Do Brands Matter Any More?

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In a world where the offerings of financial and professional services companies are becoming more and more commoditized, many marketers wonder whether the concept of “branding” still makes sense.

After all, most financial and professional services business segments are dominated by between three and five “category killers” with some smaller specialty firms doing solid, yet limited, business with specialized “niche” offerings. This became the model over the last few decades as most consumers chose to work with larger financial planning and retirement firms, insurance agencies, banks, accounting and tax firms and law practices.

The financial firms, in particular, generally offer enough product and service options to be able to provide clients with a reasonable (or required) selection and little more. This has significantly cut back on the number of brands available for consideration and consumption.

In a world that is so closed to new product and service providers and options, does it make sense to brand a firm and its offerings these days?

In our view, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

Why? Because we’re in the middle of an extraordinary period of change in the financial and professional services industries. An emerging and powerful consumer base (millennials and beyond) are looking for new types of financial and professional services solutions and ways to access them:

  • “Go to a bank to get a mortgage? Nah. Why not just find one online curled up on my sofa in my sweats?”
  • “Sit down with a stranger to plan for retirement? Give me the information and tools I need to plan for life instead.”
  • “Buy shares in an automotive company? Not when I care about the environment!”

This evolution provides an opportunity for emerging firms to introduce themselves to members of new generations in ways that will appeal to their needs and values. It’s also a chance for older companies to repackage themselves so they seem less establishment and more cutting edge. And if a complete corporate rebrand isn’t possible for these firms, why not brand a division for this audience segment?

Unfortunately, small- to mid-sized financial and professional services firms and emerging fintech companies are often the most resistant to developing or refreshing their brands. They cite costs and limited budgets as the reason. Yet they’re the businesses that could benefit most from having clearly defined brands that stand apart from competitors. 

Developing or improving a brand is one of the best investments they can make.

A solid brand provides a great foundation for these firms to grow into the future. New generations accumulating wealth and dealing with increasingly complex legal and financial issues are looking to build relationships with providers now! These relationships could last for the next half-century or more, providing regular, ongoing revenue for smart companies ready to take advantage of this emerging opportunity.

What should be conveyed in a brand for a financial or professional services company or fintech firm for it to stand out today?

Of course, that depends on the specific company and its offerings. Each is unique and different and competes within its own set. However, compared to yesterday’s brands, which were often monolithic, comprehensive and distant, new brands tend to be more accessible, easy to do business with, tech-savvy, responsible and friendly. They’re no longer the forbidding uncle on the 23rd floor; instead, they’re the friendly neighbor next door.

Is it time for your firm to develop a new brand or update an aging one? Check out Carpenter Group’s broader perspective on branding and contact us to discuss how we could help you develop one that’s appealing to today’s consumers and for generations to come.