Most financial services firms think they can reboot their brand with a quick visual refresh or a redesign of their website.
If only it were that simple.
Properly diagnosing brand issues facing financial services firms demands a rigorous, disciplined and thoughtful strategy around the design process.
Your brand is too valuable to take shortcuts when it comes to design.
You need to conduct a full, forensic analysis of your brand’s health and undertake an audit of your in-house design capabilities to develop a deep understanding of your brand identity. Anything short of that and your design efforts will not reflect the excellence your organization represents.
Connect Your Project Scope to the Creative Realities
The biggest mistake we see financial services make is oversimplifying or diminishing the true nature of their brand challenges.
Some firms are reluctant to spend the time and money to make the necessary improvements to their brand. Others think they can sustain their brand’s health with a quick bandage. Either approach means there is a yawning gap between what they believe is required and what we know is the actual job to be done.
If you don’t bridge that gap, your project will wind up as a waste of time and money and likely miss the mark entirely.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to overcome these disconnects so you can live up to your financial firm’s brand aspirations.
Effective Branding Goes Well Beyond Graphic Design
Most rebranding projects at financial services companies start when someone in a leadership position says, “You know what? We could use a little refresh here.”
They already know what their brand is, but they “just need to change brand colors.”
Some firms might turn to their in-house graphic design team for some options. If they don’t like those, they might hire an outside agency to come up with some ideas. They might even be so positive they have a solution that they propose something of their own.
Leading brands are instantly recognizable and leave a positive, lasting impression. And those impressions are made everywhere throughout an organization’s communication, sales and marketing materials.
Strong financial services brands reinforce their position with visuals that illustrate the company’s culture and content that demonstrates its expertise. And they build processes to reiterate their message consistently across every channel in and every format.
Maintaining brand health means taking a systematic approach to identify obstacles and opportunities throughout the organization.
What are the internal realities? Can you implement brand or design changes in-house? Do those teams have the right tools and guidance in place? Is anyone designated to act as your brand ambassador to enforce your standards?
For your next project to succeed, you need to have a deeper conversation and a comprehensive plan.
The Best Branding & Design Projects Follow a Prescribed Path
Whether your financial services firm is considering a brand refresh, a complete rebrand or a website redesign, you need to take a deliberate approach as you proceed.
Here’s a simple way to break down each step along the way:
You have to determine just what it is you are undertaking. That starts with discovery. Discovery drills down into areas such as your company’s culture and your brand’s archetype (the Hero, the Outlaw, the Sage). This step also identifies the problems to be solved and a direction to take.
After discovery, you need to establish who is going to be executing on your new initiative. Identify your team, assess their capabilities and provide the tools and training they need to successfully implement your changes.
Next you need to know where these new elements apply. You will need to audit your existing materials (website, marketing collateral, templates for presentations, etc.) and identify every area that your branding and design changes will touch.
Simply developing a new brand initiative or set of design standards won’t be enough without knowing how they will be incorporated. Making those determinations should fall to a designated “brand ambassador”—someone who is in charge of spreading the word and enforcing new standards.
Truly answering the what, who, where and how will increase the chances of your project creating the desired outcome.
Keep Your Content Connected to Design
One of the biggest disconnects we see in our financial services branding work is between content and design.
Clients overlook the importance of content. They also ignore how long it will take to get their content in the right place before they can begin to drive the critical design decisions.
A client once asked me whether it was realistic to have a website done in a year. I said, “Well, it’s realistic as long as you hire a writer immediately.” I try to explain how vital that content is to really driving home their brand or how difficult it is to produce.
I’ve seen it too many times. You’ll spend six months trying to write it yourself and then decide to hire a writer. And then it will take another six months to get the right stakeholders involved and from there everything up and running.
Start right now. Don’t try to cut corners when it comes to content.
Solving Your Design Problems Starts With a Proper Diagnosis
If you were a surgeon, you wouldn’t operate on a patient without knowing their ailment. Where would you even begin?
The same is true for keeping your brand healthy and effective. You can’t just start working on a cure without knowing what disease is plaguing your brand and just how far it’s spread.
Decker Design has a keen eye for diagnosing the condition of financial services brands. We have the right tests to spot the issues, tools to cut out the problem areas, and prescriptions to guide you to a promising prognosis.
If you’d like to learn more about our brand and design services, we’d love to hear from you.