“Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room” Jeff Bezos famously said. The brand becomes more important in case of an entity like a bank, where people park their hard-earned money. To become bankable, among other things, a bank needs to provide a feeling of being “secure” in the minds of the prospects.
There are various positioning planks to occupy the consumer’s mind as a brand, more so in today’s day and age of technology advancement. This will vary from bank to bank depending on what stage the bank is at – a new bank needs branding from a recall perspective whereas for an established bank the branding can be more for reinforcement perspective. It is up to the bank to decide and occupy the space.
The phrase “customer service” is very narrow, it has now been clearly replaced with “customer experience”. It is how customers feel being associated with the bank that matters the most – every interaction, every touchpoint is critical. There are brands which are known for their customer favouring policies and processes. A bank can be known for customer experience through the policies and processes it chooses to go for. Every customer today looks for a great customer experience every time repeatedly.
Example: Nordstrom is known for its customer experience; a shining example is of Ms. Lisa McIntire Shaw who lost a diamond from her wedding ring in a Nordstrom store.
The network of branches and ATMs is another important factor for prospects to decide upon while choosing a bank. Trust, most of the times, gets associated with the physical presence. People want to visually and physically know where to go should there be a problem. Presence in convenient locations can help a bank win trust. The conundrum, however, is how much is enough? What is that optimum number of branches and ATMs that will give comfort – the call needs to be taken by management. Experience of the bank branch, the décor, how the customer has treated forms perception and talks a lot about the brand.
Example: IDFC Bank has a modern-looking format of bank branches which looks different from traditional bank branch set-up.
Banks can occupy a niche by focusing on a segment or provide solutions for the target segments. The niche can help create a very strong positioning. For instance, there are banks which are focussed on a community, a location or a product line being prominent. India has had a few success stories in form of occupying niches.
Example: The co-operative banks occupy niche with communities or locality which give them an advantage in the chosen segment, there are examples like Saraswat Bank, NKGSB Bank, Bassein Catholic Bank etc.
Websites, mobile banking, internet banking, kiosks are factors that make the brand tangible. The look and feel, ease of handling, promptness, uptime are some elements that can go a long way in creating the brand image for a bank. Always up, always quick can lead to great recall value for a bank. That is precisely why banks are investing heavily in technology and building the technology and digital teams to ensure the best is provided to the customer.
Example: Fidor Bank in Germany is a pure-play digital bank which was formed to re-establish lost confidence in banking with new and customer-focused services.
What matters in the end?
Of course, advertising can help promote a brand, but in the end, the factors above will be the ones to make or break. These are the elements where a customer will engage and evaluate if the real and the perceived matches or not.