What are 2016’s top financial services brands?
It’s the time of year when consultancy Interbrand releases its annual report into the Best Global Brands.
This year’s doesn’t differ wildly from the 2015 list – which you can read about here on Perivan Solutions website. The top spots are again taken by Apple (1), Google (2) and Coca-Cola (3). Microsoft remains in 4th place, with Toyota moving up to 5th, overtaking IBM.
Where do financial services brands appear?
As in the 2015 survey, financial services firms are conspicuous by their absence at the top of the list.
GE – which includes financial services among its wide range of businesses – appears tenth, down two places from last year.
But the first true financial services firm isn’t seen until 25th, where American Express makes an appearance.
JP Morgan (31), AXA (46), HSBC (47) and Citi (49) are the other companies in the first half of the list, with Visa (61), Santander (70), MasterCard (76) and PayPal (90) making it into the top 100.
What does this mean for financial services branding?
Arguably, making it onto the list at all is pretty impressive. Think of all the global companies there are, and it’s clear that appearing in the top 100 means you are doing a lot of things right.
But the limited number of finance firms on the list means for many, there is room for improvement.
How is the report compiled?
The methodology is based around ten ‘Brand Strength factors’. These are:
We can look at each in the context of a regulated business and its customer communications. It’s then clear that there are strong parallels with the requirements your firm faces from elsewhere.
In other words, meet your regulatory compliance requirements and you will simultaneously strengthen your brand.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) requires financial promotions to be ‘fair, clear and not misleading’. Comply with this and you are on your way to meeting Interbrand’s criteria for a ‘well-crafted, well-communicated, and shared vision of what the brand stands for, who it is targeting, and how it should be experienced’.
Interbrand talk about the need for ‘a shared belief in the brand proposition that encourages people to invest time and energy’.
They recognise that ‘Commitment must start at the top for it to ultimately impact behaviors across an organization’ and that you need to ensure that ‘cross-functional teams beyond marketing are committed to delivering a seamless and coherent experience across touchpoints’.
Again, there are strong parallels with regulated sector experience. We’ve talked before about the need for consistent branding, compliance and corporate behaviour being embedded into your firm culture.
The importance of compliance to brand strategy is well-documented. Good governance means consistently doing the right thing for your customers. The wider impact is tangible.
Being able to adapt to change is a must. The report recognises that ‘To drive growth, your organization needs to be able to anticipate changing market needs, have the agility to adapt and respond to these changes, and fuel constant innovation’.
This is perhaps an area where the finance sector has been slower than others. But with the FCA firmly behind innovation, there is every opportunity for you to look at new approaches to service delivery, communications and operational innovation, like cloud technology.
According to the report, ‘How people experience your brand (what you “do”) should be aligned with how you communicate (what you “say”).
Ensuring your customer experience delivers to your stated aims and values is essential. With banking complaints costing the sector an estimated £53bn in the last 15 years, this isn’t something financial services have always excelled at. A culture where ethical behaviours are endemic will help you stay on the right side of the regulator, and your customers.
The report says that ‘To be relevant, you need to meet people’s needs and desires by understanding who they are, and how they’re changing.’
In your sector, this is truer than ever. Expectations around service delivery – around access to services on the move, for example – need to be met and exceeded.
Differentiation and consistency
‘A brand that stands out will create sustainable competitive advantage and drive growth’, the report states, while ‘if a brand is a promise, then lack of consistency means breaking your promises’.
Differentiation and consistency are intrinsically linked. Key to differentiating your firm is a clear and consistently-adopted brand strategy.
You need to ensure that everyone who produces financial promotions, sales materials or other customer communication knows your brand inside out. They need to be able to access assets – logos; compliant imagery; approved descriptors – easily.
Maintaining a relevant presence is essential if you want to stay uppermost in customers’ minds. A good brand should ‘make sure you are part of the conversation, grow your presence to grow your brand —and your business’.
Providing valuable content on a regular basis helps deliver this continuous presence. Maximising engagement via content marketing can deliver tangible results for financial services, whether B2B or B2C. Make sure it’s compliant as well as compelling to meet regulatory requirements.
Long-lasting, profitable relationships are dependent on ‘engaging individuals, having conversations, forming emotional bonds, and fostering loyalty by keeping promises and meeting expectations.’
All of the points above go into achieving this. A strong brand in terms of look and feel – and in terms of behaviour and ethics – is vital.
Only by delivering this will firms in any sector achieve their objectives and remain successful by staying relevant and valuable to their customers.
Ensuring brand consistency
Finance firms may not appear at the top of the Global Brands list, but the report’s findings show that the criteria used to assess the top 100 are as relevant to your sector as any other. Many of them are things you will already be doing to meet everyday regulatory compliance requirements.
One thing the report comes back to again and again is the need for brand consistency.
If financial services firms want to emulate the top performers, there are ways to raise their game here.
If you would like to find out how to improve the consistency of your brand, you can download ’Five top tips to ensure brand consistency’.
Source: Perivan Solutions website
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