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Branding for Financial Services: Mastering Money’s Image

Branding for Financial Services: Mastering Money's Image

Banks and financial firms are mostly not known for their branding. They have numbers, calculations and mind-boggling amounts of money but not so much slick logos or catchy slogans.

Fasten your seat belts because we are about to break that dull monetary bubble. The finance world is rapidly changing, and branding is increasingly becoming significant. This has never been more important for the right image, whether from the old traditional clubs on the high streets or new entrants on online platforms.

The banking industry has had image problems in recent years; trust has dropped amidst scandals and uncertainty. Thus, branding is an efficient tool for rebuilding reputations and engaging existing and potential customers.

What does effective financial branding entail? How can financiers and bean counters combine with clever marketing without losing professionalism? I will explain everything, from attracting audiences to embodying brand values and cultivating loyalty to that all-important cha-ching moment of conversion.

This bumper guide on branding for financial services will include the following:

  1. Unique challenges and opportunities inherent in financial branding
  2. Critical components (visuals, voice, USPs etc.)
  3. Brand storytelling & personality development
  4. Online/ offline integration
  5. Building credibility & trust
  6. The future of financial marketing

Ready to rebrand yourself concerning the bank’s image? Let's crunch those burning branding questions!

Why Branding Matters for Money Matters

Digital Bank Branding Example

They are different animals, as it were. One is the grimy and melancholy world of finance, whilst the other appears shallowly fixated on beauty and ambition.

However, when you dig deeper, you will realise that these two forces are not conflicting but supplement one another. Today, any financial firm aiming to grow and thrive in a much-overcrowded market must have a robust brand.

Below are some reasons why branding should be at the top of the list:

Differentiation is Dough

Do you think your products and services speak for themselves? Well, think again, mate! The fact remains that customers have many options to choose from, so you had better give them a reason to opt for you.

Having established itself as a distinguished brand beating off competition from generic cattle, it is now accessible for the public to realise why they still stick with your brand in this age of The no-nonsense high street bank. Ethical investment gurus? Digital disruptors? Name it, live it, sell it.

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Trust is a Must

The loss of confidence by the general public in financial institutions has always set precedence not only in chaos but also in controversy, potential catastrophe following. With branding, you can take control of your reputation and rebuild faith.

Remember that people are entrusting their hard-earned cash with you. They want to know that they can trust you with their money. Nail the branding bit, and those niggling doubts go away. Consistent looks, tones and messages have laid the foundation for long-term loyalty.

Modernise or Fossilise

Finance was late when it comes to branding – fact! For too long, reputational priority in this sector has been product over perception. However, the digital revolution has brought everything into equilibrium, allowing massive opportunities accompanied by remorseless competition.

To keep hold of existing customers and attract potential ones, meeting customer expectations is no longer optional; it’s mandatory. A fresh brand allows you to move forward and resonate with contemporary audiences. Stagnant dinosaurs watch out – fintech, apps, and challengers are coming for you.

Key Stat: 92% of millennials say brand awareness is crucial when choosing banks and investment firms.

But what on earth does it take to get there? Now, let us dig a little deeper into the nuts and bolts…

Defining Your Purpose and Promise

Bank Brand Strategy Example

Do you want to nail this branding game? The first step is pinpointing your raison d'etre – your unique purpose that sets you apart from the glass-and-concrete monoliths. No, not just “to make money” (way too obvious, guys). We're talking about the real essence of your existence.

You may offer a breath of fresh air amidst stuffy traditions. Or specialise in making money matters manageable for the masses. Do you empower first-time investors? Support the ethically-minded? Help the little people realise their big ambitions?

Whatever that core purpose is, embrace it. Live it. Then, communicate that promise clearly and consistently through your branding.

This will pull every other element into alignment and provide that much-needed distinction. For example:

Starling Bank: A trailblazing app that empowers customers to take control of their money and spend smarter.

Nutmeg: Pioneering index tracker investments and demystifying wealth for regular folk.

Xero: The game-changing accounting disruptor simplifying admin for sole traders and small businesses.

Now your purpose is defined, it's time to turn abstract ambitions into visible reality…

Forging Iconic Identities

Hsbc Bank Logo Design

What do you picture when you think of McDonald's? Or Apple? Those iconic logos are instantly recognisable the world over. They're a shorthand for the brand, laden with meaning, personality and expectation.

And if those humble arches and half-eaten apples can attain such iconic status, just imagine the impact you could have in finance!

