Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jeff Stephens on Branding - Maine Credit Union League Marketing Council Workshop

On Tuesday, April 21st I had the pleasure of attending a marketing workshop hosted by the Maine Credit Union League and hearing the ever insightful Jeff Stephens of Creative Brand Communications. If you’re looking for a fresh (may I go so far as to say “off the wall”) approach to branding, Jeff is the guy you want to talk to. I have met Jeff before and heard him speak at the 2008 Forum/Trabian Partnership Symposium. Both presentations were thought provoking to say the least. Though there were common points between the two presentations there are some notes and a few new concepts that I’d like to share from this session.

Differentiating yourself isn’t about breaking the rules, but it isn’t about following the rules either.

The changes required for differentiation should be comforting to the entire team. It should be what makes sense, not “being outside the box”, that is important.

Who cares about the box, where it is, or being outside of it? Being “outside the box” has become…well…in the box!

The good news is that finding your story, telling it, and proving it:
1) Isn’t hard
2) Is something you can start now
3) Isn’t expensive

Building your brand must go beyond marketing.

“Marketing is far too important to be left to the marketing department” – David Packard

Your brand is a collection of experiences that somebody has. Not just members, and not just in your branch during business hours, but every interaction that anybody has at any time with your credit union.

These experiences, or touch points, involve all 5 senses. What does your brand smell like, taste like, sound like, and feel like?

Macro touch points are things like:
  • A branch visit
  • An account statement
  • A website visit
  • A follow-up call

True touch points, however, are the tiny things that make up each of those interactions.

Branding is an inside-out process. You have to find out who you are (your brand), identify all the touch points (taking into account that people have 5 senses), and align those touch points to that central personality, story, or “brand” that makes your credit union what it is.

People experience your brand with more than just their eyes. If somebody was led into your branch blindfolded, would they still know where they are?

The more senses you can associate with your brand, the deeper that association is burned and the harder it is for somebody else to replicate the “recipe” that makes you up.

By being laser focused with your brand by identifying who you are right for and who you are wrong for you will be able to articulate your story with more clarity than ever before.

You can’t bore people into like you.

Your brand should be your measuring stick. You should get that measuring stick out all the time and use it to calculate how well aligned every aspect of your credit union is with your brand. By doing this you will be able to turn arbitrary decisions like the fabric on your chairs, or the paper you use in a direct mail piece, into brand-centric decisions and create a true multi-sensory personality for your credit union.

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