Banks and Credit Unions

By Tom Dougherty

Rebranding Banks. It is do or die.

rebranding banksAre bank marketers fearful of rebranding banks? It appears that they are.

So, let’s get one notion out of the way. Bank rebranding does not mean a new name or logo. Those are superficial changes.

Indeed, there are times when rebranding banks that Stealing Share recommends a name or logo change. But the pivotal change in bank rebranding is a disruptive message and a new meaning. And, rebranding banks is not something to do only after a merger or acquisition. Call us.

Start the rebranding banks countdown.

rebranding banksEveryone wants to grow market share. The secret sauce is in brand positioning and meaning. That’s how you grow.

In the past, it seemed like the only way to increase a bank’s market share was to build a new branch. That day is gone.

Sure, if you are afraid of rebranding banks, you may still build a new branch in a new location. But that is looking backward. The future in bank rebranding looks straight in the other direction. It looks forward.

The permanent changes of COVID

rebranding banksWe have all learned to live and work remotely. COVID forced banks and credit unions to have employees telecommute. And the bank customers? The customers in both retail and commercial have learned the same remote banking model.

They won’t be back in your lobbies soon. It easier to use mobile banking, and the quarantines have forced banks and credit unions to solve the remote banking bugs.

Depositing checks from your smartphone is now easy. And ubiquitous debit cards have replaced money clips.

And mobile banking has convenient hours—twenty-four of them in a day.

What does all this mean when rebranding banks?

It means you need to differentiate yourself from the pack of look-a-like commodity players that make up your competitive set. It would be best if you considered rebranding banks as the means to grow.

rebranding banksAnd why is that? Because MEANING and messaging are your entire means of differentiation. To actively grab new customers, your brand must disrupt the market. I say disrupt because that’s what’s needed. You’re ignored If your message is not a source of dissonance.

Disrupt the market. Say and mean something bigger than banking. People only switch when they feel a problem, and the mobile banking model has removed most of the problem.

Things like driving to the bank and rushing to make sure you make it before closing time.

Every bank and credit union knows what I am saying to be true. The bank playing board tilts to one end, and everyone is sliding down to the commodity drain.

Don’t want the hassle of rebranding banks? Ok, build more branches. The common wisdom in banking is that a local branch is more convenient. Really?

What is more convenient than my smartphone, mobile App, and camera?  Are you going to open a new branch in my dining room?

Rebranding banks is your route to the top.

rebranding banksSo, assuming you see your banking life in the scenario I pitched earlier. If you don’t rebrand a bank but keep on with standard messaging, what will you claim?

I’ll talk in a bit about the science of rebranding banks to steal market share. And how the brand needs to be persuasive. But right now, let’s talk about out-of-the-box messaging.

So, everyone is embracing mobile banking. Why not claim you have great mobile banking and an easy-to-use app?

Because everyone has it, you will sound just like Bank of America, Chase, TRUIST, the local credit union, and the community bank up the street. Is that a message of dissonance?

Is it a part of bank rebranding to claim the same services as EVERYONE else? Is that a message to which anyone would pay attention?

rebranding banksOk, that’s not going to work. How about a message showing how easy your app is to use? Do I need to refute this? Or do you know what I am going to say already? “The easiest app to use is the one I am using because I already know how to operate it.”

What if we rebranding banks to be friendlier and more caring? Ever heard that from a bank or credit union before? Is that a dissonant and disruptive message?

When was the last time you heard a bank or credit union claim that they don’t care about customers or members and hire nasty employees?

I’m sarcastic here to make an important point. You’re a bank or a credit union. That means your employees are friendly, your fees fair, your locations efficient, and your services safe.

So, don’t waste a breath claiming any of these category virtues. They won’t get ANYONE to switch.

Look at it this way. Any of the claims you make are shared by your competition: everyone shares, even LOCAL. The Bank of America branch right up the street is local to me. And the people that work there are my neighbors. The tellers know my dog’s name.

If you were a restaurant rather than a bank or credit union, you could hang out a brand sign that says EAT as the brand name, and we serve food as a theme.

What do I mean when I suggest rebranding banks?

rebranding banksI’m suggesting a real opportunity in rebranding banks because everyone claims the same meaningless drivel.

When Stealing Share is hired to rebranding banks, we find the highest emotional intensity (here is an article about our branding process). The truth about the target audience is more powerful than any operation or offering you might consider.

When rebranding banks, the fulcrum is about the customer, not about the bank. Banks talk about themselves even when they think they are not.

US Bank has a commercial that aired about COVID. The theme is “we will get there together.”


I’m sure it offends some. But consider how powerful it would be if US Bank said simply, “you will get there.”

The problem is banks can’t see the world without them as pivotal. And they exaggerate their importance. No one believes that US Bank creates wealth for us or makes exceptions for us.

It’s just essential bank marketing and not at all a part of rebranding banks.

