Brand Strategy

When it comes to mergers and acquisitions, it is essential to plan for the brand.

In mergers and acquisitions (M&A), business leaders are often confronted with countless decisions and strategic challenges. Too often, way down on the list of considerations is how to manage the evolving brand strategy of the renewed business.

It’s one of the main reasons that up to 83% of mergers and acquisitions fail. But it doesn’t need to be this difficult. By placing brand strategy at the centre of the strategic decision-making process, organisations will have greater success in bringing their different businesses together.

The brand strategy guide to mergers and acquisitions explores the different considerations for leaders as they embark on this complex journey. This guide will provide answers to one the most overlooked components of successful M&A initiatives, the importance of getting brand strategy right. Download our free guide and get the critical support you need.

Key take-outs from the guide:

  • The criticality of strategic M&A initiatives as a tool for business and brand growth.
  • How to build a well-evidenced business case for brand research through the different phases of the M&A process.
  • The role and importance of a strong brand architecture strategy in helping customers navigate the renewed structure of the brand.
  • Techniques to assist in reflecting and communicating the refreshed strategic intent and culture of the business.
  • How to keep your internal and external stakeholders aligned and engaged, to reduce turnover and uncertainty.

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For contemporary brands, building a sustainable competitive advantage cannot come simply from messaging, taglines, logo design or marketing campaigns. The purpose of building a strong brand strategy is to allow your organisation to differentiate itself from rivals, to stand out from your competitors, to influence your customer’s purchase decision and to allow them to feel disinterested in alternatives. But in this increasingly competitive landscape, not all brands have the capability to become what they desire on their own.

This is why organisations, especially in the B2B and financial services landscape, are increasingly looking to grow inorganically through mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Rather than developing these newer or different capabilities internally, the right partnership can provide a tangible addition to a brand’s products and/or services, allowing an organisation to reach a position that makes them more desirable. But there are worrying indicators that brand issues are not being properly built into their due diligence processes.

At BrandMatters, we’ve successfully executed brand strategy initiatives for a variety of clients undergoing periods of change and flux in response to M&A initiatives. In our experience, leaders who see the full potential of brand, well beyond name and logo, gain a significant leg up in uniting companies and cultures with the values it presents to the outside world. Get in touch with the team to discuss your unique branding and M&A situation.

Brand is the most powerful, but sometimes the most overlooked, tool for solving many of the common problems in a merger

In M&A activity, business leaders frequently view brand management during a merger or acquisition as something simply for marketing and communications teams to sort out after the deal is completed. In our experience, integrating brand early and often can provide a clear and concise roadmap that helps guide strategic decision making, across the entire business.

Effective brands help organisations market and sell their services and products, but that is not all they do. Corporate brands drive real value, especially in the M&A process. Whether it is driving monetary valuation, negotiating position, providing insights that support alignment, unifying culture or streamlining integration, brands play an integral role in mergers and acquisitions (Forbes).

Whether your organisation believes it is ready to enter the M&A game soon or not, the stakes appear too high to wait. Regardless of which side of a transaction you may find yourself on, it is critical to get your brand in order and understand that a well-executed brand strategy adds value beyond monetary value, helping to unify your merged/acquired companies. Your brand has a powerful role to play and must be actively considered before, during and after the M&A activity.

The different types of brand activity considerations within M&A initiatives

There are three distinct points where brand should be considered throughout M&A initiatives: During the pre-deal phase, during the brand transition phase, and during the post-deal phase.

When brand is actively considered throughout these phases, your organisation will be in a position to determine the optimal brand strategy and architecture for your refreshed entity.

Pre-deal phase

In the pre-deal phase, senior and strategic leaders from both parties come together to determine the brand strategy and architecture for the merged entity. Whether you are buying, selling or merging, in this pre-deal phase it is important to understand that the existing brands typically own a relevant, genuine and impactful position in the market.

That value must be considered because the inherent goodwill will likely provide a benchmark to quantify the deal against. It is important to give your brand some objective scrutiny through research and evidence. Could your brand be outdated and stale? Is it telling the story of your company well, or is it still the best-kept secret? If this is the case, your organisation would benefit from an initial discussion with BrandMatters, where we can help craft an authentic brand that will help maximise value in the pre-deal phase and lead to long-term success for your renewed entity.