A genuinely impactful brand identity goes far beyond just sticking a funky new logo on your stationery. It's about capturing the essence of your purpose and incorporating it across your:

  • Emblem: That all-important centrepiece. An iconic image to represent your firm at a glance.
  • Colour palette: Smart tones to convey professionalism and credibility, with pops of personality.
  • Typography: A complementary mix of classic fonts for authority and modern styles for freshness.
  • Photography: Sophisticated yet relatable visuals aligned with your vibe.
  • Iconography: Distinctive illustrated icons to bring clarity and consistency across channels.
  • The tone of voice: Your authentic personality in words, from formal advisories to chatty content.
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Check out HSBC's understated burgundy professionalism or Metro Bank's fresh, vibrant ethos. Both are utterly distinct yet ringing true to their brand principles.

The key? Taking the time to develop and document rigid guidelines for consistency across every touchpoint and territory. After all, you're not just branding a product – you're forging an iconic identity to represent billions of pounds in assets and transactions. No pressure!

Key Stat: 73% of consumers see consistent brand presentation as a mark of quality and value.

Adopting that Aspirational Attitude

OK, we've covered the visual greats and embodying your purpose in graphics. However, financial firms must look beyond logos and liveried interiors to thrive.

People don't bank for pleasure (most of us don't…). So, how do you disrupt the dreary corporate perception? Easy – with an aspirational personality packed with that elusive human touch.

All too often, financial brands slip into the trap of formal detachment, hiding behind corporate jargon and dry statistics. Or they harp on figures and forecasts at the expense of emotion.

But we all know dealing with money is an emotional experience impacting people's hopes, fears and identities. So, it pays to play up that emotional appeal in your branding.

Some great examples from firms who've nailed aspirational branding:

  • Wealthsimple: No confusing complexity, just straight-talking, jargon-free services for wannabe investors
  • SoFi: Hip, trendy and empowering – the financial partner for ambitious millennials on the up
  • Robinhood: Democratising finance with affordable, user-friendly trading for everyone
  • Afterpay: Fun, relatable brand tapping into desires for flexibility and instant gratification

These brands use conversational language, playful humour and an approachable manner to cut through traditionally stuffy conventions. Their marketing depicts happy, relatable people living their best lives (with tremendous financial backing, natch).

The goal? Removing that intimidating aura around money to engage new demographics and foster brand love. Because let's face it – the sooner we replace scarcity mindsets with positive associations, the better.

Key Stat: 61% of consumers are open to recommendations from friends and family about financial brands.

Embracing the Art of Brand Storytelling

Top Bank Branding

Numbers, data, facts, and figures are all perfect for impressing clients at the golf club. But today's savvy consumers expect more from brands than just dry stats and spreadsheets.

At this point, storytelling is essential in the finance marketer’s weapons. Once you have a gripping plotline, you can bring out the real essence of your brand and instil emotional bonds beyond mere transactions.

Every exceptional brand has a story behind it. For financial firms, that could be your pioneering origins, industry innovations or the vision that drives you forward. Even those dryer number-crunchers harbour tales of ambition, resilience and pursuing dreams against the odds.

Identify those storylines, dramatise them, and weave them throughout your content and campaigns. Barclays does this masterfully, leveraging its 300+ year heritage and British stalwart status to convey steadfast trustworthiness.

But stories don't have to span centuries to be captivating. They could focus on the entrepreneurial passion behind a fintech startup. Or explore how a particular service helped real people overcome obstacles and achieve their goals.

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With creative storytelling approaches like:

  • Emotive videos and animations
  • Vibrant illustrated visuals
  • Slogans and straplines loaded with meaning
  • Extended brand mythology and characters

…you can turn bland banking into an immersive blockbuster. Make customers the heroes, position your brand as the mentor, and watch their loyalty levels increase!

Integrating for Impact Across Channels

You've nailed your visuals, personality and story – but wait! There's one final frontier for financial marketers to master: the omnichannel experience.

Today's digitally-savvy customers don't exist in silos, flitting seamlessly between online and offline worlds. So why should your branding efforts be confined to just one realm?

An integrated, consistent branding presence across every possible touchpoint is paramount for achieving ubiquitous awareness and affinity.

In practice, that means bringing your iconic identity and brand spirit to life with equal flair:

In the real world:

  • Exterior/interior branch design and decor
  • Advisor/employee dress codes, mannerisms and training
  • Printed comms like statements, reports and letters
  • Event activations, networking soirees, sponsorships

In the digital realm:

  • Websites, web apps, Internet banking portals
  • Mobile apps and wearable extensions
  • Email templates and automated workflows
  • Social media content and community management
  • Video, podcasts and other multimedia offerings

Remember to bridge the two in harmony via synchronised campaigns, multi-channel user journeys and immersive experiences.

OK, this 360° branding requires considerable investment in strategy, systems and skillsets. But it's an essential evolution to provide the unified, premium-feel experiences modern consumers have come to expect.

