“The damage was slow and quite, almost incremental, like a single loose thread that unravels a sweater inch by inch.” —Howard Schultz, president and CEO, Starbucks, in his book Onward

Natural disasters tend to strike unexpectedly and with little warning. That’s usually not the case when it comes to business. There are normally warning signs such as poor financial reports, slow growth numbers and dissatisfied consumer surveys that point to a troubled credit union or bank.

With your brand, challenges tend to appear much more subtly. I call it “brand creep.” In other words, problems slowly “creep” into your brand. A slow to return phone call here, a lack of a proper greeting there and an inattentive employee every now and then. Taken individually, those probably are not major red flags that result in the immediate death of your brand. However, what is the accumulation of those individual missed brand opportunities?

All those subtle “average” experiences point to a major potential challenge: complacency. Creep leads to complacency.

And more than anything else, brand complacency leads to brand catastrophe.

Brand complacency can rear its ugly head in multiple places, but none more so than with your employees. According to Gallup, only 26% of the workforce is “actively engaged.” Translate that to your financial institution: only 26% of your employees are actively engaged with your brand. In other words, they are complacent.

So how do you know if your brand is complacent with your own employees? Here are a few suggestions:

  • In a departmental meeting ask staff to tell you what your brand is.
  • In an anonymous survey, ask your employees, “How well do you know what our brand is?” (maybe even on a scale of 1 to 10).
  • Determine what your product penetration with your own employees is (if your own people are not using your products and services then that’s a problem).
  • Have your employees give an example of how they lived your brand in the last five days.
  • Ask your employees what your vision or mission statements are (and then ask a follow-up question about “….and what does that mean to you?”).

These are not designed as “gotcha” questions or activities. And you certainly don’t want to put any of your people on a hot seat. In all honesty, if they can’t answer these questions it may reflect more poorly on the leadership than the employees. But exercises like these can quickly determine if you have a brand gap with your people.

We often think our barriers to brand growth are external: our competitors, the economy and consumer awareness. However, the biggest threats to your brand come from within.