There’s an ocean of web information out there about brands, branding, and brand-building.
But there’s always room for more. We’ll do our best to make it simple, conversational, and useful for you. We’ll share an easy model that shows how “brand” is just about equal to “reputation,” how your brand works to create member expectations, and how each good member experience influences your reputation and strengthens your brand.
Your brand is the summation of all previous member encounters, via every type of transaction, every channel, and every medium.
In a sense, your brand faces backwards. All previous encounters have combined to create your reputation as of today. And it also shapes member expectations for what the next encounter will be like.
When the next encounter does take place, if it’s satisfying, your brand is enhanced. If the member’s experience is so-so, your brand is unchanged. And if the experience is irritating and annoying, your brand is diminished. In two out of three cases, your brand and the expectations for the next experience will have changed.
Then, another experience takes place, and your reputation will either be enhanced or diminished. And so on and so on. Rinse and repeat, as it were.
You can see why conscious brand building is so important for credit unions
When you think of it as the work necessary to optimize your reputation in the market, it’s easy to understand how the sustained effort to build a strong, active brand will enhance your credit union’s credibility in the market and attract the interest of potential new members.
Ongoing brand building and brand awareness is especially important for credit unions and community banks who need to be top-of-mind when potential customers are ready to address whatever new financial situation has arisen in their lives.
First, your brand must be clear and well-defined in the marketplace.
Is your brand clear, and does your brand/reputation align with your mission and values? If not, work to develop a more compelling brand story, one that’s easy to understand and resonates with your core audience. Then, tell your brand story relentlessly.
Also, make sure you use your chosen graphic elements consistently across all situations. Your logo, your color palette, your tagline, and the tone of your content should be consistent and on-brand.
Be sure your brand resonates well with your target audience
Smart brand-building rests on a foundation of solid market research. It’s one of the best ways to identify the primary needs and preferences of your target audience. Then, it’s your job to tailor your messages and content to directly address the specific needs of members. Even better, if you can personalize how you interact with your members, stronger member connections with your credit union will result.
Always be consistent with your brand messaging
Take steps to ensure you are 100% consistent with your messaging. This means across all sales channels, your web content, your social media presence, your presentations, and your marketing materials. Remember, your value proposition should be unique, and it should set you apart from other credit unions. Plus, make sure to use a consistent tone for all your content. It needs to reflect the brand’s personality and values. In other words, it should reinforce your reputation.
Community involvement activities are an excellent way to strengthen your brand
Every city or town has multiple events, celebrations, and community initiatives every year. This makes it easy for your credit union to get involved. Then, you can use your participation to enhance the credit union’s reputation. Try to choose events and causes that align with your credit union’s mission, values, and brand personality. And a natural by-product of participation in these events is you can build productive long-term relationships with community leaders and members, some of whom may also become credit union members.
Embrace a digital-first marketing strategy
It makes sense, because digital is where most people spend most of their time these days. You can use various digital channels to reach a wide audience and greatly enhance your brand visibility.
You can use blogs and other types of content marketing to establish thought leadership and provide excellent information and educational value to members. You can also leverage a presence on the different social media platforms to engage with younger members and prospects. You can use a wide variety of timely or seasonal posts to showcase the credit union’s brand personality.
You can also develop guest blogs for relevant credit union websites or publications in the financial industry. It’s a great way to get your name out in the market and meet consumers where they already spend time. There are many digital sites where a potential customer could already be consuming content. When you post a blog or an article on one of those sites, you’ve offered members and prospects content with real value, and you’ve given your brand more recognition.
There are other types of useful, shareable content you can create
For example, infographics are visually appealing, easy to understand, and great fodder for today’s social media environment. If you can put together content snippets and/or eye-catching graphics, teach the reader something, or just post fun tidbits, and make them easy to share, you’re letting the market help build brand awareness for you.
Take additional steps to regularly reach and strengthen your brand with your audience
Once you’ve started to build a strong reputation/brand, the next step is to develop a consistent communication program to extend your brand message to a larger audience. We’ll share five key communication tactics you can use to start or flesh out this process to share your brand with the larger market.
Take advantage of short digital video clips
These 15-30-second clips are a great way to get information in front of more targeted audiences and to build and reinforce brand awareness. Video is a staple on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. You can get a good breadth of exposure on these platforms. In fact, video is the single most effective content form for creating a high level of social media engagement.
