An Unbroken Brand Promise

Ask a credit union or community bank about their consumer base, and it starts out like a snappy joke: A well-educated, retired woman walks into a financial institution. She’s somewhere between 55 and 70. She loves all the staff and the staff knows everything about her. They know she suffers from osteoporosis and her husband will be retiring soon. Once she finishes the next round of physical therapy, the couple plans to take a 7-day cruise after they visit their grandkids. After all, little Mikey always comes first. They can’t miss seeing him make his first communion.

When we begin to think about who we serve, we are compelled to tell these stories. These are the people we see in-branch. They are the people we have thoughtful interactions with. There is a caring, deep connection with these consumers.

If you were asked the question, “Tell me about your members?” would you have a similar story to tell?

Let’s dig a little deeper: If you represented an $83 million community financial institution serving 7,600 members/customers, is this story reflective of your membership base? Does it provide insight on who you want to serve or just simply what (who) you know?

Time for a reality check: You can’t possibly know all your members/customers. We must be careful not to latch our brand onto those we see once a week. We know we connect emotionally and behaviorally with some brands more than others. The trick is discovering how and why.

On the cusp of the 2018 holiday season, Gap Inc. announced plans to close hundreds of its namesake stores. While Banana Republic, Old Navy and Athleta – which Gap owns – continue to perform well, the Gap brand has struggled to find the right target customer. Operational snafus, merchandise hitting the stores at the wrong time, and off-trend fashions and quality have all been cited.

What Gap is experiencing is a loss of genuine joy for its product. When it comes to branding, consumers pick up the perceptions of a company’s intentions. Passion leads to enthusiasm. They excelled at that in the mid-1980s to early 1990s. It even led to GapKids and babyGap, and they made khakis and corduroys cool.

Along the way, however, they lost their expressive style. They didn’t understand their value proposition anymore. It’s not about finding an angle. When we understand why we exist, we understand why we do it “this way” and we understand why we want to appeal to the consumer, a clearer picture emerges.

There’s currently a “gap” with the Gap.

As a credit union or community bank, you have the ability to change consumer perception and enhance engagement. Sometimes this means rejuvenating your brand or reinventing yourself.

If you’re looking to better serve your consumers, it’s not about providing better rates, stellar service and endless detail. It’s also not about emulating what others are doing. Instead, making compelling arguments that make me care. Aligning your organization with stories of what your target consumer believes or wants to believe.

Think of yourself as the quintessential expression of your members/customers. What does that look like? What does that feel like?

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