The battle for share of voice, share of mind and share of pocket among the big banks in Nigeria has never been fiercer. The battle is being played out daily in all the arenas of PR , advertising, events and sponsorships.
What is the most enduring path for any bank to gain industry leadership and consumer applause? The answer is branding. It’s definition would be a great start.
- A brand is not just a name.
- A brand is not a website.
- A brand is not a logo.
- A brand is not a campaign or promotion.
- A brand is not marketing collateral (brochures, signs, banners, etc.)
A brand is more than all the above. It is the sum of expressions by which an entity intends to be recognized. Branding is your strategy. Branding is your culture. Branding is your employees. Branding is your target audiences. Branding is your values. Branding is your differentiators. Branding then, is everything.
There are 22 commercial banks in Nigeria presently, all jostling for pole position in the consumer’s mind.
Here are 6 psychological but practical ways to build your bank into stronger brand:
1. Practice the 3 “Hs”of branding
You brand starts with your strategy, which is the head. You must determine your vision and your values. If your brand doesn’t stand for something it stands for nothing.
This vision should not reside only in the person of the bank’s CEO, and top management. It needs to also be internalized by the entire team.
Your bank’s brand must connect with something emotional. Lexus does not just sell cars they sell a lifestyle. Your bank is not only selling checking accounts or loans. You are making dreams possible.
When consumers connect with the bank at the heart level, that’s when they become free advocates for the brand.
No matter what brand strategy you develop in the “head” phase, ultimately, it’s your employees who must put that brand in action. “Your brand will live or die based on how your employees execute it.
2. Apply the 5 “Be’s” of Branding
Branding is a key success factor for any financial institution. Operational efficiency is already taken for granted, and is no longer enough to build brand leadership. Here are a 5 essentials:
- Be intentional.
Great brands don’t just happen. If you don’t invest resources (both time and money) into your brand, your bank will not grow. Talking about branding is a complete waste of time unless you are willing to back up that talk with actual actions Branding requires intentionality.
- Be focused.
Brands are not just about the big things. The details matter as well. That means you must focus on everything at your financial institution: how your bathrooms smell, how your employees dress, how your branches look, how your receptionist answers the phone and so on. What is not focused on is not improved.
- Be sincere
Consumers today crave authenticity. You must communicate what is real and authentic about your bank.
Are all press releases mainly about facts and figures and performance?
The public also needs to see the softer side frequently.
- Be consistent.
One of the greatest challenges with developing a brand is maintaining consistency. But great brands are consistent (across all delivery channels). Being consistent refers both to the look and feel and to the experience at all touch points.
In Nigeria, we are also now seeing a “revolution” in rising consumer expectations. When service delivery does not match the promise or expectation, there will be a dissonance.
- Be centered.
Smart organizations center their brand around three groups: management, employees and consumers. Your managers must lead the brand, your employees must live the brand and consumers must love your brand.
3. Stimulate the five senses
Brands are not just brochures and logos. They are feelings. They connect with consumers on an emotional level. Those emotions are very much tied to and often triggered by our senses—sight, smell, sound, taste and touch.
Think about one of your favorite memories. Is there a certain scent or sound you associate with it? Does that memory pop up when you taste a certain food or see something special like a painting? Those are the same kind of sensory experiences you want consumers to have when they experience your bank brand.
The human nose can distinguish more than 10,000 different odors, and studies have shown that 75% of emotions are triggered by smell. A few years ago when Sony wanted to make women feel more welcome in its stores, it infused a customized scent of vanilla, mandarin, bourbon and other secret ingredients into its stores. Humans are multi-sensory beings.
4. Conduct mystery shops to identify consistency concerns
These primarily entail posing as potential customers for clients to investigate how competing banks interact with consumers. These mystery shops can also be internal,
5. Avoid “death by a thousand cuts”
Brands are like living, breathing entities. But just as brands can live, they can also die. While brands can die quickly, a slow erosion is more likely to take place. In other words, your brand can die a “death by a thousand cuts.”
Can you imagine GTB, UBA, Zenith bank, Access or First Bank going under? It seems unthinkable. But any of them can slowly die from the death by a thousand cuts.
6. Loss Aversion
The Nobel Prize-winning psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman popularized the notion of loss aversion, which states that people tend to prefer avoiding losses rather than achieving gains of a similar size.
What does this mean for bank branding? First, it explains the success of marketing strategies such as free trials and rebates as once customers already have something, it’s extremely hard to give it up.
What have you given free to your customers lately or ever? That means free with no extra strings attached.
Finally, remember the three C’s of branding: Clarity. Consistency. Constancy.
What you C is what your bank gets as a brand.