blank billboard with ckustomers speeding past

Drive around Anytown, USA, and it’s likely you’ll see a fair amount of outdoor advertising for banks promoting free checking, credit cards with rewards, fast online account opening and pay-a-friend services like Venmo. And flip through Anytown’s business publication or read the news online and you’ll see them there, too.

Financial marketers are spending a fortune trying to attract customers who see nothing.

To complicate matters, many institutions also have similar-sounding names, or names containing the same words like First, Central, Security, Community or Liberty.

What’s left is a perfect storm. It means that while these ads may—I use the word may loosely—be building awareness of the institution, most do nothing to differentiate from others or to build equity for their brand.

They are very expensive wallpaper.

If you’re caught up in being part of this homogenous group, the time is now to revamp and upgrade your brand, your message and your marketing mix.

VERY expensive wall paper bank brand


Your brand, as Jeff Bezos says, is “what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” It is not free checking, smarter investing or knowing your customers by name.

Know what your institution stands for: its purpose, its unique solution to customer problems and how it delivers on the promise. Identify how you do it differently than the other banks, credit unions or financial advisors that are so close you can throw a rock to hit them.


Once you can truly articulate your unique positioning, that’s what you should be talking about. Don’t talk about fast, local loan decisions. Customers can get those anywhere, and they know that.

Different types of accounts and delivery methods help your team deliver on the promise. But the accounts are not the promise.

Your message should clearly state—and repeat—your brand promise. You may get tired of repeating it, but don’t stray. It takes time and unwavering stewardship to build the reputation with your audiences. You see your messaging every day. They don’t.

marketing mix

It’s exciting to see your name in 11 foot high letters on a billboard or a sports team’s Jumbotron. And mass media probably has a place in your marketing mix. But before you head blindly down that path, make sure your message and your logo will meet your customers and prospects where they are.

If you’re pursuing a business audience, make sure you’re spending where they’re likely to be. Boomer and older audiences may find you in the newspaper. Millennial targets will find you online. And both may appreciate seeing your institution in the business publications in your markets.

Be very intentional about weighing and analyzing each media channel for its ability to efficiently reach your audiences. Sometimes you have to test. When you do, build in unique measurements so you can assess the ROI going forward.

Don’t throw money at the wall to see what sticks.

break from the pack
Time flies. The new year is just around the corner. Let this be the time you break from the pack to stand out and stand for something unique. That leads to longterm, well-matched customers and the loyalty that pays dividends.

If you'd like to talk about differentiating and reinvigorating your brand, schedule a meeting with Martha Bartlett Piland today.