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Quick, think of a bank or cash register announcement… What do you imagine?
A young smiling man with the keys to his new car? An older couple gardening or biking? A photo of their new mortgage officers? The sincere promise that their employees make all the difference?
How about a little less buttoned up? Maybe you’re the “fun” brand. So, you’re probably using an image of the team at a local nonprofit event, with a message about how the financial institution has been part of the community for decades.
The fact is, most financial marketers get lost in a sea of similarity.
The last thing any financial marketer wants to do is take a risk on anything, especially when it comes to their marketing. The fear is that if you do something different, you won’t be recognized as a bank.
It’s normal to want to look and feel safe and trustworthy. However, safe and trustworthy without any personality will not be the way to people’s hearts.
When you say your employees really make a difference and you put your employees in every ad to help illustrate that, you end up with ads that blend in with all the other financial institutions, financial planners, real estate companies, and medical providers that do the exact same thing, with the exact same promise that their people really are the best.
So what do people really want to know more about your financial brand?
When surveyed, financial consumers say they want the basics from their financial institution: low fees, great rates and good customer service. These features are therefore central to the marketing and product development of almost every bank or credit union, because “that’s what people want”.
But there is a problem, and it is a big problem. These are the characteristics that financial institutions have educated consumers on. So when we ask about wants, consumers repeat exactly what they have been trained to assess by their banks and credit unions.
Banks are asking the wrong questions, making decisions based on the answers they’ve trained consumers to give, and then wringing their hands worrying that consumers see them simply as providers, rather than partners.
But that’s not all. Here are some sobering facts for FI leadership:
- When asked “what is critical to your future financial success?” only one percent of participants in a FICO study mentioned their financial institution.
- In another study, only 29% of survey respondents say they trust their financial institution to look after their long-term financial well-being, up from 43% in 2018. 
- In a 2020 Accenture study, only 29% of survey respondents said they trust their financial institution to look after their long-term financial well-being, up from 43% in 2018. 
- In February 2021, FICO released market research that looked at the role individuals see banks and financial services playing in their financial future. The results should make any bank executive tremble. When asked “what is critical to your future financial success?” only one percent of survey participants mentioned their financial institution. 
- 70% of FICO study participants said they would be “likely” or “very likely” to open an account at a competing financial institution if they offered products and services to address these large unmet needs. ladder.
However, the way forward is clear and it all depends on the emotional connection people have with their money.
Beyond accounts, you have people who are completely invested in your brand. It’s the customers or the members who will say “oh my God, I love this bank!” when they see someone with a debit card they recognize. The people who give you a 10 on every NPS poll, would attend every annual barbecue, and might have you on their holiday card list.
These promoters can be your greatest asset, and these relationships are worth nurturing. They are the people who will help you stand up for yourself when things go wrong and promote any changes you make, if you give them the tools to do so.
But you also have detractors. And competitors. And whole new categories of people you need to attract to your IF from a massive number of options, all searchable and discoverable 24/7. No pressure, right?
What if you stopped only communicating with your brand through promotions and pricing…and thought more about what your organization stands for, how it is received, and what it should mean to your target audiences?
These are big questions, but the first step in any important strategy is to identify where growth is likely to occur. And that always pays to get back to your brand’s roots. Consider these questions:
- What is our brand “why?” Is this something anyone in our organization, at any level, can articulate?
- What are we defending? What should we represent? Hint: “excellent customer service” and other feature-based answers are not considered an answer here.
- What was the reason for our last four promotions?
- Who are we most often mistaken for?
- What crazy ideas have we not implemented? Why didn’t we?
- What do you find most liberating about our brand?
- What do you find most restrictive about our brand?
Once you really start digging, the opportunities to grow your brand (and your business) become hard to miss, and the long-term results become far more valuable than a promotion or an offer.
Ready to unlock your brand’s true potential? It’s not about showing your employees and saying they’re competent and service-oriented, that’s what everyone else does.
Finding out how to understand people is always the first step.
 FICO® Research Infographic, What do people really want from their banks?2021
 Ron Shevlin, The Phantom Financial Lives of AmericansFICO/Cornerstone Advisors, 2020
 Making digital banking more human2020 Accenture Global Banking Consumer Study, 2020
 Anna Hamilton, What customers really want from their banksFICO.com/blog, February 10, 2021