BrandingBank and credit union marketers spend a great deal of time talking about branding. And with good reason — your financial institution’s unique brand, its very fingerprints and DNA, is the most important asset on your books.

However, marketers can easily slip into the misconception that branding is really about just the “big picture” stuff. By that, we mean things like taglines, colors, websites, collateral materials, signage, target audiences, etc. Certainly, those items are important elements of branding and matter greatly.

But when you think about it from a different perspective, branding is really all about one thing — people. It’s the people in the branding equation that matter most. If your consumers don’t buy into your brand, it’s not worth the paper on which you printed it. Therefore, it is useful for marketers to think about building their brand not one giant bite after another, but in smaller, more chewable elements. Those smaller, more chewable elements are: people.

What are some ways you can help build your brand one person at a time? Following are a few simple thinking points to take back to your bank or credit union and apply to your branding efforts.

  • Make everyone feel welcome and worthy. This is as simple as greeting people by their first name, asking questions about their lives or even sending birthday and anniversary cards on those special days. It’s the little things, the small touches, that people remember. And it’s those little things that will keep them coming back to your bank or credit union and not the competition. An example of this is Heart of Louisiana Credit Union’s “thank you for being part of the heart” mantra. Every member interaction, in person or on the phone, ends with this heartfelt reminder of just how important every member is to the credit union.
  • Don’t just talk the talk — walk the walk. You can plaster your walls with vision, mission and member service statements. You can talk till you’re blue in the face about how to greet people, how to talk to people and how to empathize with people. None of that will mean a thing if your staff are not actually living your brand principles in front of consumers. If your brand promises one thing and your staff deliver another, you’re not building the brand — you’re deconstructing it. An example of this is the “my pleasure” reply to customer questions and comments at Chic-fil-A.
  • When you do make a mistake, fix it in a big way. We’re all human — everyone makes mistakes. If you happen to make a mistake in some element of your brand, own up to it and work hard to fix it. Taking responsibility for a screw-up shows authenticity in the minds of consumers. Most people don’t expect perfection — but they do expect honesty and accountability. And making a mistake is actually a potential opportunity to tell your story. If you mess up, letting consumers know you recognize the mistaken and are working hard to fix it is one way to build additional brand loyalty. An example of this is the way the NFL handled (mishandled, really) the domestic abuse scandals it faced earlier this season.

Rome was not built in a day and houses are typically built one brick at a time. In order for your brand to be successful and long-lasting, you need to think about it more from the perspective of the individual people who will interact with your brand on a daily basis and less from the “big picture” viewpoint. Building your brand one day at a time and one person at a time is a more reliable means of constructing something that will last.