Rebranding banks is not easy

rebranding banksAnd I have no rote answers for you. But we have the right questions to ask to find those answers.

We have a process to uncover the emotional intensities (we all it behavior modeling). And we have the skill and experience to take a commodity and make alchemy happen.

Meanwhile, the world spins on, and banks see importance begin to flicker. Call us, and don’t be a victim. And don’t be a survivor either. Be the victor and rebrand your bank or credit union as vital and in touch.

I am sure you have read enough. But if you are interested in the process of rebranding banks, continue on.

Rebranding Banks and Credit Unions

rebranding banksThe banking industry is going through another of its transition periods as banks understand that they are more closely aligned with the service sector than they are with the financial sector. That’s one reason why rebranding banks has become so difficult…and interesting.

When rebranding banks, the stakes for success are high, and the losers will eventually fail. The trend towards consolidation is continuing, and, increasingly, large banks are looming on the competitive horizon.

These larger banks have immense marketing budgets to wield, and their national advertising provides them with greater local awareness than even the most established community banks.

rebranding banksTherefore, one would think that the largest multi-state banks would hold an insurmountable advantage in gaining new customers and growing market share. The evidence, however, would point to a different conclusion.

And this has a bearing on rebranding banks.

Rebranding banks would not matter if ANY bank has broken through the awareness barrier with important meaning to the prospective (not the current) customer base?

Then it would not be necessary to build a branch on what seems like every street corner.

The Current Banking Category

Why you must do things differently

The reason to invest in rebranding banks and financial institutions is to protect them against the tremendous capital expense of putting a new branch on every corner.

You need to attract new customers when the bank is not necessarily the most convenient. The reason few banks have been able to win the battle for the wallet (which is, in fact, a battle for importance on an emotional and intellectual level) is telling.

rebranding banksAdvertising does little to differentiate one bank brand from another, and they seem to dwell on category-wide benefits.

While it may actually matter (according to your market research) to a potential banking customer that your bank is: convenient. And that has many ATMs, competitive rates, “free checking” (we have even seen promises of “SUPER FREE CHECKING”).

You have friendly service and are “small enough to care – large enough to meet your needs,” all of these attributes are banking category table stakes.

Current advertising does nothing to build market share or differentiate beyond corporate identity. It has to change if rebranding banks are on tap.

Rebranding banks. You can’t win with table stakes.

You cannot be a bank (or a credit union) today if you are inconvenient. Or have few ATMs, unfriendly service, expensive checking, and are “too large to care and too small to meet your needs.”

We cannot find any bank or credit union that advertises these deficits, and your potential customers have a right to believe that banks are, in fact, all, pretty much the same.

So, left without REAL choices, consumers choose by convenience and locations. And occasionally word of mouth reputation, and, most importantly, when they are fed up with their current bank. This alone is a great argument for rebranding banks (all of them).

Rebranding banks to be more important 

rebranding banksFor the customer, switching banks or credit unions are a first-rate hassle. They avoid it unless they have relocated, moved, changed jobs, or been poorly treated by their current bank.

All things considered, they are likely just to stay put. If you want to win in this market space and increase your market share, do something.

When rebranding banks, you must target those already looking to switch banks because of one of the above reasons. Above their considered set of banking choices, you must also stand out in their minds to win. This is the goal when rebranding banks.

This means that banks and credit unions need to know their potential banking customers better than banks currently know them. Market research tells you that they value convenience and location.

But all of these things are not doing enough to help banks increase market share. You do not need research to know this.

It is a consumer trend that transcends your banking category, and it does not tell you how to be different and better (as a bank brand), which is the hallmark of a brand that steals, grows, and increases market share.

Your success is dependent on strategic brand work

We are not talking about your bank marketing and advertising failings; we are talking about the DNA of your brand that pre-determines how effective your advertising will be because it provides the fundamental permission to be vitally important and believable. It is this essence that will make everything you market more effective.

Without such fundamental changes, the only answer to your quest to increase market share is to build more branches, spend more on advertising, and buy up more competitors. If you plan on that, all the more reason to think about rebranding banks as a real possibility.

rebranding banks

Understanding the rebranding banks decision tree – Choosing a Financial Institution in 21 steps

  • rebranding banksWhat do I need to do with my money?
    The first question is what NEEDS to be done. The customer needs to become aware of the situation and automatically address what needs to be done to live.
  • What should I do with my money?
    Then the customer begins to think about what they SHOULD do with their money. This could include considering what will bring in more profit or how much should be saved instead of invested…etc. The customer begins to debate after the recognition of what must be done to function properly.
  • What do I want to do with my money?
    Following the debate of what needs to and should be done with finances, the customer begins to consider what they would like to do or WANTS to do with their money for themselves. They think about what will make them the most profit and what will be easy and beneficial for them.

