Banks need to create their own unique digital marketing strategy – borrowing from an entirely different industry would be a mistake, writes Brian Caplen.

Every time there is a discussion about bank branding the same old question arises. Banks are stodgy and old-fashioned when it comes to branding. If they could be 'cool' like a tech or online company surely they would have young people flocking to them.

I have never found this argument convincing. Banks may employ a lot of technology but they do not perform the same function as an Amazon or a Google. 

No one wakes up in the morning excited about a new banking product in the same way as there is a collective rush to the head over the launch of a new iPhone. Banks are still prized as much for being solid and secure as for blazing a trail. 

All the same, the big banking names need to rethink their branding and they need to appeal to millennials who are more likely than the average customer to switch banks. In addition to this, when they do switch they are also likely to pick a challenger online bank 

The problem is that for a number of banks their reputation for being solid and secure took a knock in the financial crisis and they are now up against some very tech-savvy competitors. They need to rebrand as digital experts for millennials without losing their traditional customers. 

But they also need to think about doing it in a way that is relevant to what they sell – financial products – rather than in a way that would be suitable for a tech company. One obvious solution is to focus on the lifestyle that financial products can help provide – a new house, holidays, education, secure retirement – rather than the products themselves, which are not intrinsically exciting. 

Their success in doing this is one factor in how banks score in The Banker’s annual ranking of the Top 500 Banking Brands, done in conjunction with the consultant Brand Finance.  The latest results will appear in the February issue of The Banker. Last year’s results are available here

Brian Caplen is the editor of The BankerFollow him on Twitter @BrianCaplen

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