A financial brand is not simply what your company looks like. It is what people think about you.
What sorts of feelings and associations are stirred up in your target audience when they experience your brand, perhaps for the first time?
Are you cold and unfriendly?
Friendly and informal?
Somewhere in between? What about other areas, emotions and connotations?
These sorts of questions are fundamentally important because human beings largely make buying decisions out of emotions. They then justify them with logic.
Think about what that means for your financial brand. If your clients and potential clients feel positive about your brand, then they are more likely to listen to you, trust you and ultimately buy from you.
In this article, we’re going to talk about six crucial traits which define a strong financial services brand. Of course, every brand is different – but these six threads hold virtually all of them together.
The following is adapted from Interbrand’s external brand factors, so let’s dive in.
#1 Being real
This is sometimes defined as “authenticity.” For a financial brand, that means your visual identity, staff behaviour, customer journey and overall brand experience are all consistent with your beliefs and values.
Most people do not like – nor trust – individuals or businesses which pretend to be something they’re not. We’re instinctively repelled by those who come across as false, or phoney.
How can you tell whether or not someone is authentic? Think about the people you know, who you would describe as “authentic”. They tend to get excited about the things which truly excite them. They tend to commit to the things they truly care about.
They tend to be honest and transparent. They don’t usually argue forcefully in favour of something, only to immediately act or go against that belief.
You get the idea. Both authenticity and inauthenticity are usually easy to detect. We are usually attracted to the former, and we tend to avoid the latter.
A financial brand which acts, sounds, looks and behaves in line with what it professes to believe and value most, will attract and engage far more people in their target audience – and much more effectively.
#2 Being relevant
What makes something relevant or irrelevant?
Usually, a product or service is seen as “relevant” if it connects emotionally with customers – especially if it plausibly fixes a problem they are facing.
The same holds true for a financial brand.
Having a “relevant” brand isn’t necessarily about looking cool, modern or up-to-date (although those visual elements can be a part of the picture). Rather, do you look like a plausible solution to a common, painfully-experienced problem?
Do you “speak the language” of the people you are trying to connect your brand with?
Is your message timely, appropriate and powerfully-experienced by your target audience? Or do you use jargon and language which alienates them?
What is it that makes your financial brand fundamentally different from the competition?
This goes beyond just having a different logo and colour scheme, although those are hugely important.
It also touches on your positioning – are you the high-quality, premium option for customers or are you the high-volume, cheaper one?
Is there a service which you provide which people really want, and which isn’t offered elsewhere?
This overlaps with the idea of authenticity but is more focused on your visual identity.
For instance, do your logo, imagery, fonts and colour scheme all look consistent across your various brand communications? Or do they look different on your social media, email and brochures?
Inconsistency creates uncertainty and unease in your customers’ minds. Subconsciously, people start to think: “What if their service is also inconsistent? Can I really count on them to be there for me?”
Having a “present” financial brand isn’t just about being visible to your target audience. It’s also about people’s ability to recognise your financial brand and remember it.
Your brand might be incredibly visible (due to great advertising and PR), but if people cannot quickly identifying it and if it does not easily stick in people’s minds, then visibility hardly counts for much.
There are many ways to make your financial brand more “sticky” and memorable. It could be a strapline or a visual cue which people quickly associate with your brand.
Think of the Nike “tick”, for instance, which people immediately associate with the brand without even needing to see the name Nike.
Have you ever watched an advert for a company on TV or YouTube, and afterwards asked yourself:
“What was all that about?”
“What did elephants have to do with [X company]?”
Financial brands are especially vulnerable to being misunderstood by their target audience, do to the (often) complex nature of the services they provide.
You, therefore, need to be careful not to use jargon, images, headlines and calls to action which simply fall flat on your audience, or cause confusion.
Some of the most powerful brands on the planet have the ability to quickly make people look at them and say: “Ah, I get it. I know what they do. That’s great.”
One useful test of your financial brand in this regards is to try and explain what your business does, within two sentences.
If you can do that, great. Now, try explaining what you do to a four-year-old.
If you cannot do that, then perhaps you need to visit the “comprehension” aspect of your financial brand!
There you have it – six aspects of a financial brand which makes it truly powerful and effective.
It’s important to note that this does not cover every aspect of a great brand. There are other important areas which we haven’t been able to cover here, such as brand clarity and commitment. Those will be for another article at another time!
If you are interested in speaking with us about improving these various areas of your financial brand through a bespoke project, then we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today to arrange a free consultation with one of our branding specialists.