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Why banks and financial services need to build trust and humanise their brand

By Ryan Deluchi, Managing Director at MOFILM part of brandtech group You & Mr Jones.

Banks have a huge impact on our everyday habits and routine; allowing us to buy our first homes, save for our children to go to university, or invest for retirement. But despite playing a crucial role in our lives, the industry has been plagued with a trust issue for over a decade now, with Edelman’s most recent trust barometer report still ranking it as the least trusted sector in 2020.

In the past, banks have suffered from being faceless entities, not showing the human, personal side of the work they do. However, as brand trust becomes an increasingly important factor in consumer decision making, we’re seeing a shift in how banks are communicating with their existing and potential customers. Banks are reconnecting with the communities they serve and making bigger statements (and crucially, taking bigger actions) about their values and purpose.

Marketing teams in the financial services industry have a huge role to play here. It is their job to build brands that consumers trust with life’s biggest decisions. Consumer decision making is a mixture of head and heart and nowhere is that more important than the financial services industry where trust is now just as important as price, convenience and service. The way a consumer feels about your brand is just as crucial as how great your products are.

Ryan Deluchi
Ryan Deluchi

Savvy marketers in FS are shifting towards the more human side of banking which is being reflected in the type of products being packaged up to offer to consumers and the nature of communications we’re seeing from top banks.

For example, many brands are choosing to show the positive impact they make in people’s lives through the personal stories of real people. Goldman Sachs have been showing the impact of their 10,000 Small Businesses programme by profiling the graduates in their social media, even working with local filmmakers across the world to create a campaign that reflects the reality of the people and places featured.

TD Bank took a similar approach with a Thanksgiving campaign that profiled their small business customers across the US, focusing on the impact TD Bank’s support had on the owners, their customers and their communities.

With real people as spokespeople for these brands, and without the gloss and artificiality that can easily undermine the sincerity of marketing campaigns, these financial institutions were able to show the more human and relatable side of their businesses and demonstrate how they make a difference to real people.

Other financial services brands are choosing to use their platforms to push forward the agenda on wider societal issues. Lloyds Bank, for example, has been one of the biggest proponents for diversity in the British advertising industry in recent years, creating a landmark report in 2017 that many brands in other industries have since embraced in their own marketing communications. Likewise, Brighthouse Financial have been using their social media presence to throw a spotlight on their partnership with the Dementia Action Alliance in the US and in doing so, talk about the stigma that exists around Alzheimers.

Whilst brands must be careful not to lose sight of the product or services that they’re ultimately offering, a recognition of the wider positive impact that an institution has on society is important when building a brand narrative that both employees and consumers buy into. If financial services brands are to continue rebuilding trust this decade then a shift towards more human-centric storytelling in marketing is going to be an important part of their strategy.