In a now infamous rant several years ago, Dennis Green, former coach of the Arizona Cardinals once said after a game, “They are what we thought they were.” One of legendary coach Bill Parcells’ most famous quotes was, “You are what you are.”

I was reminded of those lines recently when after presenting a marketing audit report to one of our clients the CEO said, “We’re not as good at service as we think.” He was referencing the mystery shop portion of the audit. The challenge with this particular institution was that their well-designed marketing pieces were saying one thing but their staff was delivering something else.

As you review your marketing, you must answer the question “Are we really what we say we are?”

Think about this: have you ever read your own marketing pieces? What are they promising? And more importantly, are you delivering on those promises?

For example:

  • We say we’re about service, but our staff is indifferent
  • We say we’re about the community, but we only attend a limited number of events
  • We say we’re about reaching the underserved, but we are strict when it comes to lending money to C and D paper
  • We say we’re about technology, but our mobile app is slow and doesn’t do anything
  • We say we’re about getting younger as an institution, but we don’t have any products designed specifically for young people

The above are classic examples of brand gaps. Every credit union or bank—no matter how strong their marketing is—has brand gaps. One of the best ways to improve your brand may not be to improve your writing or design: it may be to close the gaps in your brand.

The bottom line is you can’t promise consumers one thing with your brand and then deliver something else. For example, several years ago one particular financial institution was going to rebrand themselves with the messaging “We make it easier.” Their marketing material was ready to go. Then the CEO conducted an all-staff meeting to launch the brand first with the employees. During that launch meeting someone from the loan department raised their hand and said, “When it comes to getting a loan here, it’s really not very easy.” They had to stop their entire upcoming branding campaign because they were about to promise something (we make it easer) their loan department couldn’t deliver.

Are your marketing and branding messages writing checks the rest of your organization can’t cash? If so, you are not who you say you are.

Three quick ways to close those potential brand gaps are:

  • Read your own marketing materials with a critical eye (not for grammar or content but for promise deliveries)
  • Mystery shop your branches and your competitors for comparison purposes
  • Conduct a comprehensive marketing audit

We say a lot of things in our marketing. But are we really what we say we are?