Branding in 2021 is not going to look massively different than branding in previous years...it will just be about a thousand times more critical that you get it right.
In the current market environment, financial institutions need a lot to succeed. Dedicated staff, amped-up employee wellness and thoughtful leadership are a given. However, credit unions and community banks cannot afford to lose sight of the important role branding will play in their success next year.
Your brand is the rock upon which your financial institution is built and the system to which it can always turn, even in the most challenging times (looking at you, 2020). With that in mind, consider the following keys to better branding in 2021.
Reinforce your brand positioning and message
If there was ever a time to double-down on your key brand identity, this is it. Your answer to the consumer question, "Why should I choose you?" is critical. You must continue to answer this question and honestly define why you exist and what you do best for consumers. They are looking for solutions and connection; these things come from your brand positioning and message (which we help you find in Phase Three of the CU Growth Accelerator™).
Connect with consumers emotionally
While numbers, percentages and math will always be an important part of what financial institutions do, consumers desperately need an emotional connection with their credit union or community bank. You must absolutely transcend a "products and services only" relationship with your consumers. Otherwise, they are much more likely to view you as a mere commodity and leave you for a competitor. Emotional connections, with a heavy emphasis on the benefits of your products and services, are vital.
Ever try swimming against the current or lifting heavy items with your arms and back when you had a wheelbarrow available? Both are tiresome and will eventually break you. Be smart and maintain flexibility by thinking with your brain instead of your back. Even good years are full of choppy waves. Tough years like 2020 can feel like a tsunami that just keeps coming and coming. Be flexible with your goals, your marketing approach, the vendors with whom you partner, etc. Remember, the best swords are made with steel that is designed to bend, not shatter.
If your financial institution has placed an emphasis on brand in the years leading up to 2020, congratulations; you likely weathered the storm better than those that did not. Fortunately, there is still time for your credit union or community bank to either commit or recommit to its brand as consumers navigate what can be unnerving times. If you take care of your brand, your brand will take care of you.