If banks and credit unions are speaking honestly and openly, they’d admit their image for the past say, 100 years, is not necessarily a terribly human one. I mean, the most instantly recognizable bankers in pop culture today are probably the Monopoly guy and Mr. Drysdale from the 1960s sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies. Neither of these icons evoke a lot of warm, fuzzy feelings from consumers.

Financial institutions have made great strides in the last quarter-century towards better humanizing their brands. But much work remains to be done. Take a look at your own bank or credit union and ask the same question — “is our brand human?”

Here’s a brief litmus test through which you can run your brand to help answer the question:
  • Do we look like the people we serve? In other words, are you still sporting the traditional suit and tie look? Are your branches still anchored with traditional mainstays like behemoth teller counters, mahogany desks and rope lines? Now, if these elements match your target audiences, terrific. You might not need to change anything. However, if your physical appearance, both in terms of attire and design, do not match the people you want to serve, your brand probably needs humanizing.
  • Do we try to talk to our consumers where they are? If the limit of your communications is still a revolving wire rack brochure stand, your brand is almost certainly in need of humanizing. You must take your brand message and story to consumers where they are. Where they are increasingly is online. How well are you telling your story on social media platforms, via a vibrant two-way website and valuable consumer education related content on your blog? If your answer to these questions is some form of “uhhhhh …,” your brand probably needs humanizing.
  • Do we listen more than we talk? Old-school bank and credit union brands rarely did a good job of engaging with consumers. Moving beyond mere order-taker status, financial institutions with humanized brands now invest in solid engagement training. This entails a lot of work, including training staff towards the importance of active listening, aligning consumer needs with select products and services and speaking more about product benefits than features. All this requires us to listen more than we talk. If your mouth is running more than your ears are listening, your brand probably needs humanizing.

The formal, robotic and generally boring brands of bank and credit union past will struggle to maintain relevancy in today’s consumer-driven society. If your brand needs humanizing, acting now can help establish your bank or credit union as an important part of your consumers’ lives.