Finance

Bank Relationship

How would you define your Relationship with a Bank?

Timothy Sloan is replacing John Stumpf, as the new CEO of Wells Fargo, due to the bank’s inappropriate and, perhaps illegal, cross-selling practices.  In the October 13 Wall St. Journal, Sloan is quoted as saying,

“I don’t believe that strategy was fundamentally flawed. We are not abandoning our cross-selling focus. Cross-selling is shorthand for growing relationships with our customers.”

This shows a serious misunderstanding of what “relationship” means to Sloan and to the Wells Fargo organization. Only a banker would say that their relationship with their customers is based upon how many products the bank can sell them, whether they need them or not.

A relationship to most people involves some kind of human connection. A positive relationship is one in which people regard and behave toward one another with respect, understanding, and truthfulness. Strong brands are built on individual connections, not financial transactions, but most big banks seem to get this wrong. Perhaps this is why most banks typically rank very low on brand satisfaction surveys – they are focused on the wrong kind of “relationships.”

Wells Fargo and its new CEO need to give some serious thought to what is needed for the bank to truly serve its customers’ needs. They should change their focus on building the bank’s income and instead focus on how customers might define a profitable relationship. That is how we would recommend Wells Fargo make its next efforts to become appreciated, profitable, and to a grow a lasting brand.

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Brand Focus: Standing For Something

Apple sold over 5 million iPhone 5’s the first weekend they were made available, setting records once again. We can count on Apple to be successful because they stand for something specific, valuable, and desirable, and because they deliver every time. Over the years Apple has mastered simple, compelling, and direct brand messages. When they launch a product like the iPhone 5, the campaign is memorable, disciplined, and focused. There’s no ambiguity as to the message or the target audience, and their sales numbers prove the power of this approach.

Brands differentiate themselves in the marketplace by clearly articulating what they represent, who their audience is, and why they matter to that audience. By developing a brand strategy that is focused, simple, and meaningful, they deliver a message that connects with consumers. This brand focus lets them stand out from the crowd.

American Express is another great example. By portraying themselves as the card of choice for the sophisticated, smart, and worldly, they have become one of the world’s top destination and travel industry brands. American Express entices consumers to be a part of their world, and they have become one of the most recognized brands in the market.

Developing brand focus is only part of what it takes to be a strong, differentiated player in your market. Once a brand takes a stand, it must maintain that position by providing a clear voice, creating compelling and succinct messaging, and ensuring that all behaviors are on strategy. And of course, like Apple and Amex, they must deliver. When brands try to be everything to everyone, they end up being nothing to anyone. Brands that establish a strong position and deliver on their promises are the ones that make a difference in the market.

[photo credit: TheQ! via photopin cc]

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Three Key Brand Success Factors: Clarity, Relevance and Engagement

Every afternoon, we get an email called the Chart of the Day from the Silicon Alley Insider, a unit of the larger content publisher Business Insider. This chart is always current, relevant, topical, and easy to digest in under a minute. A minute is about the amount of time that we give it each day, but we remember these charts, and the simple points they make, and find ourselves referring back to them often.

Brand Success Factors

These charts tell a simple story, visually, relevantly, and succinctly. They tell us who is responsible for the most bandwidth usage on the Internet (Netflix by far), where Apple’s astounding revenues come from (iPhone more than 50%) and who pays the most for software developers (Facebook, $110K). They never try to do any more beyond connecting the reader to a deeper article in which he or she may be interested.

These Charts of the Day, while highly focused and specific, represent a clear, relevant and engaging promise­ – one that can be delivered every day with consistency. Each chart tells different brand success stories, but the overall promise, of a quickly digestible snapshot into the business of technology, is fulfilled every time.

It is a helpful exercise to look at brands like this, and to consider the questions, “What is the promise we can make with our brand that gives us the flexibility to deliver over time, and the challenge to continue to fulfill customer expectations?” and “How can my brand deliver on its promise in a clear, relevant and engaging way, every day?” and, in this particular case, “If I had only one minute to deliver value to my customers, what would I say?” When brands get this right, customers recognize, appreciate and remember the value they create.

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