Four ways to grow your brand in 2012

lightbulb photoI’ll be speaking at the 2011 Financial Marketing Leadership Summit in Boston in early October on the challenges and opportunities that marketers in the financial services industry face in marketing their companies and products, particularly in the post-financial crisis era. In preparation for this meeting, I decided to summarize my thoughts on paper. Here’s the question: what’s the #1 fresh approach that senior financial services marketers need to consider in 2012 and beyond?

To me, there are at least four:

1. Personalize your brand. Customers want their relationships with organizations and brands to mirror their personal relationships: to be personal, accessible, empathetic and responsible. Booz & Company reported in a recent study that Americans in 2011 have developed a different set of expectations from companies. Since 2006, consumers’ desire for “kindness and empathy” has gone up 391 percent; “friendly,” up 148 percent; and “socially responsible,” up 63 percent. This is especially important and true for financial services companies, given the erosion of trust that’s occurred during the past three years. Easy access to dialogue and social engagement on the web has created this expectation for brands; requiring them to ‘think outside the logo.’ For financial services brands, I recognize that this can be a challenge, given government and industry regulations. But it can be done, and it’s being done every day by the most innovative brands. Monday’s Wall Street Journal included a great story about what financial services companies can do with social media.

2. Surround your audience with consistent and tested messaging by trusted voices. Marketers must surround their audiences through every conceivable channel, not only through traditional channels like advertising. Consider how we’ve changed the behavior of more than 9 million recipients of Social Security and SSI payments through the Go Direct® campaign. We didn’t do it by inserts alone, or by advertising alone, or by media relations alone. We did it by creating an infrastructure of trusted advocate organizations – more than 1,800 to be exact– and then equipping these partner organizations with messaging, materials and programming to regularly stay in front of their members and audiences. These organizations essentially serve as an extension of the U.S. Treasury and deliver the Treasury’s messages for the government agency. And we’ve surrounded our target audiences with these same messages, delivered through many different marketing channels.

3. Embrace new forms of communication. Marketers need to quickly embrace forms of communication that are not dependent on the written word. In “Words fail them: Companies adapt to the video age,” an article from its The World in 2011 issue, The Economist said: “In 2011 companies will begin to say goodbye to the written word. The basic unit of communication will no longer be typed out in e-mails. It will be shot in pictures and shown on video . . . The new corporate leaders will no longer be pen pushers and bean counters. The 20-year reign of faceless bosses will come to an end. Charisma will be back in: all successful business chiefs will have to be storytellers and performers. Just as political leaders have long had to be dynamite on TV to stand much hope of election or survival, so too will corporate leaders.”

4. Intersect marketing and operations. Marketers need to care deeply about how the operational aspects of their company are working. The best marketing plan in the world won’t be maximized if the operations functions of your company don’t reflect and humanize your brand, as well.

Do you agree with these four approaches? What would you add?

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