As the Financial Brand Forum gears up for its big show from May 7-9 in Las Vegas, we checked in with our Chief Experience Officer, Gina Bleedorn – who will be on stage with Creative Director, Ty Wong, doing a live brand makeover – for her thoughts about the current brand landscape. As we have often pointed out, financial brands follow directly behind retail in their response to disruption. With store closures at a record pace, retail is facing one of the toughest brand environments in recent memory. What does that mean for financial brands? Gina says that there are things brands can do now to prepare for challenges heading their way in the near-future.
Sometimes a brand waits until they’re behind the eight-ball to change. Some triggering event happens to make leaders in the C-Suite realize that they’ve rested on their laurels for far too long. Innovative brands understand that change is a constant, unrelenting force marching forward. The best brands understand they must continually assess their brand’s health. Gina says, “I think what happens is that some brands have fallen behind and perhaps realized they have to do something to change or stand out because something triggered that. There are others that have had success and don't realize – especially at the C-Suite level – the risk of not establishing the meaningful point of differentiation for their brand.”
A brand is not measured on a balance sheet. You can have financial success yet still not have a strong brand. Gina says, “Fighting for your brand is not about defense. It's not even about offense, really. However successful they've been in the past, brands will eventually fall behind if they don't fight to stand out. At an institutional level, many CEOs think a brand is a balance sheet, cashflow or some other financial benchmark. It’s not. For any good brand, it’s about getting ahead of what's happening, about skating to where the puck is going. Many people in the C-Suite do not realize that their brand is the single most valuable asset they have as a company.”
A lack of understanding the value of brand at the executive level and the unwillingness to invest in it often dovetails into the C-Suite thinking that a brand is the logo. Gina says, “I see a lot of that mentality at the executive level. People at the C-Suite don’t understand what a brand is and don’t understand the value of a brand, so they just equate a brand with their logo. Your brand is not your logo. Your brand is everything your logo embodies. It’s your reputation and what you stand for. A logo is part of it – representing what a brand stands for – but it’s not all of it by any stretch of the imagination.” That can all be tied back to really understanding what brand experience is.
Gina says, “User experience (UX) is consumers interacting with a single product or service. Customer experience (CX) is your customer's experience interacting with all of your products and services and people. Your brand experience (BX) is where anyone comes in contact with your brand – not just as a user or customer. That’s where we want to focus our energies. If we do our branding job correctly, we're going to be able to affect what people think of when they think of you. It's your reputation based on everything you do. It’s what competitors think of you. It's what the industry thinks of you. It's what potential new customers think of you. That’s your BX. That's what moves the needle. You can have amazing CX and customers who love you and that's great but that's not going to grow you.”
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
- Seth Godin
With BX, it’s important to understand that you’re not in control over everything. Your brand is co-created by users and others outside your brand. That’s why it’s vital to develop your brand differentiation and brand story. How better to have people understand your brand than storytelling? Gina says, “There is always some element of brand that lies outside your control. You can always shape it and manage it and you have to respond to what people say and do and what people want, but you can’t control all of it. Without a strong brand, others will define you on their terms and take control of your brand’s story. You have to be the driver of your brand’s story arc.”
Any example of crisis communications provides ample evidence of how vital a brand is to a company. When faced with a challenge, do you reaffirm your brand’s values in your response? Gina says, “If something happens that is against what you stand for as a brand, you have to manage that and take steps that are in alignment with what your brand truly stands for. If your brand is known for its human connection and an event happens in one of your retail stores that undermines that brand value, your response as a brand must be immediate and unimpeachable. That event cannot define your brand story, unless you let it.”
Adrenaline will present its live Financial Brand Makeover at the Financial Brand Forum on Monday, May 7 at 4:00 p.m. in The Chelsea. To learn more about how to make the most of your brand, visit our team of experts at the Adrenaline booth in the exhibit hall or contact us at email@example.com.