At the dawn of human civilization, tribes and groups of men, women and children gathered around communal fires in their villages to listen to tales of the past. Often, it was up to one person, the tribal storyteller, to relate these histories and lessons. The storyteller (sometimes thought of as history’s first historian) was responsible not only for keeping the memory of the past alive but also for passing along valuable lessons about the present and the future.

Now think about the tight-knit tribes in our times. Fans are good place to start. You have probably seen those fans that get to the stadium six hours early to tailgate. They’ve got official logo T-shirts, hats, flags and more. Go-to examples of these rabid fans include Ohio State, the University of Texas, the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns.

Most of these people come from disparate backgrounds. But they are brought together and drawn by a common tribal affiliation (in this case, fans of the same team). This also works in the corporate world. In fact, the phrase “fan boy” was created for people (both men and women) who are eager and early adopters of all Apple products. You’ve probably seen news video of them lined up outside Apple stores days in advance hoping to get their hands on the latest and greatest gadget.

This type of tribal affiliation of sports teams and corporate entities is a tremendous brand asset. It is unlikely that any of these organizations could ever buy enough television, radio or web-space to solicit these kinds of responses and enthusiasm.

Your bank or credit union needs a tribal affiliation, too. And the only way to establish that is by building and nurturing a deep-rooted and authentic brand. Your brand is who you are, what you do and what you mean to consumers. And with so much competition out there in financial services, you simply cannot afford to blend into the background. What are some things you can do to help your brand and tribal affiliation stand out to consumers?

  • Get creative. Don’t be afraid to break a few molds. Adopt a unique timeline, dress code or innovative way of interacting with consumers. Southwest Airlines made a name for itself by encouraging its pilots and flight attendants to interact and joke around with passengers. They took something that was typically seen as mundane (flying) and found a way to make it fun.
  • Use social media. Most of your consumers hang out there, anyway. Find ways to interact with them in real-time on the channels they use most. Examples include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest. And don’t try to sell to them on social media. People will see through that quickly and drop you like a bad habit. Use social media to engage in conversations and ask questions of consumers.
  • Present a unified face. Sports fans love their logo wear. Gadget fans love to show off their latest toy. This is unity of brand and your financial institution must do the same thing in order to enhance its tribal affiliation. Encourage (or require) all staff to dress in approved logo-wear and follow scripts that guide them through the consumer interaction process. Everyone needs to be on the same page and all your consumers need to see that.

Whether it’s a tribal elder around a campfire 5,000 years ago or a beer-swilling college football fan in the stadium parking lot today, people still need storytellers. The storytellers give roots, a future and a sense of community. In order to survive, your bank or credit union needs the same type of tribal affiliation.