What is branding when it comes to financial services, exactly? Does it refer mainly to your logo, or something bigger?
Financial branding is difficult to define, as it refers to giving a sense of meaning and identity to a financial services business. This partly comes from what you “look like” – i.e. visual assets such as your logo, colour scheme and website imagery.
However, it also refers to non-visual identity markers such as how your office culture, how staff behave towards each other and how clients are treated (or spoken to) when they come into contact with your team. The overall impression they get is the “brand experience”.
Below, our branding team at CreativeAdviser explains in more detail what branding is for financial services. We show come of the key steps and components involved, and offer ideas to develop a strong financial brand for your own business.
We hope you find value in this content, and invite you to contact us if you’d like to discuss your own financial branding project.
Why financial branding matters
In so much of life, how you are treated by others depends on how they see you. The same holds true for companies.
Take school as an example. If, as a child, you have a reputation as a troublemaker, then you are less likely to be believed by teachers if you find yourself on the receiving end of trouble one day – through no fault of your own.
Rightly or wrongly, this is how humans behave. Others’ perceptions of us are influenced not only by how we dress, how we talk and how we behave, but also by wider attitudes in society.
Financial services firms must also navigate this complex landscape of human perceptions. These perceptions can, ultimately, dictate whether your business succeeds or fails. Take your staff, as an example. If most people in your organisation think your brand stands for something fraudulent or unpleasant, then they are less likely to stay around for long. A high staff turnover rate undermines morale, lowering overall productivity and raising your recruitment costs.
However, if your team is largely inspired by your financial brand – believing strongly in what you do, and stand for – then they are more likely to “go the extra mile” for your business, and its clients. They are more likely to want to build their career within your company, allowing you to forge a solid bond between team members and a wealth of experience to improve the overall service quality.
Clients’ perceptions are also hugely important, of course. If they see your financial brand positively, then they will feel a greater sense of loyalty to it. They are less likely to leave when a competitor passes their way, and they are more likely to refer you to new clients.
A lot of this, as you might already see, has to do with your workplace culture – how people within your financial firm treat each other, as well as clients. However, this is also greatly shaped by your visual identity; what you look, “feel” and “sound” like.
Think about an airline that you really like. This author particularly likes Singapore Airlines. Part of the fondness here is the way staff greet and service customers on the flight. However, much of it also has to do with the design of the plane, the well-presented staff uniforms and the size, smell and layout of the aircraft interior.
Taken together, this “brand experience” helps customers feel fond and want to come back. The same holds true with financial branding. So, ask yourself: “How do people feel about your brand, and what does it bring to mind?”
How to develop a strong brand
If financial branding has so much to do with workplace culture and values, it is a good idea to step back and ask yourself about these.
How would you describe your working environment? Is it a pleasant place to step into, and do people generally enjoy working together – and do so constructively? Is there a prevailing attitude of patience, respect and giving the benefit of the doubt to other people?
How are clients greeted when they come through the door? How are they made to feel welcome and comfortable? Do staff take time to speak with them as they sit in the waiting area, and do they show a genuine interest in what they have to say?
These things all add up to make a big difference in your clients’ minds, shaping their memory and perceptions of your financial brand.
Thinking through these questions, it may be that some aspect(s) of your workplace culture need to change. Have you become too “transactional” in how you deal with clients, for instance? Has there been a lack of compassion for staff who have needed time off, for example, to temporarily look after children during a difficult time with their family?
The next set of questions then concerns your visual identity. Take a look at your website, for instance, and ask yourself:
- Is this website looking old and tired?
- Do the pages appear well-designed, or thrown together in a lazy fashion?
- How does the website appear on different mobile devices and browsers?
- Is my logo unique, memorable and done to a high standard of design?
- Does my colour scheme work – supporting the logo and other visual assets?
- Is my imagery suitable and consistent with the overall message we want to get across?