One of the keys to unleashing the potential of an organization to step into the next level of market growth is building and clearly articulating a unified brand strategy and brand-driven culture. With it, you can inspire and guide internal teams towards meaningful change and consistent communications that align to build a fresh and well-differentiated brand image. This can create a unique experience in the market, generating meaningful differentiation from competitors.

One of the first challenges facing most financial institutions is identifying whether your current brand program and messaging is helping – or hindering employees from knowing how to behave consistently and help customers bank smarter, simpler and solve problems every day.

Is your mission clear and your values compelling and lived out?

In our work with over 160 credit unions and community banks across North America, we’ve discovered the vast majority of mission statements are vague, filled with hyperbole and have little or nothing to do with delivering extraordinary service experiences. Instead of inspiring great brand experiences, they lead to staff confusion.

In our internal cultural surveys and staff focus groups, we find most organizations’ core values are not remembered -- or clear to staff. Few employees have a clear idea how to embody brand actions or deliver experiences that reflect the core values (e.g. how will I see or hear integrity being lived out?). NPS scores and detailed consumer research often reveal a very different picture than what management believes.

But shouldn’t your core values align tightly to your unique brand promise and be passionately demonstrated every day? It might be time to look at updating your values. 

The Power of a Focused and Relevant Brand Experience

When brands are driven by a clear and simple brand promise, aligned tightly to your personality and key messages, employees can see exactly how to embody them and create memorable brand experiences.

Reinforced by coaching and rewarded, they become part of a new brand “tribal language” among the staff. Sharing these unique brand attributes and living out clear values with a common staff language can change your business and brand service experiences forever for the better.

We have developed one of the most unique brand training programs in the industry to move clients beyond basic service quality or sales culture training, to live our consistent brand experiences, using a common set of brand messages that link staff to a unifying brand promise.

“It’s not just the brand’s visual identity that’s most important, but rather the values and overall messages of the brand. Even before Weber Marketing designed our new logo and look and feel, our brand was about the cultural change. A real substantive redirection of an institution takes engaging the staff.”

- Juli Anne Callis, CEO, NIH Federal Credit Union

To a prospect walking in your door for the first time, this level of positive energy and consistent rich brand experience can generate an audible “wow.” Although your visitor can’t exactly define what that “wow” is, seeing and feeling a well-orchestrated brand experience, passionate staff and brand processes that work seamlessly is absolutely refreshing. This is especially true in a commoditized financial services industry not known for passionate branded service like Nordstrom or Apple stores.

Remember your own experience at that gem of a neighborhood hangout, or restaurant that becomes your favorite. Or even the local bartender, waiter or florist whose quirky, fun, knowledgeable and welcoming “vibe” sets an incredible tone. The vibe didn’t just happen one day. It took aligning people to deliver extraordinary experiences. The cultural impact of this kind of “engineered” brand cultural shift – and the customer storytelling, loyalty and referrals that can result – spreads like wildfire.

“The facts are that since the brand transformation and Weber Marketing Group’s involvement, new loan originations have significantly exceeded all prior records. We achieved 32% core deposit growth and new member growth has been steady in our targeted younger segments. This trend is heading in a positive direction.”

- Juli Anne Callis, CEO, NIH Federal Credit Union

Using brand design to simplify experiences

One of Weber Marketing Group’s most powerful tools for shaping and improving consumer perceptions is engineering brand design into traditional and complex operational processes like branch design and website user experiences.

Brand design used strategically helps our clients simplify and engineer transformational changes in consumer perceptions by aligning channels and brand experiences. That includes linking in person experiences (branch layout, digital media, ATM screens), social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube), and interactive content (branded videos, website, microsites, intranet). It becomes a seamless and refreshingly bold visual style, with a unique voice, and dynamic personality. Great design style, combined with personal “brand storytelling” of what impacts and relational connections look like, is highly persuasive in shaping new image perceptions.

But brand building can’t stop with external brand look and feel, color and rich messaging alone. Great branding must transform consumer experiences from the inside out. Well-focused cultural staff brand training, driven by a well-defined set of actions, new staff behaviors, extraordinary service standards, embodying core values, and a fresh set of messages (yes, you will need one consistent “elevator pitch” for everyone), can help you align 40, or even 400 employees. Our brand training programs help our clients deliver a consistent, unique and clearly superior branded service experience. It can enhance and drive new levels of net member growth, increased loyalty and higher levels of profitable relationships.

“Organizational realignment around mission and values has consistently been a driving force behind helping our clients achieve breakthrough results in growth, profitability and ROI. Simplicity, consistency and authenticity are key.”

- Mike Watson, Principal, Wazuku Advisory Group

Orchestrate your brand experiences to set yourself apart

Stellar brand experiences like the Four Seasons deliver like a great symphony of musicians aligned behind a melodic musical score. No detail is missed to ensure total satisfaction of guests to win their enduring advocacy, storytelling and referrals. It occurs behind the scenes, proactively and ongoing to ensure a personalized, unique and powerful focus of each clients needs and wants.

Trying to stand out in delivering a suite of largely commoditized financial services is tough and technology is not making it necessarily easier. You can take a few lessons from outside the banking industry about brand experience building to drive differentiation and positive sustained growth.