In case you haven’t noticed, branding is a big business. Companies large and small (as well as individuals) spend billions of dollars annually attempting to brand their own unique image.

Branding is also a big business when it comes to states and tourism. Perhaps the best-known and most famous state brand comes from Texas with this “Don’t Mess With Texas” brand statement. What started out as an attempt to reduce roadside litter has morphed into a statewide mantra, as defiant and rebellious as the independent nature of Texans themselves. Other states, of course, just as hungry for tourist dollars, also throw their hats into the branding ring. Idaho has its “Famous Potatoes,” Virginia “Is for Lovers” and “Oklahoma is OK.”

But it is Ohio’s latest foray into state branding that got me to thinking about how it applies to our own individual bank and credit union brands. Ohio’s latest push is “Ohio — Find It Here.” Whether or not this tourism slogan works is still with the jury. However, a compelling article about the decision-making process that led to this slogan and its brand is directly applicable to credit union and bank branding.

Following are a few points taken from the article.

  • On a literal level, the brand promotes a wide variety of destinations to be found in Ohio. Similarly, your bank or credit union offers a wide variety of financial products and services. Does your brand statement, in some way, refer to that diversity of choices?
  • On an emotional level, the brand taps into the intangibles of travel, such as getting away from it all, connections made while vacationing and bonding with family and friends. Features tell, but benefits sell. Branding is much more about the emotional. Does your brand touch people? Does it tap into their hearts before it tries to tap into their wallet share?
  • The brand asks — what did you come here to find? The article notes that Ohio, without well-known cultural icons such as New York’s Broadway, cowboys in Texas or Hollywood in California, lacked a strong impression with many visitors. Rather than focus on icons, the individuals responsible for the new brand asked focus group subjects to write stories about how they felt taking vacations. These stories, tied directly to the heart, guided the branding through to the realization travel is a transitional experience, altering the emotional and mental states of those involved. Is your brand an emotional experience for consumers? And, more importantly, do you capture the stories of your consumers and use them to help guide your brand?

There’s a lot to learn about bank and credit union branding. While your financial institution may lack that singular cultural icon (Statue of Liberty, Grand Canyon, etc.) it does host a remarkable array of members and their emotional connections to it. Tap into that energy and help it guide your consumers to their own version of “Your Credit Union — Find It Here.”