Who is responsible for building your financial institution’s brand? Is it executives? Employees? Consumers? The answer is yes. All of these people are responsible for building your brand, because great brands are built by people. Executives must lead the brand. Employees must live the brand and customers or members must love the brand. If one of these elements is missing, your brand might still be successful, but it won’t be as strong as it could.
Author and leadership expert John Maxwell has written, “everything rises and falls on leadership.” That includes leading your brand. It must start at the top and trickle down.
Employees take their cues from the top. If leaders are embracing the brand, the rest of the organization will follow. If leaders are just giving a bunch of lip service, the rest of the organization will follow. Leading the brand means demonstrating the actions you want everyone else in the organization to take.
How many times do you get caught up in your daily tasks and walk right past employees without saying a word? A strong brand requires employees to engage with consumers and with co-workers. That means you. Periodically, schedule time in your day to walk through the hallways and engage your staff. Ask them what is going well. Ask them what isn’t going well and what your financial institution can do to make it better. Thank them for their commitment to the brand. Be sincere. If they think you don’t care, they won’t care either.
Lead by example
Don’t just tell people you are passionate about your brand. Show them. A financial institution we work with recently held a branding day for its employees. One of the executives shared a story of a time when the financial institution was converting to a different online banking system. The vendor losing the business made a huge conversion mistake that affected thousands of accounts. This executive instructed staff to give out her personal cell phone number, and she took hundreds of calls from upset consumers at all hours of the day and night. When one of those consumers realized she was talking to him in her car on the way to work, he completely changed his opinion of the situation.
Later, he wrote a letter to her and to the CEO about how his one encounter with her by phone saved his relationship with that financial institution. He saw how much the financial institution really cared. She lived the brand in a very extreme way, and every employee knew it. Hopefully, you won’t have to demonstrate your passion for the brand to that extent, but you do have to show you care about the brand with your actions. If you expect employees to behave a certain way, lead by example.
Encourage and Inspire
Coach and Author Tony Robbins once wrote, “Don’t be afraid of new ideas. Be afraid of old ideas. They keep you where you are and stop you from growing and moving forward.” Encourage your employees to share their ideas on how to make your financial institution better. Inspire them to develop innovative ways to live your brand. The people who work the front lines know what your customers or members want more than anyone else in your organization. Tap into that knowledge and inspire the creativity needed to take your brand to the next level. Empower them to make the decisions that make consumers love your brand.
Branding does not happen in a board room with a handful of people. It may start that way, but your brand cannot be successful without buy-in from your entire staff. That requires you to lead the brand, in ways that inspire them to live the brand, so customers and members will love your brand.