Brand transition phase

The brand transition phase differs because it requires more functional thinking about how the refreshed brand will manage things such as inventory, budgets, and communications. In this phase, it is important to ensure your brand is clear, concise, and consistent, so that all stakeholders have an understanding about how the business and its brands will be managed going forward.

In this phase, strong brands provide an internal indication for both companies on each side of the table, as well as insights into company culture and personality. A well-articulated brand will clearly communicate the value proposition of the company, which makes it easier for stakeholders to see the strengths, areas for improvement and areas where the companies compliment/overlap with each other. This is powerful ammunition that can help inform negotiations as you navigate beyond the brand transition phase in the M&A process.

Post-deal phase

Once the transaction is completed, that initial euphoria usually gives way to the laborious process of integration. In the post-deal phase, a number of activities need to be carefully coordinated to help ensure the brand is successfully implemented and rolled out in the market. This again requires more functional thinking as your organisation begins to redesign and implement different corporate and brand structures.

Effective branding in this phase helps to unify your renewed organisation by aligning your leaders and holding them accountable to the stewardship of the brand structures that they have decided upon. In this context, brand should operate as the North Star, a focal point that helps guide cultural differences, close gaps in shared knowledge, and set the agenda for successful and sustainable integration.

The final consideration for brand in this phase is in the ongoing measurement of success. Continual evaluation and monitoring through brand measurement can provide evidence about whether the M&A initiative was a success or not. This type of brand research also gives businesses an indication of how they can improve in further M&A activity down the track.

Brand decisions, made early and often, are critical to M&A success

In mergers and acquisitions, business leaders are often confronted with countless decisions and strategic challenges. With so many moving parts, initiating and integrating organisations together can seem like assembling a complex puzzle with thousands of unique pieces.

By placing brand strategy at the centre of the strategic decision-making process, organisations will have greater success in bringing their businesses together, creating meaning and enduring impact for the refreshed entity.

Bringing in an independent perspective to assess the current position and make a recommendation on future strategy from a brand perspective can make or break the success of the post-M&A organisation.

Whether you are mid-M&A or at the beginning of the process, BrandMatters can help you uncover and articulate the right brand strategy and brand architecture to lead your organisation to success. Explore our case studies to see how we’ve helped other organisations or get in touch to discuss your unique situation and stayed tuned as we will be releasing a comprehensive eBook exploring the Principles for M&A Branding Success.

Wednesday, 23 June 2021 12:42

Navigating an entirely different market.

With renewed debate surrounding the culture, remuneration and reputation of some of Australia’s most significant financial services brands, the industry has been challenged with instilling a sense of value and purpose back into some of its largest players.

When combined with the uncertainty surrounding the pace, scale and breadth of the past 12 months of disruption, the outlook for brands in the transactional banking and payments landscape appears drastically different than in the 20 years that preceded it.

In Part Two of the Outlook for Financial Services Branding, we explore the key shifts impacting brands in the banking and payments landscape, as well as the priorities for brands as they navigate this entirely different market.

Part Two: Banking and Payments will explore:

  • The implications of revised distribution channels that are reconfiguring traditional banking products and services.
  • The decline of vertically integrated business models and the new roles of brands in the sector.
  • The impact of shifting demographics and the rise of digital natives.
  • The pressures of regulatory requirements across the payments and buy now pay later landscape.
  • The cautious renaissance of reputation as values, trust and employee culture moves front and centre.

Download Now.

Preparing your organisation for an IPO (initial public offering) is an extremely significant moment for any business. There are several factors that need to be considered in the preparation stages and one extremely important, but often forgotten factor is the strength of your brand.

Brand and marketing have a significant role to play in preparing for an IPO; it impacts everything from investor relations, company equity, value and consumer trust. In many instances, brand can be an organisation’s most valuable asset, especially in the case of digital first businesses where no physical assets are owned by the company – Uber, Airbnb, Facebook, AfterPay and Airtasker to name a few very well-known examples.

When looking at these specific examples – the brands have become household names prior to the organisations announcing IPOs. Investors already know and like (or dislike) the brand, they understand the brand and what it promises, and they already trust that the brand will deliver on these promises.

When preparing for an IPO, you should be viewing your ‘potential investors’ as a customer segment that you are trying to attract. Investors are looking for companies with a story to tell and they are buying into this story when they choose to invest.

While the financial side of the IPO takes the focus of senior leaders and board members, there is a strong argument to ensure brand has a place in the IPO planning process.

