In working with banks and credit unions on their brand identity, a typical question we often pose to senior management, frontline staff and board members goes something like this:

“In what ways is our bank or credit union different than the competition?”

While the answers are always sincere and serious, they don’t always necessarily truly indicate a separation from the crowd. More often than not, answers such as “our great service,” “our dedicated staff” and “because we care about the community” arise.

You may have great service. You may have a dedicated staff. You probably do care about your community. Guess what? Every other bank and credit union in your area can say exactly the same thing. So it doesn’t really set you apart at all.

Occasionally, a brave soul will stand up and answer the questions in a compelling and honest way. That answer?

“We’re not any different from anybody else.”

That’s the kind of question from which a bank or credit union can truly begin to build a unique and differentiated brand identity. Once you are ready to let go of the generic and potentially untrue answers listed above and truly dive into the DNA of who you are and what you do as an institution, you are ready for authentic branding.

Yes, it’s comforting to hide behind the tried-and-true responses of service, staff and community. But those are not true differentiators and will not resonate with consumers in your area.

Branding and differentiation is not for the faint of heart. It can be a grueling and somewhat uncomfortable exercise in self-identity. But for banks and credit unions to step up their games and truly find a way to establish a unique and actionable niche among the competition, it’s a necessity.

So, if you’re not really different from the competition, what can you do to fix that? It’s all about branding. The question becomes – are you ready for the challenge?

A terrific example of this true differentiation is Bossier FCU and their brand manifesto, “Beyond Banking – This Is Personal.” For more information, read here.