Your bank or credit union brand does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, it scrambles to survive amongst a cacophony of other voices vying for consumer attention, from other banks and credit unions to non-traditional new players in the financial marketplace.

The most powerful way for your financial institution can stand out among this crowd comes in creating a powerful brand. That brand, however, is driven not by massive amounts of direct mail postcards, online videos, social media posts or billboards. It is primarily driven by the story it tells and whether or not that story resonates with consumers.

In other words, generating more ad clutter does not equate to brand equity. Relatable storytelling does a much better job creating that.

The easiest way to tell your brand story is by listening to consumers. Seek out your happiest customers or members and ask them why they are pleased. While personal interviews generate terrific information, you can also try to accomplish this with online surveys. However, in order to capture the most authentic stories, you must be able to attribute them to members/consumers by name and (hopefully) with a photo of an actual person. Brand storytelling demands real names and real pictures, not generic aliases and stock photography. Depending on the size of your market, the people that see and hear these testimonials will likely recognize the people giving them, which lends further credence to your brand storytelling efforts.

Additionally, everyone at your bank or credit union must be on-board when it comes to brand storytelling. This responsibility does not fall solely to your marketing department. Your board and executive team must be on the hunt for authentic consumer stories. Your employees (particularly front-line staff) must also engage with consumers and ask the kinds of questions that elicit brand-fan stories. Certainly your marketing team must be efficient in telling the stories so that your consumers perceive them as authentic and compelling. In 2015, Gesa Credit Union did a terrific job with a member testimonial/storytelling campaign in their “My Gesa Story” initiative.

Think about how stuffed your mailbox (both digital and physical) gets every week with flyers and ads. Most of these go straight to the trash. The last thing your bank or credit union needs is another pile of useless advertising clutter that is simply flushing money down the drain. Compelling financial institution brands are built on storytelling, not marketing debris.