Branding touches everything. From the boardroom to the break room to the bathroom. Branding is also your most valuable asset.

As Fred Smith, CEO of Federal Express once said, “One of the things we recognized about 10 or 12 years ago was that probably of all the assets on our balance sheet, none was more important than the brand, even though it wasn’t capitalized at all.”

Successful financial institutions recognize the importance of branding as well. Ray Davis, the CEO of Umpqua Bank said in his book Leading for Growth, “If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know that your brand is just about the most valuable asset you’ve got.”

Although your brand is an asset, all too often at most credit unions and banks we actually treat it (and marketing) as an expense. How do you make sure your brand is treated as an asset and how do you develop a successful brand?

You focus on the three “Bs” of a successful brand:

  • Build—To keep with the “b” theme, remember that your brand begins with building This includes creating a brand plan with elements such as a captivating vision statement, a focused target audience and consistent brand standards. You can’t simply say “we need a brand.” You have to build it. One way to build a brand is to use a brand triangle. With that model there are three legs to the triangle: leadership, employees and consumers. In an ideal world, management leads the brand, employees live the brand and consumer love your brand. When it comes to your brand, build it.
  • Believe—Unless your brand stands for something, it stands for nothing. You (and your employees) must understand what you are trying to build (see first “b”). Your vision, values and goals must align in such a way that people can understand the essence of your credit union or bank. They must believe your brand. Do some soul searching. What are your core values? What do you as an organization believe and why do you even exist? If your employees believe that they only reason they are coming to work is to collect a paycheck then you will have a disengaged staff. When it comes to your brand, give people something to believe.
  • Bleed—In all honesty, it doesn’t matter what plan you develop or what you say your vision is if your board, executives and front-line staff don’t live it every day it doesn’t matter. One of the challenges with branding is it can simply become an exercise in words we use. However, branding is more than words: it is the daily interactions with consumers. Your employees must see a direct correlation between their jobs and your brand. They have to bleed your brand (not with an injury that will need band aids, of course). Bleeding your brand means everyone will do whatever it takes to live your brand. When it comes to your brand, don’t just say it: bleed it.

If you deliver on these three “Bs” then you will experience a fourth “B”: Best. You will develop a credit union or bank that is best in its market.