7-25-2014-GLC.pngAt many banks, marketing is a four-letter word. That’s because for decades financial institutions have relied on their legacy to lead their brand—and bring in business. But in today’s world, where there is fierce competition in the marketplace, as well as numerous mergers and acquisitions, marketing—and often rebranding—is a must if you want to stay ahead. Hundred-year-old banks can’t act or look a hundred years old. Updating your brand is crucial to staying relevant to savvy customers. Studies show that your brand should be vibrant for seven to ten years—after that, it’s probably time for a revamp.

But before you start, you need to get answers. What will you spend and what is your strategy?

The typical budgeting benchmark for financial institutions is 0.10 percent of assets. That means, for a $400-million asset bank, approximately $400,000 should be allocated toward a robust marketing program. It may seem like a lot, but it’s an investment that—when done right—will bring you the optimal business that you want with quantifiable return on investment.

What does that look like? Seven out of 10 financial marketers put online advertising and social media on their list of rebranding channels for 2014. But it’s not enough to put a message on Facebook and hope the masses take interest. These are tactical executions, not branding strategies. Branding is an intense project that requires months of focus and dedication from bank boards and management, and a marketing professional (internal or external) that can run the project.

So how do you start? First, take stock of your brand and look both internally and externally. Conduct a S.W.O.T. (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to fuel discussion, positioning and branding. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are we?
  • What do we stand for?
  • Why are we changing?
  • What does our competitive landscape look like?
  • What makes us unique?
  • Are we delivering consistent messaging?
  • What’s our brand promise to our customers?
  • What channels are important for our demographics?
  • What do we need to succeed?
  • How will our staff be impacted by these changes?

If the questions seem overwhelming, that’s because they are. In fact, 71 percent of financial marketers retained agency services in 2013 to run their rebranding programs.

But if you stay focused and committed, the process will become easier. And remembering these lessons can help you assess what your bank needs and what makes sense for your brand:

Lesson 1: You don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There’s equity in your brand—a look, a feel, emotions, etc.,—that are familiar to your customers. Don’t be too quick to ditch them. Figure out what stays and what goes.

Lesson 2: Whatever you decide to do, do something that will trigger an emotional or personal reaction. No one wants to connect with a dull and uninteresting brand.

Lesson 3: Don’t go more than a decade without revisiting your brand. Times change and so must you.

Lesson 4: Take a step back and ask yourself, what’s YOUR story? Try to infuse that within your branding. People love history and connect with personal stories.

Lesson 5: Take your message wherever your customers and prospects are. You can’t be afraid of digital. Embrace each channel for what it can do.

Jeff Davy