While there are downsides to video — it can be costly to produce, and it’s not the most effective driver of online traffic or conversions — it can help tremendously in developing brand recognition.
Remarketing is a widely used technique to targets users who have previously visited your website
The remarketing follow-up includes both display and text ads that include calls-to-action (CTAs). The purpose of these ads is to encourage previous visitors to return to and reengage with your website. Often the ads are used to reinforce or build upon a brand message to which consumers have already been exposed.
Remarketing ads deepen brand awareness and continue to expose consumers to your message and your offerings. You can also use remarketing as a technique for cross-selling to current customers to further increase their brand loyalty. It’s a powerful tool because it supports and amplifies the other forms of marketing you already have in place.
While generating good creative for remarketing ads can be expensive, the investment is often worthwhile. The only thing to be careful of is overdoing it. It can make some consumers feel as if you’re “following” them all over the internet. You can use ‘frequency caps’ to keep this from happening.
Content is king – or at least a high-ranking courtier
You’ve probably heard the phrase “content is king” uttered quite a bit over the past few years, and the thought still rings true. While the most effective types of content will vary, it’s always a smart practice to develop and publish quality content on your own website and social channels.
It’s helpful to develop your own blog strategy. Blogs can be useful to grow your own organic visibility. Websites are a great place to share thought-leadership pieces. You can also implement known SEO practices to help drive traffic to your website. As mentioned above, guest posting is also a powerful way to get your content and your brand name across platforms other than your own.
It’s hard for a financial institution to succeed without some form of social media use
With a low cost per impression and strong targeting capabilities, social media is a great way to deliver your brand message to your members. It also provides great reach, and a unique platform to give a name, a “face,” and a personality to your brand.
Since the foundation of social media is, well, social, it’s a great place for credit unions to build connections with their members. Most social media is relatively quick to deploy and the effort to generate the creative and images used across social media is fairly inexpensive. Social media also supports remarketing and targeting efforts you might already have in place and allows you to create advertisements as “native” content, making it much easier (and less annoying) for your customers to consume.
You can also make use of broadcast and cable media
They are more traditional paths to build brand awareness for your credit union. Used alone, they may not bring enough to today’s marketing to create adequate awareness or compel your target audience to act. As part of a larger plan, however, broadcast can be an effective piece of the puzzle. It’s another channel where you can inject some personality and life into your brand, and reinforce the message around what you’re about, who you serve, and what you offer to your members.
Remember, solid brand awareness is not built overnight; it takes time to build
Even with a strong brand, it takes consistent efforts to reach your members and to keep that dialogue open. In many industries, creating brand awareness and new customer relationships requires continuous touchpoints in order for a prospect to understand and act on your message. This suggests when you build and deploy an integrated marketing approach and use many different methods of brand building and engagement, you give your credit union the best chance at becoming a powerful force in the community.
Your front-line team can deliver exceptional member service to help enhance your brand
It’s an easy way for you to get your team involved in brand building. Their job is to deliver the best service possible every single time they interact with a member. It’s no more complex than that. The extraordinary service your team members provide will delight members. It will also build member trust, improve member expectations, and increase member loyalty.
You’ve essentially designated your employees to be brand ambassadors by asking them to deliver consistent exceptional experiences. You should also encourage and capture regular member feedback so you can continually refine the service your team delivers and improve the credit union’s reputation.
Being known for innovative products and financial solutions is another good brand-building strategy
The best use case here is to develop and promote innovative financial products and services that cater to your member’s evolving needs. When you can, highlight the credit union’s technological advancements and emphasize how user-friendly they are. When you can showcase success stories and testimonials from satisfied members, it’ll go a long way toward building stronger brand value.
Whatever strategies you use, always measure and evaluate your results.
Brand building is a long-term process, not an event. This means you should always set key performance indicators (KPIs) to regularly assess the success of your brand-building activities.
The KPIs also enable you to evaluate your brand performance and adjust as necessary.
Where do we go from here?
Once you understand and appreciate the fact that brand and reputation are just about equivalent, it becomes easier to sustain a consistent, member-centric set of strategies to build a strong brand for your credit union. When you do this, you’ll be on track to invest in brand building for long-term success and growth.