What steps do you need to take to ensure your brand is ready for an upcoming IPO?

Whilst a strong brand is essential for all businesses, preparing for an IPO places even greater visibility on your brand and increases the necessity on having a strong, clear and powerful brand that will be able to stand out and attract investor attention.

It is vital that the following five questions can be answered to ensure your brand is investor-ready…

  1. Does your organisation have a purpose, and a unique brand story?
  2. Is your brand positioning clear both internally and externally?
  3. Does your brand have a distinct and current visual identity?
  4. Can your brand stretch and grow within its existing brand architecture framework?
  5. Is your brand consistently applied and executed across all channels and communications?

Evaluate your brand by engaging in unbiased brand research.

Clients often come to us at BrandMatters to provide an unbiased measure of their brand. From the inside, there are several reasons why organisations find it challenging to self-evaluate. Often the company or the market has evolved but the brand has remained the same. When you are working with your brand on a regular, day-to-day basis, you may miss the obvious signals that your brand is no longer resonating with your customers or that there is an opportunity to evolve the brand to meet new expectations.

It is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, which is why we recommend an evaluation process including brand research on both internal and external perceptions of the brand as an extremely important first step in ensuring your brand is going to stand up and stand out during the IPO process.

Make strategic brand decisions based on what was uncovered in the research.

Once you have the insights from the research, it will be a lot easier to understand the next steps that may be required from a brand strategy point of view. You may have discovered insights that point to opportunities for you to either stretch, refine, restructure or refresh your brand from the inside out.

If your brand positioning is not clear, it is likely that your brand story is not resonating with your audience. Or you might have discovered that you simply need to refresh your visual identity to ensure it is distinctive and stands out in your market.

Research provides insights that help identify opportunities to grow and stretch your brand within your marketplace, or opportunities to potentially extend vertically or horizontally in your industry. If this is the case, you will need to assess your current brand architecture framework to prepare your organisation for future extensions in your portfolio. A key component of the IPO process is to provide the initial investment to fund growth, so it is important that your brand architecture can support this growth.

At this point in time, it is important to consider your visual identity. Does it reflect your positioning? Is it distinctive and memorable? Is it reflective of your brand and does it symbolise confidence and success? The logo and visual identity of your brand is often the first thing investors will see when reviewing an IPO prospectus. In preparation, you may need to consider a refresh or tweak of your visual identity prior to taking the next step. It is important that the visual identity of your brand represents your brand at its best.

Develop a robust brand platform and brand architecture framework that will guide the team in implementing the strategic decisions of your brand.

Once you have uncovered the clear strategic direction for your brand, the next step is to implement the necessary changes. This is where a brand platform comes into play. Developing a brand platform that articulates your brand positioning, brand story, key messages and core customer value proposition is a vital tool in communicating and executing these changes both visually and verbally across all channels.

This brand platform can be used, to navigate the entire organisation through the IPO process, from the investor communications documents such as the prospectus, to your public communications strategy, website and social media content.

An effective brand architecture framework will enable your company to grow and expand as opportunities arise. Brand architecture helps your organisation confidently organise, manage and go to market with your brands. With an IPO comes opportunities to grow and expand. It is important for an organisation is set up for success in terms of this growth by ensuring that each and every brand within the portfolio has a purpose and performs a specific role. To learn more about brand architecture download our e-guides "An introduction to brand architecture" and "B2B guide to brand architecture".

Ensure all your touchpoints are updated and your brand is presented consistently across all channels.

Executing the necessary brand changes across all of your channels is both a significant and extremely important process. Consistency is incredibly important in executing these changes to your brand. If there is inconsistency, this can cause confusion (both internally with your employees, or externally with investors, clients and customers). Any confusion due to inconsistent communication of your brand and its messaging can cause distrust in the investor community, which could in turn impact negatively on the results of the IPO.

A strong brand drives IPO success

At the end of the day, a strong brand will allow potential investors, clients and customers to understand what your business does, what makes it different and what will drive success in the future. Preparing your brand must be one of the first steps your organisation should consider if you are either preparing or considering going public.

As we approach the end of a rather tumultuous financial year, the FY21/22 planning cycle provides a valuable opportunity for marketers to assess the current strength of their brand and determine which investments could be made to better prepare their organisation for what lies ahead.

