Personality Profiles of Major Blobal Financial Brands

Simon Clough, Global Director at Clear has written an insightful article in The Financial Brand highlighting results of a new study showing what should be obvious to banks:  consumers view most banking brands as undesirable and wholly undifferentiated.

In February 2012, Clear released the results of its second Brand Desire survey, which explored the brands that 22,000 people across the world most desire and why. The survey involved 555 brands across many different industries, including financial brands such as Amex, Citi, HSBC, ING, GE, MasterCard, Visa USAA, Allianz, StateFarm, Bank of China and Standard Chartered (among others).

The Bad News

Financial brands ranked as some of the lowest when rated along statements such as ‘a brand I feel attracted to’ and ‘a brand that matters to me.’ The data shows that banking brands are virtually identical in consumers’ eyes. Only a handful of financial institutions that performed well in terms of their overall brand desirability.

  • Every bank in the study was seen as being highly ‘organized’, ‘serious’ and ‘sensible.’
  • It’s rare to find a bank that stands for much else.

Differentiate or Die

Banks have converged towards a “standardized personality template,” with very few financial service brands standing out. No other industry in the study shows such a profound lack of diversity. Banks have convinced themselves they have to be conservative, credible and credit-worthy in order to rebuild the industry’s reputation. The problem is, it isn’t working

New Entrants Raise the Stakes

The financial sector has seen a rapid influx of new players who shake everything up with all kinds of innovative technologies. Brands such as Mint, Zopa, Dwolla, Billmyparents, Smartypig and Square are changing the way we interact with our money and could pose a real threat to older, more traditional players. And there are also credible, established brands who are well-positioned to take advantage of the changing dynamics sweeping the financial landscape.

  • Mint now has a community of over 7 million members.
  • Billmyparents gets an average of 600,000 Unique Visitors per month.
  • More than £175 million of loans have been arranged by Zopa.
  • By June 2011, Dwolla were processing $1 million worth of transactions every day.

Best Practices

Some financial services brands, like USAA, Paypal and State Farm, are achieving financial results by going beyond being ‘trustworthy’ to offera clear and inspiring purpose, and a unique personality profiles.

USAA is more than just a financial services provider. It has a mission to serve military personnel “who stood tall for this country and for their families, giving members the kind of end-to-end support system they’ve earned through their service. As a result, USAA is the top performing financial services brand in the Clear Brand Desire study, ranked as the America’s 15th most desirable brand across all categories. Unlike other brands in the study, it scores well on ‘reassuring,’ ‘approachable’ and ‘focused on well-being.’

PayPal is more than just a provider safer online payments. It’s purpose is “creating a better shopping experience from start to finish, no matter what’s being bought, how it’s being paid for, or where it’s being sold.” PayPal is ranked #21 in the Brand Desire table in the UK – the only financial services brand to break the top 100 — and is ranked #23 in the U.S., just behind USAA.

State Farm ranks as the #48 most desirable brand in the US Brand Desire study – significantly ahead of almost all other major U.S. financial institutions. State Farm was ranked as 37 on the 2011 Fortune 500, and boosted profits by a billion dollars last year, even while it continues to recover from the hits taken during the financial crisis, back when fewer people needed/could afford auto and homeowner’s policies.

4 Rules These Brands Use To create Desire and Affinity

  1. Have Clarity of Purpose – Have an inspiring purpose that goes beyond financial transactions and makes a real difference in people’s lives.
  2. Inspire Connections – Focus on winning people’s hearts, not just their wallets.
  3. Focus on the Future – Harness technology to help re-invent people’s money lives.
  4. Create Experiences – Use every touch point to reinforce your brand’s purpose and personality.

Simon Clough summarizes the lessons of the study:

 In a fast-changing world, the financial services brands that will live to fight another day are those that stop wasting millions of marketing dollars trying to differentiate on a pinhead, and instead start to connect with their customers as real people rather than as numbers. This means identifying an inspiring purpose in people’s lives plus a personality to match, then living it consistently across the whole customer experience.

Snap! Principle of Financial Brand Differentiation:

Win consumers’ hearts or risk watching them walk away.