On Brand – The Banker and the Man on the Moon

JFK asked a man he met in the corridors of NASA what he did there. He answered “I’m the janitor. I help put men on the moon”.

How many people in banking, irrespective of the department they find themselves in, would confidently answer “I’m here to better people’s finances?” or “I’m here to make money easy” or “I’m here to help people live better lives”? 50%? 20? 1%? Anyone?!? And yet it’s what that bank proclaims to customers and prospective customers on TV, isn’t it? The assurance of emotional investment from the bank jumps at us from every one pager in the newspaper, every annoying Facebook ad and every advert on the tube, we, the general public are expected to buy into it being this organisation’s ethos and true intention, why won’t its own employees?

Trouble with bank’s own employees? They don’t watch the ads.

How do we make them buy the same image that a marketing department created with the external comms guys?

But hold up, why was it these guys that created the image? Why do we have internal and external comms for that matter in banking? Shouldn’t communications just be a support operation function that cuts across the organisation? Marketing will have have stuff to communicate to the outside world as much as management and HR should have plenty of stuff to communicate to the inside and certainly they need the channel to do so but what sense does it make that the same people in charge of the processes and tools used to do so would be the ones deciding anything on message? Why do some banks allow their communication departments to craft the contents in lieu of remain focused on the delivery?

It’s just another organisational ailment. Communication being internal and external is wrong. Communication being involved in crafting the message that either builds or reveals the soul of the organisation is even worse. Branding_Strategies-351x253

Worst of all – the notion of external versus internal brand. The distinction between employer brand and corporate brand is a dangerous one born out of organisational dynamics demands and not a natural, logical one and it should never have occurred.

If we think of “external” brand as superficial image then there is indeed rom to split it into the type of image the organisation projects on the outside through marketing, built almost in a vacuum that puts it in the most favourable light and not reflecting the  “real” view of what that organisation truly stands for. If we instead give the term the justice it deserves “brand” is the DNA of the bank, what exists in its core, its very soul and as such there can be only one. (Yes, banks have souls, and that’s a Highlander reference, go ahead and laugh it off.)

Fundamentals aside, when we take a closer look atwhat is understood as “employer branding” in banking today the findings are often dire. In many banks, those in charge of “internal brand enhancement programs” (yes, that’s a real thing and no, no need for organisational FOMO, it’s not of value, don’t propose you get one of these in your next meeting) are working in isolation and must dissociate from the notion of brand being about the core of the organisation and focus on what they can actually affect – ask  questions and then timidly propose changes to improve how the employees see their bank. This is measured in the same dry surveys of the 70s that we have added an extra political correctness layer to and that vaguely tell of satisfaction regarding compensation and work environment.

None of these questions are even close to probing what these employees honestly feel about their bank, if they grasped what’s in its soul and are emotionally invested in it.

In the same way that banks don’t investigate people’s feelings about their money (which is the indignant impetus behind Emotional Banking), they don’t don’t do much at all to really investigate their own employees feelings about the brand or even each other. We’re working fervently to change that but I have to admit the more we unravel of the unhealthily tangled web a bank’s organisation has come to become, the more we sometimes wish a magic wand of cowboy-management-consulting would be waved that would nuke the whole festering structures and replace them with clean, honest, curious and empathic newness.

I say this often – we don’t have that luxury. We can’t send everyone home close the doors, give the place a deep clean and only let those back in that have the heart, the mind and the bravery to use them and desperately want to do so because they deeply believe in the soul of what the bank stands for.

Instead, we have to walk around bottle of anti-bacterial disinfectant in hand and grow the knowledge, passion and courage of the people we do have, ensure they know and love our soul, then pass them the microfiber cloth then they can help us place our own kind of moon flag – customer experience.

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