As marketing teams begin to solidify their strategic planning for FY21/22, they should look for ways to support their brand and brand strategy, to underpin the efforts of the past 12 months and drive an effective and more sustainable return for marketing investment going forward.

So, with this in mind, we’ve explored the opportunities for investments that marketers should consider as they continue to strengthen their brand and bring it further into focus amongst key stakeholders.

Take stock of your existing brand(s)

It is important to conduct a review of your brands; to do this we recommend a combination of internal desk research and an external brand audit.

An internal desk review process is a cost-effective way to review the data and information that already sits within your organisation. Many organisations view this an overwhelming task, and often find it difficult to review this information with an objective eye. BrandMatters can help by reviewing the data and providing an external perspective on the most important outputs relevant to your brand(s). An internal desk review often gives a good starting point to a more extensive research project – by establishing a comprehensive understanding of where your brands are today – we know where the gaps are and what questions to ask if we were to conduct qualitative or quantitative research.

An external brand audit looks to ensure the representation of your brand identity is consistently accurate, and that it reflects an instantly recognisable brand. A brand audit can provide valuable insights into inconsistencies in your brand presentation and how to improve or realign your brand with your brand positioning. An external brand audit can demonstrate how widely your brand is understood and valued by your organisation. A brand that is continually being compromised visually could be a sign of a brand that is not universally embraced inside your organisation. Conducting an audit prior to the end of the financial year means that you have the opportunity to allocate budget to address any particular problem areas.

For more information about what a typical desk research review and brand audit involves, download our comprehensive Guide to Brand Research.

Reacquaint yourselves with your customers

Despite a more optimistic budget outlook, uncertainty remains. Customer needs have inevitably changed over the past 12 months, as have their expectations and requirements of brands.
The ongoing turbulence and rapidly changing marketplace have seen new and different competitors and technologies rise to the fore, just as quickly as customers themselves have evolved. The way customers previously interacted with brands may have changed, their personal priorities may have altered, and even their attitudes to value for money won’t necessarily be consistent with a year or two ago.

It is vital to invest in keeping your knowledge of your customers up to date.

Many organisations believe brand research should only really be conducted when there is a problem that needs solving – but this is a very small part of the larger and more important role that research should play.

In this ever changing landscape, smaller, more focussed ‘check-ins’ with your customers will ensure your brand continues to remain relevant and will act as a solid foundation upon which you can continue to strengthen your brand.

Refine and solidify your brand positioning and customer value proposition

Every role within your organisation becomes easier with a clear brand positioning and customer value proposition. Everything from strategic decision making, product development, marketing communications, customer service right down to closing the sale.

For your sales team, an understanding of the clear and unique offering that your business presents, as well as how this turns up for each customer segment, can help ensure the sales process is smoother and delivered with complete clarity every time.

Equipping your team with a customer value proposition for each target audience will empower them to outline the exact benefits of your product and service in a way that strengthens your brand and allows them to deliver a better experience for your customers.

If you would like to read more about crafting a compelling customer value proposition, especially in the context of financial services organisations, click here.

Make the investment to imbue your brand with your employees

A strong brand is brought to life through its people. Every employee within the organisation needs to live and breathe the brand on an ongoing basis if they are to deliver the brand experience daily to your customers.

An effective employee value proposition (EVP) is the cornerstone of any employee engagement strategy – it gives your team a ‘reason to believe’. It helps your employees understand who you are, where you are all going, and what role they play in the future of your organisation.

A well-articulated EVP will help you both attract and then retain employees who are a good cultural match for your organisation.
Building a strong employee brand offers an incredible opportunity to extend your brand’s reach, reduce recruitment spend, attract the brightest and best, build relationships with clients, and drive business growth. If you would like to read more about developing a strong employee value proposition for your organisation, click here.

The new financial year presents an opportunity for brands to hit the reset button

The measures outlined in this article are designed to ensure your brand is positioned optimally for the next financial year and beyond. By ensuring brand plays an important role in any planning cycle, you can achieve more sustainable, ongoing brand health.

A well-evidenced internal strategy, a consistently applied identity, a deep understanding of your customers, a strong brand positioning and a workforce that is armed with the tools to be brand advocates for your business will help drive tangible sales outcomes, improve recruitment and retention and drive overall business growth.

If you are fortunate enough to be in a position of budget surplus as we wrap up FY20/21, you should consider reaching out to BrandMatters and explore these measures which will help position your brand optimally for the next period of economic growth.

