In life there are things we should do and things we shouldn’t do. We should DO chores to take care of our house, we should teach our kids right from wrong and we should exercise and eat healthy. We should also make sure we DON’T eat junk food at every meal, we don’t violate traffic laws and we don’t watch too much mindless TV.

It’s the same way with branding. There are several things you should DO and there are many things you should make sure you DON’T do.

So what are the seven Do’s and Don’ts of branding? Below are four Do’s and three Don’ts of branding.

Be sure you DO the following:

  • Make a plan—While the saying “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” is a cliché, it certainly applies to your brand. The most successful financial institutions today have brand plans, a strategic document that details your brand vision/mission, your target audiences, your messages, your staff standards, etc. For more information about how a brand plan can help your credit union or bank grow, click here.
  • Target an audience—The most successful brands today focus on a niche rather than trying to reach the masses. You cannot be all things to all people. So stop trying. In a recent strategic planning session with one of our clients I asked, “Who are you trying to reach?” They said, “Yes!” It turns out they were trying to be all things to all people in their state (a terrible strategy). We had to start their session with a serious discussion about targeting.
  • Train your employees—While your executives lead the brand, it’s your employees who live the brand. No matter how solid your vision is or how tight your audiences are, if your employees don’t execute that brand on a daily basis in their day-to-day jobs none of it matters. For example, we were conducting a marketing audit for a client earlier this year. Their marketing materials were excellent and their external brand messaging was strong. But when we did the mystery shop portion of our audit, there was a significant brand gap with their staff. They were saying one thing with their brand and their staff was living something else. Needless to say, they are now spending time with their staff on brand training.
  • Put brand & culture first—Financial institutions have tons of strategic priorities: grow loans, operate efficiently, serve the community, reduce expenses, etc. However, there is no strategic priority more than your brand or your culture. Some of the most successful companies today—organizations like Zappos, Apple and Starbucks—all put their brand and culture at the center of their strategy. So when you are making strategic decisions, ask “how does this affect our brand?”

Make sure you DON’T do the following:

  • Brand from a tower—In other words, don’t develop your brand from on high, come out from behind the curtain like the Wizard of Oz and issue your branding decrees. Involve everyone in the branding process, including your managers, your employees and your consumers. Branding is not about you: it’s about them.
  • Use clichés—What makes your credit union or bank different? Service? People? Community? NOT! Stop using overused words in your branding. Have you ever driven down the highway and seen a billboard that says, “Come our bank—we hate people.” No. Everyone loves service, people and the community. Answer that question (what makes us different) without the words service, people and community.
  • Ignore brand gaps—More than likely, there are brand gaps in your organization. The brand gap is the tension between the operational nature of banking and the creative/strategic skills of branding. There can be gaps between your brand and your people, between your brand and your strategy and between your brand and your operations. Examine every key area of your credit union or bank and look at it through the lens of your brand.

Branding serves as a compass for your credit union or bank. It guides you on the right path. Ensure your brand compass is working perfectly by following these do’s and don’ts.