There are traps everywhere when it comes to growing your financial institution. External traps (think about your competition). Internal traps (think about your employees). Regulatory traps (think about the NCUA and FDIC—well, don’t think about them unless you want nightmares!).

You get the idea: whether it is changing trends, changing consumers or changing technology the speed at which the financial services industry is moving is like lightening. There are potential pitfalls everywhere you turn.

But perhaps the greatest traps to watch when it comes to your bank or credit union are your brand traps. There are many places—traps—your financial institution must avoid when building or reinforcing your brand.

As we review a few brand traps to avoid below, keep in mind the most deadly traps are the subtle ones. When looking at the traps below keep in mind we assume you already have a brand plan, a targeted niche audience and strong messaging. Those are the basics. If you don’t have those in place, don’t worry about the traps because you are already in a deep hole.

With that in mind, here are a few brand traps to avoid;

  • Cliché Differentiation —STOP saying what makes you different is service, people or the community. EVERYONE says the same thing. Give your brand vision, message and mission the logo test: put your hand over your logo and just read your tagline or vision statement. Now could those words be anyone else’s? Are they cliché or do they truly represent what you are all about. And most importantly, do those words differentiate yourself from the marketplace?
  • Low Employee Engagement—According to Gallup Research, 56% of all employees are not engaged with their employer and another 18% are actively disengaged. That means only 26% are actively engaged with your brand. If your employees are not living your brand, then your brand will never succeed. Nothing kills a brand more than low employee engagement. The trap many leaders make is that they ASSUME that because they themselves get and understand the bank or credit union brand, then all their employees do as well.
  • Out of Touch LeadershipJohn Maxwell once said, “everything rises and falls on leadership.” Apply that quote to branding: everything about your brand rises and falls based on your leadership. A disconnect between management and staff can quickly develop when it comes to brand. Ask management and board “what is your financial institution about” and then ask your front-line staff the same question and you might be surprised when you compare answers.
    • Solution: Listen to your staff’s brand struggles.
  • Lack of attention to detail—Ray Davis, CEO of Umpqua Bank and author of Leading for Growth says, “You can’t have a strong brand and be lax about the details.” We often think of branding as a “big picture” issue and it certainly is. However, strong brands focus on every single detail of the organization. When it comes to branding, everything matters.

Traps can sneak up on you quickly. Even if you feel you’ve built a strong brand, be sure to stay alert and avoid these snares.