What does it take to succeed in this complex landscape?

A clearly defined brand delivers strong tangible and intangible benefits to every financial services organisation.

Brands born of a deep understanding of your organisation’s market, business, customers, competitors and employees will perform strongly and facilitate business growth via increased numbers of referrals, shorter sales cycles, reduced price sensitivity and a lower interest in competitive offerings

Part One of the Outlook for Financial Services Branding explains the role of brand strategy in financial services organisations, ensuring your business can capitalise on the benefits that only a well-built brand can deliver.

The role of brand in financial services will:

  • Explain the importance of brand in the financial services sector.
  • Provide a well-evidenced business case for brand and market research.
  • Articulate the role of brand architecture strategy in helping customers navigate the financial services landscape.
  • Highlight the difference between a refresh and rebrand, as well as explain where they are necessary.
  • Help identify and finesse the potency of your brand’s positioning in its competitive context.

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Tuesday, 20 April 2021 10:33

What will it take to succeed in financial services in Australia?

Across the rapidly changing financial services landscape of Australia, brands have new conditions to navigate.
It is within this environment of flux, competition, increasing client expectations and continued digital disruption, that we launch this comprehensive report: The outlook for financial services branding.

Through an exploration into the major trends impacting brands across various functions of the financial services industry within Australia, we will examine the major opportunities and risks for brand within each sector. The report will also investigate how the landscape for brands in the sector has changed, and what this means for brands going forward.

Our goal is to provide you with the tools so that you can express your brand strategy with complete clarity and consistency, enabling clients to reach the point where they feel deeply connected, more loyal and therefore much less likely to consider alternatives.

The report will be released across five downloadable parts as follows:

Click to download the relevant sections above or register below to receive each part as it is released.

From banking to superannuation, investment management to financial advice, the design and distribution obligations (DDOs) legislation will disrupt a large proportion of the financial services landscape in Australia.

Announced in 2019 and set to take effect in October of this year, the DDOs are the latest in a shift towards more customer-centric regulation and guidance handed down by ASIC, the origins of which can be linked to the findings and implications of the Financial Services Royal Commission.

The DDOs, at their most basic, require organisations to place their customers at the heart of product governance and design and distribute their products and services around meeting and exceeding their customer’s expectations.

Whilst these regulations have already placed significant pressure on the financial services industry, they also represent an opportunity for many brands in the sector to take responsibility for their actions, rehabilitate their damaged reputations, and rebalance the trust equation with customers.

What do the new obligations mean for brands in the financial services sector?

The DDOs will create a fundamental shift in how products are designed and distributed to retail customers. No longer will product issuers and distributors be able to assume that basic product disclosure is helping their customers to make informed decisions in the increasingly complex financial services environment.

There are a few critical brand strategy implications of the DDOs that financial services brands need to be aware of;

1. Target market determination: Designing products to meet customer needs.

The main component of the DDOs is the introduction of a target market determination (TMD). It is the first step in the obligations, and it is crucial as every subsequent component of the DDOs are dependent on it. There is also considerable effort required to get it right.

A TMD requires an organisation to describe the likely objectives, financial situation and needs of customers in a target market. The products features must be described, and the organisation needs to clearly explain why the product is likely to meet the needs of the specific customer market.

Brands in financial services will need to have a deep understanding of their customers – based on structured and well-articulated research, behavioural economics, analytics and enhanced segmentation. It is now not good enough to rely on generalist psychology and more basic personas, especially as customer needs continue to change over time.

Investing in a robust TMD research approach in the short term will allow financial services brands to reap rewards over the long term. Knowing and understanding customers is more critical than ever, which should place an enormous priority on market and customer research, helping to understand why customers choose a brand and products over an alternative.

2. Ensuring simplicity and accessibility through marketing and brand architecture strategy.

Once the TMD is completed, the distribution of each product must also be revisited to ensure that it aligns with customer’s expectations.

Traditionally, many financial services products have been marketed towards the masses in order to build wider awareness and attract sales. The DDOs stipulate that they now need to be marketed towards specific channels that align with a specific target market.

Brands and their products are now also required to be clearer and easier to navigate, which will hopefully allow prospective customers to make better and more informed decisions about a product that is right for them. This has significant repercussions for the brand’s product architecture in its existing portfolio; does it support or hinder customer choices, does it make it easier or more difficult for the right product to reach the right customer?

