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Ways to Build a Great Bank Brand: Interview with Glenn Van Deusen


Glenn Van Deusen is a co-founder at Van Deusen and Levitt Associates, a corporate branding firm. In this interview we talk about how banks and credit unions are increasingly aware of the need for branding, the importance of asking "why?", and the importance of quantitative research.

Tell us a bit about Van Deseun and Levitt Associates.

We work extensively with banks and credit unions to help them understand their equities in their brand. Who are they, what do they mean to their members and their customers, what equities do they hold that can be leveraged, how are they seen in the marketplace, how do they want to be seen in the marketplace? And then from a very fact based perspective developing branding, whether that's naming, positioning, identity, all the way through to design execution, to websites, conference materials, sales materials, educational materials for members and customers, and so on. 

So what would you say over the past 10 years has changed when it comes to branding in financial services?

I think one of the bigger changes within the credit union space in particular has been just a greater awareness of the need for branding. I think you're seeing that particularly here at this conference. The Financial Brand Forum now in it's third year. So again, I think a greater recognition of how to separate yourself, how to better differentiate yourself in the marketplace. Branding has such an essential role in doing that, and I think that's just really starting to gain traction, particularly in the credit union space. 

That's fascinating. So what might have a bank or credit union done 10 years ago that they might be rethinking now? 

They would have been doing more transactional based communications. They would have been doing more internally as opposed to reaching out to a corporate branding expert firm like ours, as an outside resource. There's greater interest in looking for people with those particular specialties like we have, rather than trying to do it alone. And credit unions have obviously gotten larger, there are some massive credit unions in the country now that because of their greater size and capabilities I think also brings in a greater degree of need for the types of services that we provide. 

That's great. So what obstacles are getting in the way of building a great brand? 

Well that's a good question. I think one of the biggest things that we've seen with the clients we have worked with, the credit union clients in particular, is research has been done to understand their brand, their brand health if you will, to kind of do an audit of what they have as a brand. And typically it's been done by market research firms or advertising agencies who look at how people are behaving, what people are saying, which is all good data. But unfortunately it often doesn't go deep enough to understand not just what and how, but why. Why are people acting that way. Why are people saying what they're saying. Why do people believe what they believe. Whether that perception matches reality or not, understanding the why is what we really get to in this fact based approach that we take. So we do a lot of individual interviews with the credit unions, with their tellers, with their management, with their boards. We do qualitative research with members and prospective members. We do quantitative research, and really from a fact based stand point understand now only the what and the how, but why that behavior is taking place. And from that we can then develop proper positioning, proper messaging, proper branding, and sometimes even new names and identities. 

What's an example of a good "why" question that you might ask a member to figure out their behavioral motivations?

Well take for instance what's going on with the whole change into a digital technology and digital banking, mobile banking, and so on. Again you'll ask "Well do you use a mobile device for your banking? How often do you use it for your mobile banking?" And you'll get all the percentages. 50% or 40% of millennials use it 50% of the time or more. But okay, well why do you use it only 50%? Why don't you use it more? And then they'll say "well it's more convenient." Or "I like to do it when i'm not in the office." Okay, well why is that? And it's almost like having a two year old. Why? Why? Why? And you keep asking why until you finally get to the core issue that's really driving behavior. So a lot of it's just the techniques we use in our interviews. A lot of it's the techniques we use in our qualitative research. And some of it is just good research design in our quantitative studies. We also have a unique driver analysis that's kind of like a net promoter score on steroids where we are able to take key attributes about a credit union and member behavior and then take that attribute and relate it back to intent to recommend. Or likelihood to try new products, so that we know not only what the attributes are, how they rate and how they rank, but more importantly how those drive actual acquisition of new membership. How they drive loyalty. How they drive cross-selling opportunities. 

So finally, what do you think that banks and credit unions really need to be keeping their eye on over the course of the next 10 years when it comes to branding? 

 I think probably a lot of the same right now. There's going to be, again there's I think a lot of untapped opportunities to brand credit unions more positively, more powerfully, so that they can differentiate themselves. Obviously the consolidation in the credit union space is going to be a contributor to that. That's going to be something to watch as more and more credit unions and banks get better in their digital applications that's going to be something to watch. But at the end of the day, again, we are a branding firm. We do brand strategy, we do brand design. That is our sweet spot. The types of things that we are involved with in terms of positioning of the organization, and naming and identities and so on are things that don't change month to month. They don't change year to year. It's not like developing an ad campaign for the next month or the next quarter. So the types of things that we do are things that have much more permanence, much greater longevity. So I think to answer your question about the changes that are coming, I think they're a lot of the changes you're seeing right now already taking place that we've talked a little about earlier, continuing. 

Topics: Interview