Managing image and brand.

Author:Tarantin, Dan

Managing corporate image, identity and brand has become an important way to differentiate a bank when almost all financial institutions offer roughly the same commodity products and services.

It wasn't too long ago that banks dominated financial services. People needed a safe place to keep their money and a trusted source for their credit needs. As long as each bank offered standard products and competitive rates, there was little to distinguish one from another. Customers often chose a bank based on personal recommendations or the most convenient location.

"You are dealing with people's money, so there still has to be an element of security and trust there," says Tom Doug]is, vice president of brand strategy with Enterprise IG, a San Francisco brand-and-identity consulting agency. The focus now is on customer service and retention. As banking has evolved into a more relationship- and solutions-oriented industry, banks have been pressed to determine what distinguishes them from the competition. "Branding has become highly important as a way to differentiate what, for many, has become a commodity offering," Douglis says.

Below are five basic steps in managing corporate image, identity and brand.

  1. Be consistent in establishing and delivering on a brand promise, "Great brands ... promise an experience at every point of contact with all the stakeholders," Douglis says. The total customer experience-from the image conveyed by the advertising, to the appearance of the branches, to the customer service representative who answers the phone-should reinforce the brand.

    "Alignment is key," notes Ron Denny, senior vice president of advertising and public relations of Branch Banking & Trust (BB&T), Winston-Salem, N.C. 'We have to communicate and remind people daily of their role in delivering the brand promise." The financial institution defines that promise as "a bank for individuals and businesses who value service and personal relationships more than price or product."

  2. Ensure that senior management is involved in the effort. "If senior management is not a believer in the corporate brand, chances of success are limited," Douglis says. At BB&T, "senior management (is) visible, approachable, on the same page, and walking the walk every day."

  3. Include all employees, even the most junior ones, in the branding campaign. "At the end of the day, every company is comprised of people," Douglis says. "If your people can't deliver the brand experience, all...

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