The existing regulations surrounding financial services products have also been criticised because they do not support customers when they are seeking to switch to a different or more suitable product. It is also difficult for customers to understand the unused features that they have not been accessing. With the new DDOs, this is also set to change, with distribution now simplifying the product offering and making it easier to leave if the customer chooses to.

3. The revised system is continually monitored and built to improve over time.

The final component of the DDOs is designed to ensure that performance is monitored to improve the entire system over the long term. This centres around how complaints, feedback and priorities are managed by financial services institutions, the data of which is now reported and analysed by independent operators.

Brands in the sector will now have to front up, resolve complaints and respond to feedback in a way that solves the root cause of the issue across the entire target market. This has repercussions for culture in an industry that had once previously lacked transparency and prioritised profits over people.

How can financial services brands capitalise upon these new regulations?

To meet and exceed beyond basic compliance with the DDOs there are three specific priorities for financial services brands:

  1. Prioritise customer research and analytics: Given the TMD is the first and most crucial component of the DDOs, it would appear that understanding the motivations, needs, attitudes and pain points of customers has never been more important. A thorough and well-articulated brand research program, one that monitors and tracks the health of a brand and its products over time, will be crucial to ensure these perspectives are aligned internally and externally.
  2. Re-evaluate existing product architecture: It is crucial to re-evaluate product portfolios and ensure that the go-to-market strategy reflects the product’s specific TMD. The way a portfolio is managed and organised across sales and product design have a powerful influence on how customers navigate brands and make purchasing decisions. But product and brand architecture is complex and they evolve over time in an organic manner. Brand’s should look to remain relevant by realigning, restructuring, reorganising or reinventing their product architecture through brand research, which will help their customers to navigate their offer and make better purchasing decisions.
  3. Establish purpose with a focus on culture and accountability: ASIC has in part instigated the DDOs to help rebuild trust in the fragmented financial services industry. And for brands, trust begins with culture, organisational purpose and vision. Brands in the sector need to identify their reason to exist, to get up out of bed, to serve their customers. A focus on a culture that encourages and delivers the appropriate behaviours through every stratum of the organisation – including middle management and especially client-facing staff. For financial services brands that means creating a vision that creates buy-in from all employees to say ‘hey, we are here for a broader purpose than simply profit’ – we must be here to do more than just create value for ourselves and for our shareholders.

The DDOs represent a unique opportunity to rebuild trust in financial services brands. 

Before the announcement of the new DDOs, financial services organisations had been maligned at the Financial Services Royal Commission for their inwardly focused remuneration schemes that prioritised sales and profit over customer benefit.

The DDOs should be seen as the clearest piece of evidence that the regulators are going to manage this ‘win at all costs’ culture and place the responsibility back on brands to rebuild trust in the sector.
With so much riding on these regulations, it appears the industry is aligned and now ready to embrace this level of change. For example, we have already witnessed throughout the past 12 months of economic downturn, a more sensitive and customer-centric approach from the Big 4 Banks who have supported Australians throughout the pandemic. Acting as a major shock absorber, their actions have included mortgage loan deferrals, reductions in repayment amounts and decreasing variable home loan rates, to name a few. This suite of short-term measures provided assistance for customers who had been put into financial hardship through no fault of their own.

For brands in the financial services sector, this is the type of work they will need to continue to do. To truly deliver to the specific DDO regulations, and then to exceed beyond basic compliance, financial services organisations will need to think holistically and embrace the changes to rehabilitate their image and re-establish trust amongst the wider public.

Unsure where to start?

Reach out to Paul Nelson or any of the BrandMatters team to discuss how you can prepare your brand portfolio to capitalise on these changes.

What makes clients buy or use your services?

This is the most fundamental question that drives every aspect of brand and marketing strategy within financial services organisations.

If your organisation could succinctly articulate the benefits your client experiences when they do business with you, especially in these turbulent times, then you would be one of the few financial services brands that have a compelling point of difference and a strong value proposition.

A customer value proposition (CVP) is the benefit that sits at the intersection of client need and organisational offer. It is made of an understanding of what an audience wants and what an operating model can tangibly deliver. It is aspirational but achievable, it encompasses why existing and potential clients should choose your brand and be disinterested in alternatives.

