Branding Provides Consistency Throughout Merger/Acquisition Activity
It's no secret that community banks have seen a rise in mergers and acquisitions in recent years. As with any merger or acquisition, bank leadership is faced with many logistical decisions and operational matters: how do we merge our data, update their computer systems to be compatible with ours, transfer online banking information, integrate and train on our systems… The list is unending!
With this overwhelming agenda of operational tasks, it's easy to overlook one of the most powerful tools for creating a smooth transition – your brand. Your brand is much more than just a logo; it tells the story of who you are and how you operate for both internal and external audiences. The bank's brand should serve as a compass to help communicate change, especially during an acquisition or merger event.
Embracing your brand and allowing it to help guide your bank through an acquisition will help to reduce uncertainty, lessen employee and customer turnover, create excitement and new energy, help eliminate legacy behaviors ("but we've always done it this way!") and develop common behaviors among employees. It will also create efficiencies in processes and promote trust and confidence from new employees and customers.
Although your brand is whatever your customers say it is, you have the power to steer that image as the owner of that brand. A clear brand image helps to answer questions like:
- How should your employees answer the phone, dress, greet customers and promote your products?
- What should branches be involved within the community?
- Is the language and tone on your website and social media channels consistent with the language and tone your employees use when talking to customers?
- What hours are you open?
- What kind of training do you provide for your employees?
Imagine if each of your branches answered these questions differently. Employees would be executing their image of your brand and the customer would have a much different experience at each branch they visit. Add an acquisition or two into the mix and the inconsistencies begin to compound. If this is the case for your bank, it might be time to evaluate your brand strategy.
At Royal Bank, focusing on our brand has allowed the bank to identify quickly what we should and shouldn't be involved in, has given us a roadmap to continually improve our customer experience, has given employees a purpose to rally around and provides a consistent and strong community image in the market areas that we do business in.
It may seem overwhelming, but branding is an element that your bank simply cannot afford to overlook. It's important to build your brand strategy and get everyone to start thinking the same way as soon as possible. A great place to start this process is to define and establish brand guidelines. Brand guidelines create a clear focus for employees and leadership to rally around, helps to direct what the customer experience should look like, creates efficiencies with internal processes and delivers a clear public image.
Your brand is whatever your customers say it is, so what does your brand say about you?
Adams is brand development manager at Royal Bank, Elroy and a member of the 2016-2017 WBA Marketing Committee.