This is a sermon we’ve preached before but always deserves extra airtime: in branding, everything matters. Every little detail from the 30,000-foot level right down to what’s on your desktop.

This brand pillar came to light during a recent mystery shop exercise for a client as part of a larger marketing audit partnership. With close to twenty branches to visit, it offered an interesting cross-sample of brand culture (both for the client and the competitors they specified).

While the following observations didn’t occur every branch (and aren’t representative of the entire mystery shop score) they are uniquely indicative of the brand tenet above. Of the roughly twenty branches where we interacted with staff to get a feel for their culture and brand:

  • One employee (a teller) had to put down a paperback novel she was reading as we approached her workstation (and left it in plain sight throughout the conversation).
  • Another employee (different branch) had at least fifteen anime bobbleheads at his desk (and this coming from a guy with a cool Darth Vader scene displayed on his own desk, but that’s one, not fifteen).
  • Yet another employee was taking a large bite out of what looked like a pretty dry and crumbly biscuit and spent the first minute or so of our conversation doing the “I’m so sorry, please let me finish chewing” routine.

Reading? Not a bad thing. Toys (even for adults)? Again, not bad. Eating? Not bad and actually pretty necessary to live.

Doing/having these things/behaviors at your bank or credit union workspace where you can (and should) fully expect consumers (or your fellow employees) to approach you at any time? Not good. Not good at all.

What does this say about your brand (going back to “everything matters in branding”)? Plenty. None of it good.

Now, these employees went on to do better jobs representing their respective brands. But consider that first impression. Would you, as a consumer, feel embraced by a brand represented by someone reading a book, working around a pile of toys or mumbling through a crumbly biscuit as they worked? Probably not.

For your bank or credit union brand to work, you must operate under the knowledge that everything matters, including books, bobbleheads and biscuits.