In financial services, a well-defined customer value proposition:

  • Inspires and delivers meaning and confidence for existing clients
  • Presents a meaningful, engaging representation of a brand for prospective clients
  • Creates engagement and pride amongst employees in being part of the brand
  • Delivers a unified, meaningful, compelling and consistent understanding of the brand that resonates with all stakeholders (investors, clients and employees).

Building an engaging and relevant CVP in financial services

When you are seeking to build out a proposition that resonates with your clients and cascades throughout your business, there are six crucial components that you should consider.

1. Define a specific target market

By clearly identifying the clients who are likely to be choosing and buying your products and services, you will avoid appearing like all things to all people. This is a common mistake in financial services, where organisations are determined to meet the diverse expectations of multiple audiences, and in doing so, fail to deliver true value to any of them.

Dividing potential clients along relevant dimensions through brand research can help to provide insights into the most appropriate demographics, buying behaviours, attitudes and client needs your brand can best deliver to. This will make the task of segmenting prospective audiences much more effective, by clearly articulating the segments which are most available and attractive to you.

2. Understand the value equation you expect to deliver upon

For your clients, value can be as simple as what they get in return for what they pay. Although it sounds straight forward, the value equation is different for each segment of the market that you may be targeting and is more complex in financial services as these relationships are generally over longer periods.

It is important to think about both the tangible and intangible attributes and benefits that you are seeking to deliver to your clients. In financial services, it is often this perceived intangible value that is built over the long term that resonates most. It might relate to returns on investment and sustained performance, which translates to clients who value premium experiences. That is the financial return that they receive for the services they are buying from you – enduring prosperity.

3. Craft a precise offer that can evolve over time

If you understand what the exact product and service that both existing and prospective clients come to you for, and then build your offer around delivering that perceived level of value, your proposition will sit in a rare intersection of - client need and organisational offer.

Placing data and insight alongside the value your current offer brings to clients can allow you to map your buyers and price accordingly. This requires evaluating the way your organisation currently delivers value to its clients and then ensuring it remains innovative, relevant and differentiated over time.

4. Prioritising the benefits that your organisation delivers

Organisations in financial services often become stuck at this stage because they aren’t able to pull apart their key service benefits without considering which ones are the most important to their clients, and the interrelationship between these benefits.

In this prioritisation process, consider first the underlying attributes of your service, then consider the functional benefits that that service produces, and finally, articulate the emotional benefits that your clients experience as a result of these.

5. Compare your value proposition in the competitive context

Once you have clarified the emotional benefits of your particular service experience, compare your value proposition against your competitors in the market. This is not an exercise in comparing functional product and service offerings. You are trying to understand their tangible differentiation and positioning in the market and how you can be tangibly different from them.

Expand your existing frame of reference to include alternatives to choosing your product or service. In financial services, value propositions are compelling when they effectively demonstrate why your clients should choose you over any other option.

6. Provide the appropriate evidence and proof points

Once you have addressed these value proposition essentials, you need to create and continually reinforce evidence to ensure your clients will derive the benefit and value you’re promising.

Proof points can be as broad as case studies, testimonials, thought leadership; any active involvement that demonstrates to your client why they should believe in your organisational promise. Evidence why they should choose you over any alternative, help them justify their investment and remain loyal through more challenging periods.

Customer value propositions are built from the foundations of a brand’s positioning, which is the guiding essence that sits in the heart of the business. This positioning defines the brand’s proposition, a short summary of the purpose and guiding philosophy of the firm. To learn more about specific examples of CVP’s we have created for others and what we could create for you, please reach out here.

Value propositions ensure the effective translation of strategy into execution

A compelling value proposition in financial services helps organisations to consistently translate their business strategy and brand positioning into execution in the market.

They have enormous value in helping your existing and potential clients navigate the breadth of your offer externally, whilst also clarifying and confirming your organisation's value for internal stakeholders and employees.

At BrandMatters, we have been building engaging value propositions that deliver meaning and confidence for businesses throughout the financial services landscape for nearly 20 years. If your organisation would like help in prioritising and articulating your unique service benefits, feel free to get in contact with us here.

The Australian edition of the Edelman Trust Barometer 2021 was released at the end of February and it appears that across the breadth of Australian businesses and institutions, trust is at an all-time high.

Briefly cast your mind back to 2019, and at that point, Edelman’s insights were a stark contrast to what we saw this time around. The 2019 edition showed enormous inequality in trust levels, with a more trusting group building from the informed section of the public, versus a far-more-sceptical mass population. The only real trust to be found was in employers, with Australian’s appreciating their employers and rewarding them with greater loyalty, engagement and commitment. This had significant implications for your employer brand, and in defining an employee value proposition that would resonate throughout your organisation as it evolved across the changing conditions in the economy and society.

