Position a bank

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

7 March 2019

Can you position a bank to steal market share?

Finding a REAL viable marketing position for a bank is a challenge. But the ability to position a bank is no different from any other category. Finding differentiation in a regulated category represents the challenge.

If I taught a university class on brand positioning, I would use banking as a case study. Why? Because it forces great marketers to recognize that emotional positioning is all that matters. Attributes and services are commodities.

A textbook case study

So, what happens when you look for positioning and automatically reject the knee jerk attributes of safety, security and location? What arrows remain in the quiver when you ignore the usual suspects? Can you position a bank without regurgitating rates, low fees, convenience and service?

Position a bankAll that remains is what really matters. Emotional connection. Self-identification of the customer, not the bank. In other words, the essence of branding to steal market share remains.

The ability to position a bank remains illusive

TD Bank positions itself as the world’s most convenient bank. Ally Bank lacks a position other than virtual. Banks grow through acquisition.

Why is that? The answer is simple. Most people change banks ONLY when they move.

That’s right. Aside from adding a new credit card to our wallets, no one seems to switch banks.

The banking category spends millions on advertisements to prompt switching. But from the bank’s perspective, little fruit seems to break free from the tree.

Five years ago, it felt as if every other TV spot was a bank advertisement. Today, our airwaves are saturated with pharmaceutical ads. (The subject of another future blog.) It seems that bank marketers are learning something. Spending to grow beyond a specific product (like CD rates or credit cards) fails.

Enter Aspiration. Positioned as Do Well. Do Good.

I don’t know if Aspiration owns a winning position. What I do know is that it OWNS a position.

To position a bank you need to own an emotional value. Aspiration does.

The crux of its brand promise is good citizenship. Promising a social conscience and green sensibilities. It is the Calvert Funds of banks.

Check out one of its commercials below. I get the message (because I look for brand messages). I’m not sold on the execution as I find the ad itself a bit too passive in its color palette and imagery.

“Aspiration Bank birthed a brand. Raising it to adulthood requires focus and certainty.”

Social concern is STRIDENT in the fiber of the target audience. When looking to position a bank you look to own the highest emotional intensity available. Get it? Emotional intensity.

Intensity means assertive and strident. Not passive and flowery.

Aspiration Bank misses the mark

But only by a bit. Once again, I do not know how emotionally intensive social responsibility is. My guess is that for many it is highly emotional.

But focus is what counts. The brand gives us clues as to the politic that hatched the position.

The brand promises three things. 1) No brick and mortar, 2) do well and 3) do good.

The latter two comprise the same idea. The bank should have eliminated #2 when it conceived the brand position. It was afraid not to mention the financial bent.

In fact, Do Good says BOTH. Do Well weakens the focus.

Is this a problem for the customer? Probably not. But it weakens the attraction for new customers. And, more importantly, it is a glimpse into the brand management. Sounds like Aspiration is not certain it is pregnant. It should be.

Aspiration Bank birthed a brand. Raising it to adulthood requires focus and certainty. It expects that from its customers. It should expect more from itself.

See more posts in the following related categories: bank advertising


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