MARKETERS ARE SOMETIMES FRUSTRATED in their attempts to sell top management on the idea of investing in a strong brand. Not all managers understand the importance of building and maintaining a powerful brand.
My suggestion: Steer the discussion so that branding is dealt with as a strategic rather than as a tactical issue. Also, emphasize the special importance of rigorous branding in the financial services industry, especially in today's challenging market conditions. I'll talk about this in more detail below.
Good brands need time, investment
As marketers, we understand the value of brands. Vibrant brands do the following:
* Differentiate us from our competitors.
* Create customer loyalty.
* Support premium pricing.
* Help us recruit the best and brightest.
* Increase focus and reduce costs.
* Insulate us from negative occurrences.
In the financial services industry, a strong brand is particularly valuable because of its ability to differentiate a bank in an industry where products and services are almost indistinguishable.
We marketers also understand that strong brands don't just "happen": They must be built and nurtured to remain authentic, differentiating, relevant and sustainable. Undertaking such an effort takes considerable time and investment.
Teach management about branding
To convince top management of the benefits of a brand building or refreshment initiative, start with some basic branding education--Branding 101, so to speak. Explain that branding goes well beyond a logo or advertising campaign. Point out that a brand is the essence or promise of what is delivered to or experienced by customers and noncustomers alike. Investing in a strong brand is one of the single most important strategies that an organization can undertake to ensure continued relevance and growth in a rapidly changing market.
It may help you to explain the concept in language that executives can appreciate, e.g., the bank's reputation or customer experience. I'm guessing that if you asked bank CEOs if the bank's reputation is important to them, or if they care about the type of experience their customers receive, most would probably reply, "Of course I care." In other words, they are concerned about building a strong brand.
Even more persuasive, however, will be a reminder to senior management that strong brands translate into tangible value for the organization. Our company has found it useful to share examples of top-valued brands with bank managers. Look, for example, at the list on page 18. This list is published annually by Millward Brown, New York, a company that researches brand equity.
This information helps to communicate the idea that a brand can be valuable--and that the value can increase when the brand is bolstered. The value of a bank's brand is no different. From a macro perspective, the market places a value on a bank's brand. For example, it has been estimated the value of Wells Fargo brand has increased over $7 billion from 2010 to 2011 while Morgan Stanley has decreased $1 billion during that same period.
Certainly financial performance is a major contributor to the value of the bank's brand; however, there are many other factors that impact that value as well. One of the leading agencies that values bank brands, Brand Finance, looks at attributes such as:
* Asset strength.
* Market share.
* Emotional connection.
The branding process
Once your management is convinced of the importance of branding, it should be more amenable to the idea of building or refreshing a brand.