Here are our four key takeaways from the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, as well as the implications for your brand.

1. The influence of environmental, social and governance competence on trust levels is significant.

Businesses in Australia have looked to align with the significant pressures around climate change and ethics, to the point where they are now trending towards ‘competent’ territory. This is significant as just two years ago, the Barometer reported that no institution was ethical, let alone competent. It appears that climate change is of increasing concern for Australians, and it is certainly of much greater concern than fears over contracting COVID-19.

This puts immediate pressure on businesses who are not putting their corporate, social responsibility and sustainability position on the same level as (or above) COVID-19. We saw enormous amounts of sustained change in response to the immediacy of the pandemic and its impact on daily life, but the pressures of climate change and the impact of ethical reform is a much longer, strategic consideration for brands going forward.

Your brand may need to reconsider its messaging and look to better reflect the changing mindsets amongst potential clients. A refreshed brand positioning or a rethinking of your corporate narrative can help your organisation align to these revised expectations and better reflect your values.

2. Employers continue to be crucial - defining this relationship in the changing context is essential.

Just as it was in 2019, employers remain a crucial bond of trust across Australia. This employee-employer dynamic has changed, however, with businesses being required to rewire their approach to working arrangements and create a future of work that works for all. The national ‘work from home’ experiment has allowed employees to juggle professional and personal obligations and collaborate with colleagues virtually. For enterprises of all sizes, the level of trust required to ensure organisational accountability has remained high, and this has solidified the bond with employees.

It is important to consider your existing employee value proposition and define how it currently turns up through these revised working arrangements and economic conditions. Brands that take a proactive approach and clearly articulate their employee value proposition in this context are likely to see this bond extended. This places an emphasis on their culture and flexibility and helps them be perceived internally and externally as a more enticing employer of choice.

For more information on how to build an engaging employee value proposition, click here.

3. Salient and contemporary thinking will be critical as information hygiene shapes behaviour.

The 2021 Barometer showed that the Australian public is highly conscious of the way they digest information and are increasingly aware of the political, media and scientific literacy they read. This is now seen as much more of a personal responsibility and being informed across multiple sources of news and contemporary information was of increased importance.

Brands that can demonstrate an understanding of this through active and well-evidenced thought leadership will benefit from this renewed awareness amongst the general public. But it is important to remember that this perspective and thought leadership content should be validated with insight and analysis.

Brand research is a powerful tool that can help throughout this process. Research allows your brand to take a deep dive into the state of the new market, to find out what clients expect of you, to discover what their new current needs are, and to establish how to reconnect with them both rationally and emotionally. Brand research will ultimately help to build to this trusted, evidenced perspective throughout your thought leadership thinking.

4. Trust is at an all-time high across all Australian institutions, and it appears that it’s ours to lose.

Trust is one of the most valuable assets for any organisation, and in the B2B context, trust and culture – the values, mission and habits of an organisation – are interdependent. When an organisation has a strong and positive culture and an authentic offer to the market, trust and brand advocacy are built over time. The insights from the 2021 Barometer are a direct reflection of this sustained effort from Australian institutions, but it is important to remember how fragile that trust is, and how quickly a reputation can deteriorate when culture and trust aren’t aligned.

Trust is a crucial pillar in business and as it rises, so does consumer confidence. Organisations that lead with their brand values will be better positioned to capitalise on this rise in consumer confidence. 

Organisations have had the opportunity to transform the very human, day-to-day interactions between themselves and their employees and rejig their existing approach. When this is clearly articulated through a mastered and evidenced EVP, and when trust has become part of a company’s culture, they become known as valuing their employees, and prospective talent is drawn to them. Their existing employees are engaged and committed and trust that what they are doing, matters.

Building and maintaining trust in your brand, matters

First and foremost, brands need to uncover what is important to their customers; once this is established and understood, then your brand strategy should be a promise to deliver this.

At BrandMatters, we understand the criticality of building trust throughout your brand strategy. Whether it is in relation to articulating a strong brand positioning, crafting a differentiated brand narrative, or building out emotionally engaging customer or employee value propositions, everything communicates and has an underlying impact on developing trust in your brand.

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