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Building a resilient banking brand amid short-term pressures

Sary Richat, Regional Strategy Director at Mindshare MENA, explains how to safeguard brand equity in the banking sector in an era focused on short-term tactics

Today, most banks follow the same tactics, luring customers with ‘rewards’ and thus focusing on short-termism rather than building long-term partnerships.

This approach, driven by the need for quick, measurable results, aligns with the prevailing pressure on brand teams to meet quarterly sales goals.

Banking experiences are also becoming more commoditised, product sets largely homogenous, and additional features are easily secured by collaborating with third-party vendors.

Compounding these challenges, traditional banks face a formidable threat from the rapid evolution of technology and the widespread adoption of digital devices, with fintech companies posing a significant competitive challenge.

In the midst of this dynamic and unpredictable environment, the imperative to fortify brand building has never been more pronounced. Securing customer advocacy demands a strategic shift towards cultivating lasting relationships and fostering brand loyalty.

The importance of emotive communication in building trust 

Although we’re constantly faced with a wealth of information that we must process without the time to do so in a reflective manner, our brain is still able to process it passively and unconsciously.

Our emotions act as a subconscious gatekeeper to all our rational decisions, occasionally (when in a rush) effectively making decisions for us via our intuitions.

Which is why emotional content in advertising can subconsciously influence even our most rational
and well-thought decisions.

Who to bank with can be a highly emotively charged decision. Banks are entrusted with safeguarding our financial assets, including savings and investments.

The perceived reputation and brand position of a bank can evoke strong emotions, as individuals seek assurance that their hard-earned money is in reliable hands.

Consequently, the manner in which banks communicate must skilfully resonate with the emotions of consumers, with a primary emphasis on cultivating trust.

Brand equity remains pivotal

Emphasising on mass media branding seems questionable in a marketplace where customers have access to massive amounts of information about brands and in which social networks have supplanted brand networks.

Yet, while you can (sometimes) win in search listings, it is much easier if people recognise why your brand is better before they are in a price comparison website environment or exposed to an advert from a Fintech company.

Consumers increasingly expect brands to have a POV; thus, banks need to make sure they take a stand on something big to deepen the emotional connection.

Firms that spend less on brand building fail to build brand equity, so they get poor responses from their activation. Firms that spend too little on activation can build strong brands yet fail to exploit them fully. Profitable brands do both together in complete synergy.

William Bruce Cameron cited in 1963, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted”. Today, it’s high time we shift our perspective from merely collecting data to contemplating meaningful connections—whether within the realm of digital metrics or intricate modelling.

The emphasis should be on measuring their substantive contributions to the business, recognising that true value often transcends what can be quantified.

How does this translate for the financial sector? 

Brand resonance, relevance and recall are the only way forward at times when there is too much focus on driving short-term results. Despite the evolving and intricate nature of today’s media environment, successful banks continue to navigate the complexities by prioritising brand building.

This strategic focus is essential not only to craft a compelling image in the minds of consumers but also to instil trust—a fundamental element in fostering a sense of security and brand reputation within the banking industry.

BrandZ shows us that the most successful brands (consistently outperforming the S&P500 and MSCI World Index) have stronger brand equity, enabling them to deliver superior returns over time regardless of market disruptions and/or global crises. 

Even well-established banks need to continually invest in their brand because familiar and recognisable brands are likelier to be trusted and selected by customers.

Stronger brand equity drives long-term base sales, reducing the average cost per sale of direct response communications, increasing the halo effect, and, hence, delivering a greater total profit.

In the dynamic landscape of banking, where trust and recognition are paramount, ongoing brand investment emerges as a strategic imperative for securing enduring customer loyalty and business success.

By Sary Richat, Regional Strategy Director at Mindshare MENA