How can financial services firms make the most of their brand?

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Your brand is central to your success.

As a Marketer, you know that – and you only need to look at the success of the world’s best brands to understand how crucial a consistent brand experience is.

How does this translate to financial services brands? And how can you make the most of the brand you have to drive customer satisfaction and corporate performance?

Brand identity in financial services

You could argue that a clear brand identity is more important for financial services firms than others.

Why?

  • Because banks and related industries have had a pretty poor public image in recent years, with mis-selling scandals, the financial crisis and reported failures to comply with regulations. A strong brand gives you the platform to move away from this; to state your aims, communicate your approach to customers, and share your ethical and social credentials.
  • Because for many people, the financial services sector is viewed as one entity. Banks and other firms may seem homogenous to the general public and your potential customers. If it’s not easy to differentiate your brand, the potential for your image to be tarnished by the actions of others is far greater.
  • Because financial services is facing an unprecedented wave of new competitors; disruptive start-ups and innovators who are stealing a march on traditional banks. For incumbent firms faced with agile, technology-led competitors, a respected brand is one of the few ways you can stay ahead.

How to make the most of your brand

Your brand is crucial to the effectiveness of your marketing. So it’s pretty important that you get it right.

The good news is that there are steps you can take – many of them quite easily – to improve the way your brand is perceived.

  1. Emulate the most-respected brands. Look at the things the world’s best brands do, and how you can emulate them. They’re customer-centric and driven by the need to create solutions that tackle customers’ problems.
  1. Understand the importance of compliance. Regulatory compliance may seem a dry topic, a million miles removed from the dynamic, sexy business of branding. In fact, if you’re a regulated business, compliance and your brand are intrinsically linked.

Meeting regulatory standards – as well as being a requirement – is a signpost to current and prospective customers that you take your responsibilities seriously; that you do things properly and keep your customers at the heart of your strategy.

  1. Focus on consistency. Consistency is one of the most important elements of a strong brand strategy – because it makes you recognisable, it stands you apart from your lesser competitors and means that people can identify your products and services, and actively seek them out.

Consistent brand identity should be part of your firm’s DNA – ensuring that your service levels and product quality deliver on your marketing promises.

This last point – brand consistency – can be a particular challenge. Especially in the professional services sector, where your partners, consultants or advisers are often the external face of your brand, and the Marketing team aren’t the only people who produce marketing materials.

What can you do to make sure your internal teams recognise, execute and support your brand policy?

1. Communicate that consistency is brand-enhancing, not brand-limiting

Too often, brand guidelines can be seen as ‘policing’ look and feel, or stifling creativity.  The business needs to be reminded that consistency amplifies your brand's strengths, while deviating from your brand standards diminishes them.

2. Make your own team the biggest brand champions

The Marketing team should be unfailing proponents of your brand. There are no excuses for inconsistencies within Marketing when it comes to brand compliance!

3. Have clear, well-communicated brand guidelines

All firms need clear brand standards that are well-communicated and easily-accessible. Ignorance cannot be an excuse for failing to adhere to brand standards.

4. Make brand assets easily available

If brand assets – logos, imagery, approved colours – are not easily accessible, it’s harder for people to stick to brand guidelines (and easier to ignore them!) Make sure everything people need in order to be brand-compliant is close at hand.

5. Make everyone responsible for your brand

A consistent brand is the responsibility of everyone in your firm. Being a brand saboteur isn’t big or clever. Anyone who produces client-facing materials should have brand training to ensure they can champion the correct branding. Messages around consistency need to come from the top of your firm.

6. Be robust about compliance

All materials need to be checked before they’re issued to ensure they are on-brand. Compliance review and approval isn’t only about regulatory requirements, but should cover brand consistency too. Approval workflow tools can make this process quicker and more efficient.

7. Keep control of marketing materials produced outside the Marketing team

It can be particularly hard to manage brand consistency for documents and presentations that don’t originate in the Marketing team. If you produce collateral via external agencies, best practice agency briefing can help.

But ensuring consistency in client-facing documents and presentations that originate from other teams, like sales and customer services, can be more challenging.

Creating templates for Word documents and PowerPoint presentations, with a ‘library’ of approved options, is one way to lock down the fonts, colours and images used, as well as ensuring that corporate information is up to date.

Consistency – the key ingredient in financial services branding

Creating a consistent brand – through compliant marketing materials and rigorous enforcement of brand standards, and by making it easy for people in your business to access brand assets – is essential for all firms, but perhaps particularly so for regulated financial services firms.

To read more about how you can do this, you can read our ‘Five top tips for ensuring brand consistency’. The tips are available in our resource library, and you can download a free copy here.

Nothing in this document should be treated as an authoritative statement of the law. Action should not be taken as a result of this document alone. We make no warranty and accept no responsibility for consequences arising from relying on this document.

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