If you followed the 2016 World Series, you know it was a nail-biter. Two perennial underdog teams, the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, went down to the wire before the Cubs pulled off the win and ended a 108-year-old championship drought.

Cubs fans were elated. Indians fans were heartbroken. And one Indians fan found himself with a permanent reminder of making a premature assumption with a tattoo of the Indians logo and the words “2016 Champions” on his arm.

Some people would call this team passion. Others might think more in terms of putting the cart before the horse. Either way, there’s a definite brand lesson to learn here: before you spend a great deal of time, money and energy on your brand, you need to know a few things first.

  • Who you are. This requires asking tough questions about your bank or credit union. What do you do well? What do you not do well? Whom do you serve and who should you serve? Trying to slap a brand on a financial institution before answering these critical questions is foolhardy.
  • Where you are. What products and services do you currently offer? What products and services (and red-tape) should you consider reducing or eliminating? Where do you stand in terms of access, both brick-and-mortar and digitally?
  • What you want to be. A lot of this goes back to your strategic plan. A bank or credit union without a strategic plan is like a ship without a rudder. Without a goal at which to aim, your brand identity will likely falter and flop.

It pays to look both inward and outward when it comes your brand before you present it to your staff and the public.  Otherwise, you risk tattooing your bank or credit union with pictures and words that simply do not accurately portray your cultural DNA. And brand removal is every bit as painful and expensive as tattoo removal.