Financial branding is so much more than your logo, colour scheme and imagery. It’s also about the story it tells.
This is becoming even more important in today’s fast-paced digital world, where instant rewards are easily available. This is making human touch even more valuable – where people can be connected with on a deeper level.
Think about the stories you know and love; perhaps a favourite novel or film. You hold them deeply to your heart and they live somewhere deeply inside you, where they cannot be easily dislodged.
Indeed, the only ways they could ever be replaced is by another excellent story, or finding out that the first story was a lie.
Financial advisers, by and large, do not invest in a brand story. Perhaps the endeavour feels unnecessary, too much work or is too difficult. With an experienced branding partner, however, it is possible – and well worth the effort.
Below, our branding team at CreativeAdviser shares why storytelling matters for financial firms and how to start discovering your own narrative. We hope this helps and inspires you. Get in touch if you’d like to discuss your own branding project with us.
The nature of brand storytelling
Think about the core aspects of a good story. It has its characters, setting, conflict, escalating action, climax and conclusion.
This typical narrative structure allows for people to easily follow the story and remember it afterwards. A story which misses any of these core components – or mixes them up – is likely to not work.
When it comes to branding, many financial firms mistakenly think that the main character in the story is them – rather than the client. They spend lots of time talking about themselves, where they have been and what they can do instead of making their audience the Hero.
Here is useful definition of brand storytelling by Kaitlin Loyal:
Brand storytelling is using a narrative to connect your brand to customers, with a focus on linking what you stand for to the values you share with your customers.
From this, Kaitlin draws out three primary aspects to brand storytelling, which financial firms can learn from:
- Narrative. This covers the core elements to a story mentioned above (character, conflict etc.).
- What you stand for. Simon Sinek calls this the “Why” behind a brand. Rather than focusing on what you do and how your firm makes money, talk about the purpose behind it all – the big picture/vision that it fits into.
- Values. The characters in a story have traits that set them apart from each other, making them memorable and likable to the audience. Here, your company (one of the “characters”) demonstrates its traits (or values) through the prevailing behaviour of staff.
How do I find the story of my financial brand?
This is not an easy process and part of the work we do at CreativeAdviser is to tease this out, through an in-depth creative project.
However, there is much work you can do on your own, too. Here, Debbie Williams at the CMI (Content Marketing Institute) offers six helpful questions to ask yourself about your financial brand. These help illuminate different stories, and include:
- Why do you exist?
- What is the journey you’ve taken to arrive at this point (brand history)?
- Can you describe the main characters in your story?
- How would you summarise your corporate mission?
- What have you failed at, along the way?
- Which “gaps” exist in your story?
There is a lot to unpack here. So, let’s just focus on a few of them to whet your appetite.
Take the last question (6), for instance. It may be an uncomfortable question to ask youself, about gaps in your story. Yet identifying these can help identify weak areas that could be strengthened – allowing you to connect better with the audience.
For instance, perhaps your story is missing a clear “conflict”. The problem with stories lacking any conflict is that they are boring. There is no drama – nothing to make the audience hold their breath and desperately want to find out what happens next, or who wins.
Or, maybe your brand story is missing an obvious “Why”. Perhaps you have gone to great lengths on your website describing your products and services, but not much attention has been given to outlining the reason behind it all.
Take the vision of SpaceX, as an example. Here, the brand could simply talk about the fact that it makes space rockets. However, it spells out its “Why” very clearly: “To advance the future.” That sounds exciting and something everyone wants to be a part of!
Why storytelling matters for financial brands
As mentioned earlier, financial planners are often weak on their branding as a whole – not just their brand stories.
Perhaps they might go as far as designing a professional logo. However, the rest of the visual elements – colour scheme, styles, fonts, images and iconography – are neglected and do not convey and overall sense of consistency, quality or uniqueness.
This might be called the “Essential Step” of financial branding (developing a strong, cohesive visual identity). However, the extra Step that can set you apart from most of the competition is having a clear brand story.
Part of the reason this matters is because a financial planner’s business model is typically built on retaining great, profitable clients over many years. Perhaps current clients stay with you right now partly because you’ve done a good job for them so far, and they like you. However, do they stay with you because they believe in your story and want to be a part of it?