If you want to know if your bank has an alignment problem, ask ten co-workers, ”What is your bank’s brand value proposition? If 80% or more say close to the same thing – that is fantastic, and you are likely in the top 1% of bank performance. If 60% of your co-workers say the same thing, move on, as that is good enough not to prioritize bank alignment. However, if your answers are all over the map, then not only do you have a challenge to solve, but we would submit to you that answering that question should be in your top three challenges for the rest of the year. Solving bank alignment from the customer’s point of view is one of the greatest things a bank can achieve. In this article, we look at why getting clarity around your bank’s brand proposition is important and some ideas to consider.

The Harley Davidson Story

Consider Harley Davidson. The Company traces its roots back to 1901 and has been a successful motorcycle company for much of the time. However, in 1985, the Outlaw Motorcycle Club was the focus of several negative press stories, and it became known that their members only rode Harleys. Harley Davidson became aligned with the criminal element in America and lost market share as it slid from almost 90% of the U.S. market at its peak to about 10% in 1990.

Between 1985 and 1990, a dozen motorcycle companies targeted the U.S. market, with Honda taking the dominant share of the mass market and BMW hemming Harley in for the luxury market. Harley Davidson had to do something to differentiate itself from a market that was fast being commoditized.

The Company had to figure out what it was selling to turn things around. The answer was a lifestyle. What Harley Davidson was selling and its brand proposition was the ability of a 45-year-old accountant or small business owner to dress up in leather and scare small towns with the bass throttle of their engines. They were not selling motorcycles or the ability to get from point A to point B, but the ability to feel like an outlaw for two hours a weekend.

Once the Company figured out its brand proposition, sales took off.

A Bank Brand Value Proposition

Banks can do the same thing, and many already do. Your bank’s brand value proposition isn’t the same as its mission or vision statement. A mission or vision statement is likely to be high-level. While these statements might tell what an organization is about, the views need to be more granular to answer the question of what a bank is selling.

A bank brand value proposition is a sentence that outlines the value that the bank offers to its desired customers to separate the bank from its competitors.

Your value proposition could be “To be the preferred trusted advisor to our clients for financial services.” If that is your value proposition, as it is for many banks, then it could be improved. The problem with that statement is that it does not differentiate your bank from the competition, and it is unclear why a ‘trusted advisor” is important. If being a trusted advisor means your bankers have experience running a business, expertise in finance, or industry knowledge, then each of these attributes would be better to build a brand value proposition around.

What Is Your Bank Selling?

Another way to look at your brand value proposition is to determine what your bank sells to its target customers. Maybe your bank is selling speed or the ability to be smarter than the competition. Maybe it is the financial knowledge about a specific industry, such as agriculture. Or, your bank delivers value across a horizontal dimension, such as 1031 exchanges, ESOPs, professional practice loans, or municipal banking. Some banks successfully sell the ability of households and businesses to exert strong financial control.

Trust, stability, and accuracy were essential but important 100 years ago. Now, everyone takes those characteristics for granted, much like motorcycle customers always needed a reliable way to get around.

If you are selling loans or deposits, you should figure out what is so special about your loans or deposits. If nothing is special, increasing your market share will be difficult unless you do it by brute force.

Creating a Bank Brand Value Proposition

Understand your desired brand positioning and target audience to create a compelling value proposition.

The two important parts here are that it is not about defining your current brand position or your current customer needs but where you want to take the bank. Your value proposition should speak to the needs of your target market and explain something unique about your bank or culture. Once brainstormed, then go back and refine your brand value proposition so it is clear, concise, and memorable.

Great bank brand propositions solve everyday problems and stick in your customers’ heads to become the same as your bank’s brand. Brand value propositions can take many forms, from describing attributes about a product (Like Netflix’s – “Watch Anywhere. Cancel Anytime.”) to more aspirational like Nike’s “Just Do It.”

Eight Bank Brand Value Propositions

By way of example, some of our favorites that have not been taken (to our knowledge) are below. Picture each proposition with a supporting campaign and iconography. These can be modified for retail or commercial banks.

“A Bank for People That Love Banking.”

“Helping Create Generational Wealth”

“Your Money Coach.”

“Providing Financial Tools to Help You Live Better.”

“Building Wealth to Share Life.”

“Supporting Your Future.”

“Taking Care of the Numbers, So You Don’t Have To.”

“Complete Banking For Complete People.”

Putting This Into Action

If you have not defined what a “trusted advisor” or “relationship banking” means, chances are you are missing the last mile of connection with the customer. If you brainstorm what those terms mean to your culture, you will likely come up with what your bank is selling and your brand proposition.

In trying to figure out what your bank is selling, the goal is to get down to a tangible articulation of your value proposition.

Knowing what you are selling will make your bank brand value proposition clear to your customers and define your culture. If you sell something vague like “loans” or “service,” you will have an equally ambiguous culture. If you sell the Harley Davidson lifestyle, everyone knows what that means.

Figuring out what you are selling is one of the most essential things a bank can do. It is hard to name a great company that hasn’t figured out what they are selling – Southwest Airlines, Chick-fil-A, Microsoft, Starbucks, Facebook, and many others all have a clear brand value proposition. Find yours, and it will revolutionize your bank.

Tags: , , , Published: 10/19/23 by Chris Nichols