Archive for the ‘Branding’ Category


Monday, March 25th, 2013









A few years ago, this would be the reaction of most businesses.  It was a term that usually meant a kind of canned corn.  Or a hair dryer.  Some consumer product.   Not anymore.                                                                                                                                                                                                   Today, it is probably one of the most important aspects of being in business.  And why?  Because people and organizations don’t have a lot of time.  And when they need to make a buying decision, they need to make it now.  That means your business has to be top-of-mind.  Buyers have to be aware of your service and what differentiates you from the competition.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Brand awareness.  Without it, your product or service probably isn’t included in the buying decision!

And that brand needs to be focused.  Clearly understood.  It must stand out over the other competitors.  You really need to concentrate on what specifically you provide to the marketplace. And then concentrate much of your efforts in establishing that brand identity.
It’s as simple as that.  And if you’re not involved in brand identity, you’re losing business.

So, do you have to change your name or something?  Are you offering the right products?  What should you say?  What should you do?

Engage someone who understands it.  Who can help you discuss the many issues that need to be addressed. And can help you develop some realistic marketing communications and planning.  Put them into place, and see what happens.  And then keep making adjustments as time goes along.   Because the market doesn’t stand still.   And there are new competitors entering the marketplace every day.

So.  You’ve been in business how long?  And what is your brand identity?



Monday, November 7th, 2011





Keep this in mind as you evaluate your own web site.

Have you ever been introduced to people who tell you their name and what they do?  They give a fairly good explanation. But in the end, you walk away and have trouble believing what they said.  Your intuition says something isn’t right.

Conversely, you meet other people and like them immediately. You want to get to know them better. They seem to be experienced in their field.  They like what they do.  They’re proud of their work.  They’ve been successful in their efforts.  And they’re interested in you.  You want more.

Back to my point.  I just finished reviewing the web sites of four big international companies.  I was asked to assess how a company entering the U.S. market for the first time should use a web site to help in their initial marketing and sales efforts.  I started with a review of how four competitors used their existing sites for the same purpose.

The results were surprising. I expected “Dynamic”.  “Successful.  “Exciting and interesting issues.”  What did I get?  Overly technical.  Looked like each other. Little color. Lots of copy. Stock photographs.  Difficult to find basic answers to basic and simple questions.

Here was a real opportunity to stand out. To be focused. To be interesting and relevant.  Why they missed the mark is the fault of many people who should know better.  But I suspect the primary reason was that they really weren’t interested in talking to someone from the “outside”.  They were more interested in talking about what they wanted to hear from the “inside”.

Web sites work at their best levels when they address people new to their site.  Customers have other networks to find information they need.  And employees are able to find company information through other avenues.

My conclusion:  Here is a great opportunity for a new company to come into the communications arena with a focused, on-target, exciting message, and very quickly establish a believable and important presence.  Because the competition isn’t doing the job at all.




Wednesday, June 15th, 2011








Buyers are wary and judgmental. This is the time when you want to make certain that you continue to deliver the product and service that customers expect; those that can attract new business.

Some parts of the country are having a rough time with this economy.   And while doing little may be the mind-set for many organizations, now is the best time to do some assessing.   Back-to Basics, as they say.    For instance, answer questions like “What business are we really in?” and “What is it that we do better than our competitors?”  You need to find out now how you can help the organization take advantage of the upcoming improvement in market conditions.  Because it will happen!

So how will changing my name make a difference?  I didn’t say change your name; change the way it looks. (See “Logo” at Wikipedia.)

To give you an example of what this means to anyone involved in retail, drive along any strip mall or shopping center.  You’ll quickly realize how important your logo is. Most of these logos lose their identity because there is so much signage competition.  And since many are poorly designed and executed, it has led many developers to enforce strict signage regulations.  Developers try to bring customers to the area, adding “directionals” to the stores that customers are familiar with.

