to stand for something and stand out.

Financial branding 101

With care and stewardship, brands become strong. Over time, return on that investment becomes staggering. Why?

  1. People TRUST a brand.
  2. People PAY MORE for a brand.
  3. People TALK ABOUT brands.
  4. People want to ASSOCIATE with brands.
  5. People are LOYAL to brands.

Any financial marketer who can facilitate development of these attributes for their brand creates longterm revenue and profit. I’ll say it again: a strong brand delivers longterm revenue and profit.

The brand name is the tip of the iceberg

The traditional financial institution marketplace abounds with confusing, lookalike, sound-alike names, color palettes and stock photo imagery. Having a unique name helps (this is an area where many neobanks excel), but it’s not the only thing.

see a comprehensive list of neobank names here

Financial branders also must invest in developing a unique brand promise. Dust off the mission statement. Rediscover or reinvent the vision. Articulate what you’re here to do, then work through your entire system to deliver on it. That takes time to do right.

This is not the “nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee” campaign from the old days where repeating a name on three networks makes an impact.

3 strategies for creating successful financial brands

  1. Allow time to conduct deep-dive planning and creative work that supports it. Investing the upfront time to uncover your uniqueness is vital. You may be too close to it to be objective. Partner with a bank branding agency to bring a strategic point of view and industry perspective.

If your institution has an in-house marketing department, you may be hampered by politics or “we can’t do it that way” institutional attitudes from others. You may also find your person-power is stretched too thin. The right bank branding agency can help shore up your efforts.

  1. Give employees time and training to learn and embrace it. Join forces with HR and training departments to ensure everyone on your team understands the brand and their vital role in helping bring it to life at every touchpoint. This builds an unassailable employer brand.
  2. Understand that customers and prospects will learn the brand promise over time—but only if they see it and experience it for themselves. There are no shortcuts to greatness. A dedication to ongoing brand building is imperative. This means your whole team is in it for the long term.

4 common bank branding mistakes

  1. Trying to please everyone. Leadership may urge you to broaden the language of your promise—or to water it down—because they want to jam in as many attributes as possible. In attempting to say everything, you say nothing at all.
  2. Leading with “great customer service.” Great service is a customer expectation, not a brand differentiator. If customers can’t get good service, they can simply move on.
  3. Trying to hobble along with an ubiquitous name. While a unique promise and customer experience are huge differentiators, a Generic National Bank name is a huge hurdle to overcome. For example, there are over 200 separate institutions with the name Farmers. See a list of common names here.
  4. Saving money and looking like everyone else. Custom photography or illustration is an investment, so many bank marketers save money by using stock images. There’s nothing wrong with stock, but only if it’s well-curated and has a creative conceptual theme that supports the brand. Otherwise, an investment in custom photography can further differentiate your brand.

Branding is expensive. Being generic costs even more.

Several banks we know who have similar names and logos have had customers show up at a competitor's branch. This is just one of a host of problems that will be solved with strong branding. Read about these issues and more in an article we wrote for The Financial Brand or our 5-minute video on best practices for brand audits.

Don’t throw good money after bad. If your financial brand is generic, you have to spend (a lot) more just to be at parity with the other generic competitors. Instead, invest wisely starting today. In the not-too-distant future, you’ll reap the rewards of longterm loyalty and profit for your bank.

Want to talk about building a unique, memorable and authentic brand for your bank or credit union? Contact Martha Bartlett Piland, CFMP to get started: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or direct at 785.969.6203.

Generic product photo credit: Birgith Roosipuu