No one said rebranding banks was going to be easy

  • What do I know?
    Naturally, the customer then begins to think about how much experience and knowledge they have in this field and wonders how much control they could have over their money based upon this experience and knowledge.
  • rebranding banksWhat will be best for me?
    The customer asks himself if they know best and if they know of the best options for themselves. They consider themselves as an individual before considering others involved in the decisions.
  • What will be best for my spouse/family?
    Immediately after the personalization of the decision has been established, they become aware of the needs of the family/spouse. Determining what would be best for them may not in fact be the same as determining what is best for them as an individual.
  • Am I a member of a particular group that has a specific financial setup?
    Next, the prospect thinks about their current situation regarding employment, benefits, and other factors. They ask themselves if they are a member of a certain institution by association or if there could be added benefits to belonging to an institution aligned with their employment benefits. For example, a certain credit union or bank may only accept members or shareholders who work for a particular company or the government…etc.

When rebranding banks, easiest is best

  • What is the easiest solution?
    This is where they begin to get frustrated and start looking for the easiest, most painless option. After discovering the many factors involved with choosing a new home for his finances and those of his family/spouse, he begins to look for a quick fix or an easy answer to appear.
  • rebranding banksDoes location matter (work/home)?
    Convenience becomes the next question. The financial institution close to home or to work presents an easy option that is accessible and timely. They wonder if they will make any sacrifices to have that convenience factor of proximity.
  • What resources do I need to make this happen?
    Next, they wonder what kind of money they need to start up and how much money they will need to budget for each account. Do they need anything in particular before he starts up his accounts?
  • What are my options?
    They observe the entire set of institutions in the area and realizes there are more options than they thought. They realize that they may not know which one will be right for them or their family/spouse.
  • What do my family and friends use for their finances?
    Immediately they turn to people he trusts for advice and recommendations. If they use XYZ Bank and have no problems, then I should go check out XYZ bank because it would probably work for them too, which is sometimes, but definitely not always the case.

The customer wants to be helped

  • Who will help me?
    They look for more assistance. They start becoming aware of the different institutions advertising, the way the buildings look…etc. They seek information and may either go inside for help from an employee or look on the Internet for information and ratings.
  • rebranding banksWhat will make a difference? They determine the deciding factor, whether it is location, price, options, customer service…etc. There will be one factor that will directly influence their final decision.
  • How will I keep my records?
    They want to know how they will keep track of his money and see what is being done to maximize their profits. They want to be sure they can see what is happening and feel security in the decision time and time again.
  • What kind of access will I have?
    Security also lies within the realm of easy access. Will the money be safe from everyone else but entirely accessible to them? They want to know that if any transactions or emergency funds are needed, they can rely on their provider to be there for them regardless of day or hour.
  • What will I have to do?
    How do they get started? They want to know of any catches or start-up fees. They need to know how difficult it will be for them to get organized and fall into a pattern at the new institution.

What have you done for me lately?

  • What will be done for me?
    rebranding banksThey want to know what kind of service they will be getting in return for the investment of their finances. What kind of rewards are given to the customer, and what can be done to make life easier? They want peace of mind and to know that they are being accommodated.
  • Over what will I have control?
    In other words, what do I have to do to keep things going in the right direction? They want some control over their money, but not enough that they feel as though they are completely responsible for what happens to it while it is in the bank or mutual funds…etc. They want to have control via access and knowledge.
  • What kind of fees and charges are involved?
    Everyone naturally wants to know what kind of late fees or start-up fees pop up. As consumers, we are always taught to look for the small print and the hidden catches when something seems too good to be true.
  • What will I have the ability to do on my computer?
    They want to know what can be accomplished at home on the computer. When they cannot make it to the institution after work or during lunch, they want to know if they can come home and have online capabilities. They also want to know if there is anything online that sets this particular place over another. They are still looking for assurance that they are going to make the right decision.

Understanding “the switcher” is key.

And you need to understand the thought process that propels customers to switch.

rebranding banksAt Stealing Share, we build decision trees to help us visualize this and help us anticipate all of the internal questions.

The questions that the prospect makes when they consider switching banks. We then address those issues in the brand’s definition, being careful to note the important questions that are the customer’s self-identification.

These questions highlight the bank’s promise because your brand is NEVER about you. Not if your rebranding banks, It is all about the customer. If the prospect can find themselves in the brand, sharing their core beliefs and values, they will prefer you and increase your market share.

 Opportunity is always found in the belief systems of your target audience.

rebranding banksThe ways banks and credit unions speak today do little to create preference. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, TRUIST, First Trust, RBC Centura, PNC, and Sun Trust all appear the same to potential customers. But rebranding banks seem always to be put on the back burner unless a merger or acquisition happens.

The real opportunity in rebranding financial institutions and increasing market share will be found when they finally define themselves in terms of the customer and not in terms of their own offerings and services.

As long as banks and credit unions continue to see themselves solely as banks and not as extensions of their prospective customers, then their only option is to put a new bank branch on every street corner in America, wasting valuable capital and resources that may ultimately place the bank itself at a competitive disadvantage.

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