In banks and credit unions, we tend to spend a lot of time talking about what the brand says about us (our financial institution). This is certainly important as the brand must be an accurate reflection of your unique retail culture and environment.

However, a critically important element of the brand mix is sometimes overlooked. What exactly does your brand say about your consumers? What does your brand (in its entirety) say about the men and women who choose your bank or credit union as their financial institution? What does this say to them about themselves and, just as importantly, what does this say about them to their extended circle of friends, family and colleagues?

Consumers choose to do business with a particular brand for a reason. Sometimes it’s price (think Southwest Airlines). Sometimes it’s ease of access (think Amazon). Sometimes it’s experience (think Disney). Often, it is a combination of these (and other) elements. So when creating and living your financial institution’s brand, you must consider what that choice represents about your consumers. Are they choosing you because you have the fastest loan turnaround decision time in town? Because you offer the most branches and/or the best online access? Or do they prefer you over the competition because of the unique cultural environment offered by your brand?

For example, you can certainly buy a cheaper motorcycle than a Harley-Davidson. Yet millions of Harley fanatics wouldn’t ride anything else. They’re not buying a motorcycle nearly as much as they are buying a lifestyle. The same thing applies to retail shopping. You have your Walmart people and your Target people. Each choice says something about what is important to a particular consumer. The same principle applies to your consumers. Does your brand accurately reflect the reason they choose you over the competition? If not, you are in danger of drifting into brand disconnect waters, which represents serious trouble for your brand.

Successful brands are authentic. Successful brands represent something accurately. Successful brands also speak about the lifestyle preferences of those who choose them. What does your bank or credit union brand say about consumers that choose you?