Blueprint for building a strong banking brand


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Ultimately, a brand is a distilled, concise expression of who you’ve always been central to your cultural DNA. Every institution is different, and maintaining and celebrating these differences is what makes a brand stand out.

Going with the flow when refreshing a brand makes the process feel like a natural next step, making it easier to adopt the refreshed brand, like an old friend with a new haircut rather than a stranger.

The process includes several difficult questions:

  • How can we create a new identity that also resonates with new and potential consumers without alienating the consumers with whom we have long-standing relationships?
  • How can our brand come to life within, but also extend beyond the four walls of our physical institution?
  • How can our brand be emotionally relevant but also practically executable?

The answers to these questions help form the framework for an award-winning brand.

Working with dozens of financial institutions nationwide, we’ve learned that while every brand is different, one thing is the same: There are no shortcuts when it comes to building a brand. that wins the hearts and minds of its audience (while also earning an award or two). But when it’s done well, the return on investment of time, talent and resources is always worth it.

Where to start:

There are three key stages to the path to success: analysis and strategy, identity and design, and activation and expression.

Step 1: Analysis + Strategy

Successful construction projects start with a solid foundation. Swap the concrete footing and floor slab with analysis and strategy, and the same goes for build your brand.

There are two key elements that work together to make up a brand’s DNA and serve as a catalyst for brand growth:

  • Target demographics established
  • Captured characters

When considering a branding effort, start with demographics. Socioeconomic data, interview results and survey data are essential to link your target demographic to your brand. When you dig deeper into the captured personalities of your target demographic, from emotional needs to lifestyles, you can then identify the experiential connector between you and your consumers that defines the value-driven “reasons why” behind what you are. you do. The result is your unique brand DNA, which is the cornerstone of your branding strategy.

What does it look like in practice? Consider a case study of Reliant Credit Union At New York. Starting as a credit union serving teachers from a classroom in Sodus, NY, to the community of nine branches and over 40,000 members that it has grown to, Reliant has always been committed to its members. .

However, studies conducted by La Macchia Group found that Reliant’s visual logo did not reflect the open and caring culture or member and community-focused values ​​of the credit union. There was a mismatch between Reliant’s brand and the target consumer, which established the need for a global refresh to better engage with non-members in the market.

We have partnered with Reliant to revisit its brand foundation through a discovery process involving a target audience and market analysis using research, surveys and interviews. The main target demographic groups for Reliant are Generation Z and Millennials in three counties in New York State.

The life paths and financial journeys of these demographic groups were significantly different and “non-traditional” from their parents and grandparents. The discovery process revealed that this audience was looking for a financial institution in which they could see themselves reflected; the one who understands and invest in them, creating a interaction rather than facilitating a transaction.

Today’s social media-driven culture is uniquely crafted to highlight idealistic and often unattainable lifestyles while ignoring the daily struggles and successes that many brands would consider unpopular in the mad race of tastes and impressions. Our research revealed the need for authentic and realistic messages reflecting the identity of ordinary people and for normalizing that everyone has their own unique life course that requires a unique financial solution.

Reliant has learned that her defining strength in the eyes of her staff and members is her ability to think outside the box, celebrate individuality, and understand that the path to achieving financial goals isn’t always a straight line. While Reliant’s internal culture and intrinsic brand were consistent in its common goal of working hard to help each individual member move closer to achieving their financial aspirations, the existing brand identity of the credit union did not reflect this. not.

Step 2: Identity + Design

Once you’ve poured your foundation, you’re ready to start defining the defining attributes that set you apart from your competition. From the naming and logo design to developing the tagline and establishing the language style, there is a symbiotic relationship between everyone who works together to create your brand identity.

Two key elements of this are messaging and logo development. For Reliant, who was undergoing the rebranding process in the midst of Covid-19, the process of analysis and strategy illuminated the target audience’s desire to have a “life well lived”, which inspired the central message “to achieve the life”.

This messaging theme gave words to a promise that Reliant was already actively practicing with its members. From this was born Relient’s new “Achieve Life” slogan, which was designed to resonate personally with each individual’s motivation and quest for improvement. Amid the chaos of a pandemic, this slogan rekindled hope and encouraged the Reliant community, instilling confidence that they could actually recover, pick up the pieces, and achieve their best life, despite setbacks.

This brand promise acted as a call to action for the public, encouraging them to look beyond the likely to explore the possible with Reliant as a financial partner.

From a design perspective, Reliant has brought this message to life with a new logo. Each element has been specifically chosen to embody and enrich the new slogan. The tiny serif font was chosen for its user-friendly appearance and the handwritten slogan was chosen to represent individuality (like a signature). Reliant’s new logo represented their commitment to keeping things simple, accessible and inviting.

The color scheme was also intentional. While dark blue is a tribute to Reliant’s history, the updated orange, gray, and turquoise color scheme has been developed to be forward-looking, with the chevron arrow as a nod to always go ahead and get more in life.

The result not only resonated with current and potential members, it received a CUNA Diamond Prize.

Step 3. Activation + Expression

A mistake that financial institutions often make is to think that the rebranding process is complete when the branding elements and messages have been finalized and integrated into physical and digital channels. Efficient integration is absolutely necessary, but to be truly successful, key audiences (including staff, consumers and the community) need to be invited to the brand to understand, experience and believe in it. It requires a thoughtful and inclusive approach to activation and expression.

Another case study from La Macchia, Texan Sky Credit Union, offers a stellar example of physically bringing a CUNA Diamond Award-winning brand to life.

Formerly known as the Shamrock Federal Credit Union, the organization had a strong membership base from when it was Shamrock Oil’s credit union, but struggled to update its brand to appeal to the generation of consumers today. Research has shown that what made Shamrock truly special to its members was its ‘begging integrity’ and reliability linked to its local roots, its dedication to helping members achieve their dreams and its close neighbor culture which influenced its approach to member service.

Having guided the organization through the first two phases of the process, which fed into the creation of the new name, logo, slogan and key messages, La Macchia Group helped bring the brand to life in all areas. channels and branches. Members of the Texan Sky Credit Union joined the trip and were actively invited to be part of the rebranding story, which culminated in an event that immersed members directly into the brand’s new identity.

La Macchia Texas Sky Credit Union remodel before after

Final remark

Working with amazing clients who love what they do makes the rebranding process so enjoyable; it is a privilege to help them tell their story in a more powerful way.

The most important – and most difficult – thing in creating award-winning brand identities is cultivating something that speaks to the heart (with words, images, and an embodiment) and creates an authentic and meaningful experience. Ultimately, it’s not about the colors, font, or graphics, it’s about building a relationship, making an emotional connection, and leveraging loyalty. This emotional bond of a brand persists long after the paint fades.

The end of the game is a long-lasting relationship. Before a deep and meaningful emotional connection can transform a potential consumer into a loyal user, there is a first impression. Do you own yours? Here are seven tips to help you get the most from your financial institutions first impression of seven seconds.

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