In changing the way your name is presented, you have a chance to give a better focus to who you are and what you do.  In the three examples above, you see that the name has not changed, but the use of color, placement and type style can give out subtle and very different signals  as to the kind of business Andy’s  might be. Add an appropriate symbol to be more specific.  It is important to make strong, focused assessments: color and font decisions help to better identify the customer’s desired service. As well, alterations of your logo give a signal to the marketplace that you’re bringing new value to your product and service.  Note J.C.Penney’s latest change!

An often overlooked and huge benefit of a logo change is the signal it sends to your employees that you are continuing to look at how you can improve your business.  You’re “keeping up”!  They will respond with enthusiasm and keener interest.  It will be a time when you can make improvements in policies and procedures which will help them better serve the organization.  Get them involved and it will be their change in attitude that will help to create a new and incredible difference.

Take some time and consider…when the market sees or hears your company’s name, what response would you want from them?  Then send me an email. Or give me a call.   It’s time to talk.


Community Bank Marketing – 2011 “BRANDING” (Featured article in Bankers Digest – 15/11/10)

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010






As the marketplace continues to vacillate from an ever hopeful increase in growth to a sobering recession, and with so many definitions of the consumer and business mentality unfolding, it seems important to review some of the banking issues that are at work in the marketplace.

Some working for you

- Your bank continues to maintain a level of trust in your local community.

- A customer can talk with an actual bank employee regarding their financial dealings with the institution.

- You’re convenient.  Probably just around the corner from your customer base.

- There is less “shopping” to do since most banks offer similar services

- Many of your customers will still come to you first when looking for solutions to financial situations.

- You can still engage your customers, and remind them of your value to their financial well being.

Some working against you

- In general, because of recent events in the financial marketplace, bank customers have less respect for the industry. (₁)

- You don’t have the attributes of a big bank; lots of convenient offices, the latest technology, delivery of service outside your “community” area, the ability to react quickly to a financial  need or situation.

- Customers are considering more alternatives to traditional bank services.

- The internet provides information and locations for new and varied offerings.

- Many banks have been bought out, or have failed.  And the future portends that this trend will increase.

- It seems as though banks have always complicated customer service with a lot of requirements necessary for regulatory compliance.  The future indicates that this will intensify.

- Customers don’t always understand bank regulations and procedures that require extra time on their part.

- The ability to customize services and price them accordingly seems to be an attribute of big banks.  They seem to offer more, for less.

- Savings rates are almost non-existent.

- Mortgages requirements are more stringent and require more time and a lot of paper work.

- Only the big banks seem to utilize and extend technological services.

- People are busier.  There is less time to think through their decisions.  They deal with organizations that they are aware of.

- Brands have become more important in the decision as to where to do  business.

- Customers don’t have to come “into” the bank.  ATMs, Drive-ups, and the internet provide service needs.  There are fewer occasions to interact with customers, inform them, and hear of their needs.

- Customers  tend to have more than one primary bank.  They are more prone to look for better service, better prices, specific services, and less hassle.

(₁) J.D. Power and Associates 2010 U.S. Small Business Banking Satisfaction StudySM

Because traditional Marketing practices take time and planning (and time is of the essence), a new approach should be considered, where Market influences become more of a strategic partner in spelling out a business plan for the bank.  This is where “Branding” plays a new and exciting role.

Branding has become one of the leading disciplines in a growing number of businesses.  It has a rich history in the consumer market and is now playing an important role in the business-to-business world as well.  It is not your logo.  Or your latest tag line.  Essentially, “it defines who you are, what you do, and why that matters.  It’s not what you say it is.  It’s what they say it is.” (Marty Neumeier – The Brand Gap)   You must have a clearer understanding of how your organization differentiates itself from the competition, and make certain these factors become a part of the perception of the bank…its image.

One of the best techniques in determining this new direction is to perform an Image/ Brand Assessment.  It will tell you what attitudes you, your employees, your customers, and prospects have regarding your Brand.  Basically, these are research projects that help to identity attitudes.  These attitudes play an increasing role in providing customers the service they want.  The primary value that such Assessments bring to the business plan is a clearer understanding of how such information can be utilized in dealing with customers, and attracting new business.  There are many benefits, notably:  you will have a more focused definition of customer service;  training will be have a clearer and more measureable focus;  promotions will be more direct and specific in their results;  and Communications will be more defined and predictable.

