Lessons From BAI: Building A Modern Brand

Three questions to help credit unions build a winning brand.


High, ever-evolving expectations combined with a movement to digital channels makes it challenging for members to have meaningful interactions with a credit union.

To build a successful brand, an organization —  credit unions included —  must be amazing. More importantly, it must show off that amazingness through differentiated services or products.

“Building a modern brand is more than an advertisement or a logo,” said Dan Marks, chief marketing officer at Sears Holdings during the BAI Retail Delivery conference that took place this week in Chicago. "It requires some serious strategic thinking."

Below are three questions to ask to help build an amazing, winning brand.

1. What is unique?

It’s not the easiest thing to be unique in a commoditized industry, but that doesn't mean financial institutions can't stand out among competitors.

For example, Silicon Valley Bank is helping to fund more than 30,000 startups within a specific customer segment. Its sharply focused business model is helping it gain attention and it's backing up that recognition with strong product and service choices.

2. What is true?

There should not be a gap between what a credit union says it is and what it actually is. Survey the institution's products and services to determine if the credit union is delivering the value that it claims to be.

Starbucks did not spend millions of advertising dollars in its early days; it simply provided high-quality coffee to consumers. Its advertising efforts picked up only after it had proven its business model and customers authenticated the brand.

Authentic brands grow quickly because they build loyalty.

3. What is relevant?

The strongest brands are relevant to the community and consumers they serve. Study what members are looking for right now and deliver what they want in a timely manner.

As Henry Ford reportedly said, “If we had asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said a faster horse.”

He knew people wanted speed, so he delivered a “faster horse.” (He never actually said that, but probably did think that way, according to Harvard Business Review.)

Instead of trying to be good at everything, Marks recommends picking one area in which you can shine.

“Apple is amazing on design,” he says. “ Wal-Mart is amazing on price. Your business can succeed if you’re truly amazing on a quality, not every quality.”


Nov. 14, 2014

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