Does Your Bank Have a Compelling Brand Story?​

When customers think of your bank, does it have a narrative? Does it stand for something?

If not, it may lack a compelling brand story – that means that it’s becoming lost in the competitive financial institution landscape.

Not standing out can be a problem, especially when banking is a service that often has a reputation as less-than-exciting. Many people do not see a difference between financial service providers and are willing to switch based on deals and promotions. For this reason, a strong brand story can go a long way in differentiating your bank and attracting and retaining customers. Stories are powerful communication devices and can be used to connect with people emotionally. They have passed information along to others in a memorable way throughout history.

So, what is your story? Are you a disruptor or challenger? Are you a confident leader? An approachable advisor? Or do you provide legendary customer experience?

The following questions can help identify areas in which your brand story may need improvement.

Is your story memorable?

If people do not remember your values and personality, your story may not connecting with what matters to current and potential customers. Does it have an emotional angle and speak to banking customer pain points and needs? Does it have qualities and values that customers find important? Another issue could be that it it is not being seen in high visibility channels. For example, you may have a compelling story but it is only expressed in your mission statement on your website where customers are not likely to look. Consider using different formats, such as visual, verbal, and auditory expressions to maximize memorability. It is also important to ensure that your story is consistent across different channels so that the message is clear.

Is your story unique?

The next question is whether or not your brand story is unique. In banking, attributes such as trust, friendliness, customer experience, and helpfulness are common story elements, understandably. However, if every financial institution is saying the same thing, they will all blur together in the minds of customers. To gain their attention, your story needs to be different from your competitors’. Finding a unique angle is a difficult challenge, but can have a large impact.

In Canada, Tangerine bank has had success in recent years as it has built a distinct story and transitioned from ING Direct. For the last six years, it has been ranked “Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Midsized Retail Banks” in J.D. Power’s Canadian Retail Banking Customer Satisfaction Study. Tangerine offers simplified everyday banking with messaging such as “saving money shouldn’t be hard” and has a vibrant, friendly visual brand identity. The bank has an innovative feel with an easy to use mobile app and offers”forward thinking” financial advice and tips. By focusing on mainly digital services, Tangerine is able to save money and stand out by offering free checking accounts and low fees.

Is your story buzz-worthy?

Another important dimension is if people want to share your story with others. Word of mouth and customer recommendations can be very powerful in spreading your message, since people generally trust their friends and family. Look for story elements that will start conversations and aim for experiences that will make people happy and proud to be associated with your brand. While negative experiences will definitely get people talking (and potentially ranting on social media), positive attention is the goal, of course. Delighted customers that rave to others about your brand story in person and through digital channels will help improve your image and attract new customers.

Do your two stories align?

What you say about yourself means nothing if your customer experiences do not reflect it. For example, you can tell everyone that you are friendly and caring, but unfriendly and impersonal experiences will override your storytelling efforts. Contradictions in messaging and customer experience can lead to distrust and skepticism, which is not ideal since many customers today are looking for authentic, genuine, and caring brands that can be trusted. So, there are two stories to consider; the one told by you, including mission statements, messaging, campaigns, and sponsorship; and the one told by those who interact with your brand, including positive or negative word of mouth and recommendations. If your actions match up with your words, these two stories will create a strong, united identity.

A memorable, unique, and buzz-worthy brand story that is consistent across different channels and is aligned with what you say, what you do, and how you make customers feel will be a compelling advantage in the banking market. Does your story have these elements?