Implementing Your Real Brand

Branding is about values–the core values that describe your bank and why it matters. Pseudo-branding is a change in appearance without a change in substance. We don’t want that.

What we do want is to implement those core values at every level of the organization. And how well the bank adheres to these core principles will create the brand, even if you don’t spend lots of money on advertising and design.

Consider Nordstrom. Sure, they have a logo and they advertise just like other retailers, but what are they known for? Exceptional service and high-quality merchandise.

When you walk into a Nordstrom store, you know where you are. It’s not flashy and glitzy. It’s not cheap and tawdry. It’s quiet, self-assured, understated elegance and somehow, you just know you’ll find exactly what you need and receive just the right amount of assistance.

That feeling can’t be created with advertising or a clever logo. It has to come from the top of the organization and permeate every corner of it, with employees, vendors, and partners committed to integrating it into their work. Imagine what could happen if everyone that does business with your bank leaves thinking, “that was a really nice experience.”

Logos, and Colors, and Fonts…

Where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, is in visually communicating the brand to the outside world. Logos, typography, and color palette are three of the tools you’ll use to do that.

A logo is an icon that represents the company, like the Nike swoosh. A logotype is the name of the company presented in a standardized typographic format. The third option is a combination of the two, for example McDonald’s.

We all recognize the “golden arches” and, although the company has simplified the design to just the arches, for years the name was incorporated into it.

An effective logo should be an image that is readily associated with the bank, accurately represents its core values, is recognizable, and is easy to reproduce on everything from stationery to outdoor signs.

For advertising and marketing materials, pick a couple type styles that work well together. Too many different fonts can create brand confusion. Choosing fonts for a logotype should follow the same guidelines, although you’re probably going to have to stick with a single font. Choose carefully.

Colors are easily as big a challenge as typography. You should be able to coordinate your core values with colors that represent them, but in color choice you’ll again have to rely on your designer for the subtleties. Just for fun, here is some very basic information on colors and their meanings to get started:

Red – One of the primary colors (along with blue and yellow), red symbolizes passion, danger, anger, energy, and primal forces. It is one of our two favorite colors (after blue) and is the second most visible color (after yellow).

Yellow – Yellow is the color of happiness, optimism, enlightenment, and creativity, but it also has a “dark” side representing cowardice, betrayal, caution, and illness.

Blue – Our favorite color, blue is the color of sky and water, trust, strength, and authority. It is also the opposite (philosophically) of red: cold and damp, compared to red’s warmth and intensity.

Green – Universally associated with nature, green symbolizes growth and fertility, and money, at least in the U.S. It is also negatively associated with illness (green around the gills) and envy. More recently, green has become more than a color, being used as a synonym for all things ecological.

Purple – Because it is extremely rare in nature, purple quickly became the color of royalty. It is often used to symbolize magic, spirituality, creativity, and dignity. Light purples are floral and romantic, dark purples are more dignified and intellectual.

Orange – It’s hot and engaging and also the only color named after a fruit. Orange symbolizes energy and vitality, but it’s important to note that – as with all colors – different shades can have different meanings.


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