When are your people, platforms, and physical presence gloriously on the brand? That's the hallmark of a world-class financial powerhouse.

Key Stat: Companies with omnichannel strategies enjoy a 91% higher year-over-year increase in customer retention rates than those without.

How to Build Brand Credibility and Trust

Bank Brand Equity Chart

We've covered brand image, personality and those all-important sensory experiences. But financial marketing isn't just about looking pretty and telling stories – a far more fundamental factor is at play.


Money matters may have evolved dramatically, but that core need for credibility and reassurance remains eternal. After all, we're trusting banks and financial advisors with our entire fiscal futures here.

So how do you build a brand that instils confidence amidst the fraudsters and economic uncertainty? By signalling your credentials and competency at every turn:

  • Social proof is king: Share genuine customer testimonials, recommendations, and reviews. Their honest word carries more weight than any polished ad spiel.
  • Leverage industry recognition: Broadcast those hard-won awards, accreditations and watchdog approvals. They validate you as a safe, respected choice.
  • Optimise for OFWAT compliance: Meeting standard regulations should be a bare minimum – go the extra mile to comply with schemes like OFWAT to stand out.
  • Partner with established icons: Strategic co-branding or sponsorship tie-ins with trusted names and institutions can lend you credibility by association.

The Future of Financial Branding is Immersive

As virtual and augmented reality technologies mature, the frontiers of financial branding are becoming radically immersive. Forget clunky online calculators – tomorrow's customer journeys will be sleek, three-dimensional experiences.

Imagine using AR to virtually ‘try on' different investment portfolios and see how they could influence your future. Or explore a VR home-buying simulator to test theoretical mortgages in an uncannily realistic environment. With wearable tech, biometrics and mixed realities colliding, the potential for innovative financial brand activations is staggering.

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Forward-thinking fintechs are already experimenting with immersive branding. Younger upstarts like Cleo employ chatbots and digital lifestyle coaching to engage users with friendly personalities. Meanwhile, legacy banks are enhancing branches with interactive digital display walls and “smart” advisor stations.

In the Metaverse and Web 3.0 era, traditional advertising avenues like billboards and websites could become relics. So, staying ahead of the curve with imaginative, multi-sensory branding experiences is paramount for future-proofing your financial firm.

Key Stat: The global augmented and virtual reality market is projected to hit $72.8 billion by 2024.

It's Time to Get Passionate About Financial Branding

Digital Banking Brands

There you have it, folks – the extraordinary power of branding laid bare, from colourful identities to immersive new realities!

Sure, the dusty old world of banking and finance may seem inconsistent with marketing's shiny, creative ideals. However, as this extensive exploration has revealed, those two forces are more intertwined and indispensable than ever in the modern age.

Money is fundamentally personal. It shapes our aspirations, lifestyles and legacies. In a crowded marketplace brimming with look-a-like services, brands' hard-earned essence and emotional appeal will capture customers' hearts, minds and wallets.

So I implore all you financial firms out there – rediscover your passion! Embrace innovation and harness the full power of branding strategy to:

  • Stand out with iconic visual identities
  • Project relatable, aspirational personalities
  • Tell stirring stories that people can invest in
  • Create rewarding, unified cross-channel experiences
  • Build deep credibility and ooze trustworthiness
  • Stay ahead of the curve with cutting-edge activations

This is branding's new frontier, and it's a thrilling era for financial services. So go forth and weave some monetary magic! Your brand's next evolution awaits…

Branding for Financial Services FAQs

Why is branding for financial services so important?

In a saturated market like today’s, strong branding helps financial companies distinguish themselves, construct trust, modernise their image, and build emotional relationships beyond mere transactions.

What are the critical components of a financial brand?

Successful financial branding involves having a shared iconic identity (logo, colours, etc.), unique brand personality, tone of voice, and communicating the company’s distinct purpose and promise.

How can financial brands appear more aspirational?

Using relatable, conversational language and humour, happy customers have fun and enjoy life, setting themselves up as lifelong partner who forms instead of providing services.

Why is brand storytelling important for financial marketing?

By communicating compelling stories about the culture or personality of an investment company in a way that resonates deeply with people on an emotional level rather than relying on numbers alone.

How can banks provide an integrated, seamless brand experience?

The development of a solid strategy and training programmes that ensure all physical contacts such as branches or events and digital touchpoints (websites, apps, social media) maintain consistent identities in terms of identity/voice throughout an organisation.

What strategies build brand credibility and trust for financial firms?

Social proofs include customer testimonials in banks’ adverts, marketing industry awards/accreditations granted to these institutions, compliance standards maintained by respected companies, and banking alliances with well-established, reputable entities.

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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