In summary, building a better “Brand” will help you to build a better bank.

“Brand.” What is it?

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

A number of people are familiar with the term “Brand”, but for the most part have only a vague  understanding of its meaning.  And since it has become an incredible force in the success of any  organization, it seems appropriate to write about it.

Some say, I know.  It’s about the logo.  Well, yes.  That’s true.  Others are convinced, it’s about the  tag line.   Well…yes, it’s  that, too.   So, if I want to upgrade my Brand, should I redo my logo and  redo my tag line?  Will I have a new Brand?  Well…not quite.

“Brand” is all about thinking through and preparing a business strategy.  The two items above are representatives of  that strategy.

So…what kind of a strategy are you talking about?   Well most of the time, when you talk with traditional strategic planners, they are referring to the over-all business strategy for an organization, primarily with an inside-out perspective.  A “Brand” Strategy is one that is conceived from an outside-in perspective.

It begins with being very aware of what’s happening in the marketplace.  What is “your position” “your image” in that environment?  What must you do to maintain it, or improve it?  It means knowing your competition and what they are offering.  How you are alike and how you are different.  It means knowing your customers.  Why they continue to do business with you.  It means that you hire a certain kind of employee that can help you meet your goals, and meet the needs of your customers.  What kind of incentives to give them in order for them to better do their job.  What kind of training they will need.  It means what kind of mandates you will give your management group.  And the kinds of incentive you will offer them for meeting those goals.

A Brand Strategy is a “template” for making decisions regarding sales, marketing , advertising, hiring, support services, customer service, systems, IT,  HR, budgets, finance…you know…the whole ball a’ wax.

So, the next time your think Brand, think strategy.  Get your head in the marketplace.

Your success depends on it.

Question: What is your bank’s brand/image?

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

web site photos 044If there is an industry that needs to review it’s branding efforts, this is the one.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      With the financial meltdown that is continuing to occur, and the over abundance of bad press that financial executives seem to garner, this seems a place for the attention of all banking professionals.  With the crisis still  in sway, it would seem that most financial institutions are keeping their heads down.  If they’re not  mentioned in the  press, then things must be okay.  That kind of heads-in-the-sand thinking  may be disastrous.  (A reminder of the Valdez crisis might give this service industry something to think about.)

And why would re-branding  be a good subject to contemplate?

Well first, lets remember that banks are highly regulated.  And that’s not all bad.  I’m tired of viewing too many bank ad campaigns that have nothing to do with being responsible for their customer’s money.   But because of such extensive regulation, the mind set is for bankers to toe the line.  Keep things quiet.  Unfortunately what’s missing is any kind of differentiation from one bank to the next.  Yes there is a difference between a community bank and a regional/national bank. Usually extended varieties of service.  But that’s about it.

And what is a good example of a bank with a unique image?

Wells Fargo Bank comes to mind.  Scenes from the Old West.  Stagecoaches.  Historical significance.  So why would anyone want to do business with that kind of an institution?  First, for a number of years they’ve been saying “We deliver. Always have.”    This imagery ties its historical (emotional) image to its financial promise.  Once done, that image works in a very different way.  Like branding and image-building works for other service and product industries.  After all, Home Depot’s image doesn’t revolve around a hardware store concept.  It goes way beyond just supplying things for your house!

Any banking entity can have a unique image.  And it doesn’t have to be like every other bank’s identity.  Names can change.  New promises can be made.  A new focus can be addressed.  And the customer base will welcome it.  Customers are use to every other product reinventing itself.   Why not your friendly banker down the street?  I don’t mean new slogans.  There are thousands of slogans.  What they need to do is figure out who they serve, and focus on that markets’ needs.   And start by bringing a new story –  an image – for that market to begin to understand and appreciate.  And in today’s competitive demand for a clear and specific brand, consumers will welcome a new awareness of what makes that bank different.   It will keep customers.  And attract new ones!  Over time, that will be a continually welcomed addition to bottom line profitability.

More about this later.