“Mission as a product allows you to cast a really important and effective net exactly where you want to cast it.” -Allison Netzer

“What if your mission was your product?” Imagine selling your mission as your primary service, rather than just selling your banking services themselves.

This concept comes from Allison Netzer, chief marketing and strategy officer at Nymbus. She’s also the co-author of the book, Think Like a Brand, Not a Bank and she’s making it her mission to help banking executives understand what they’re doing wrong with branding.

This article is the second part of a two-part series, both of which are based on discussions you’ll find on the Banking on Digital Growth podcast.

Queuing the Remix of Your Financial Brand

Branding transformations require major shifts in mindset. To understand how this shift happens, let’s start by taking a note from the world of music.

When two vastly different musical artists from two separate genres collaborate, they create something that’s never existed in the world before.

This is what Allison calls, “queuing the remix.” It involves two notions:

Don’t just try things one time.

Do some sampling.

Point 1 above refers to the idea that you shouldn’t just try something once and give up if it doesn’t work. Look at how many Motown songs turned into collaborations or were later covered by other artists in unexpected collaborations. 

Even if their song wasn’t a hit the first time, these artists didn’t give up. They tried again. They invited someone to collaborate with them or allowed their song to be covered by an artist in a different genre. As a result, they unlocked new levels of success.

Point 2 is about sampling. To put it another way, creativity abounds in remixes, rematches, repositioning, repackaging, and remessaging. Borrow things from outside banking.

When it’s time to mix things up, pick up little things from the world and sprinkle them into the mix. Add something you heard from a customer. Spice it up with an idea you learned at a conference. Keep trying new things. Remix it.

To Get Bigger, Think Smaller

Paradoxically, success is often found in thinking small instead of thinking big. Your brand can become so huge and unwieldy that you’ve lost sight of the little things that make it great.

Financial brands need to start making their decisions smaller by focusing on the little things their customers like best about them. Allison shared these tips for thinking small.

  • Keep things simple.
  • Get started quickly.
  • Have the end in mind.
  • Set micro goals.
  • Make small amounts of forward progress.
  • Celebrate small victories.

Although these concepts sound basic, they’re surprisingly hard to practice in real life. You can learn more about them in Allison’s book, Think Like a Brand, Not a Bank, where she explains how to put them into action in more detail. 

Ask What You Could  Do?

Another principle from Allison’s book is, “Don’t ask what we can do. Ask what we could do.” When you focus on what can actually be done, you tend to be limited by too many of the same roadblocks that have always been in place.

Instead, when you focus on what could be done, you start opening up your mind to new possibilities. This creates enough room for digital transformation. You’re no longer limited to what’s always been done before.

When you look at the research behind digital transformation, it shows that 60% to 80% of transformations fail not because of technology, but because of people. The human factor is so strong, it can counteract transformation.

Allison describes an example where a bank is trying to drive more deposits. Instead of asking what can we do about deposits, they should try asking what could we do about deposits. Look at the differences between the two lists below.

What can we do to drive more deposits?

  • Change our rates
  • Run an ad campaign

What could we do to drive more deposits?

  • Start a niche banking business
  • Join forces with a retail shop

When you look at the differences between the two sets of ideas above, you can see that the second set is much more innovative. Thinking in terms of could frees the mind to consider new partnerships and opportunities that weren’t obvious before.

Product Isn’t a Language

Have you ever noticed that bankers speak their own language? It’s full of jargon and acronyms that the average person doesn’t understand. As a result, banking language can be quite off-putting to many account holders.

Derek Sutton’s series on small business growth addresses this issue. He says that when you have a brand-first mindset, you use the language of your customer, not the language of your product.

Think about the Levi’s “real comfortable jeans” campaign. Instead of saying, “cotton twill weave” or “we offer sizes 2 to 20” they spoke in the language of their customers and just said, “real comfortable jeans.” People loved it.

It’s also worth noting that the concept of loyalty is shifting too. People aren’t loyal to products. They’re loyal to brands. When you consume food, music, clothing, or anything else, you’re accepting not just the product, but the brand into your life.

Why Your Mission Statement Isn’t a Mission

In Allison’s book, she says “a mission statement isn’t a mission.” Her thinking behind this statement is that banks’ mission statements tend to be very similar and are intentionally written in broad, vague terms.

Something like, “Our mission is to serve our community” is almost meaningless. Any bank anywhere could have this mission statement. Instead, your mission should be cause-based and/or people-focused. 

Think back to the old-fashioned banks that were established for coal miners in Tennessee. Serving coal miners was their purpose. As a more modern example, look at Locality Bank, which has a mission of fueling growth among small businesses in the South Florida region.

These banks understand the concept of community. They make it their mission to connect with a very specific audience. It might help you to stop focusing on the idea of “mission” and think of it as “purpose.” What is your bank’s purpose? What is your cause, in a greater sense?

Remember, communities are no longer based on ZIP codes. They consist of people who come together from all over the world to connect online and bond over shared interests. 

Coaching, Composing, and Courage

Allison’s book describes how coaches and composers motivate people to find new futures. A coach helps someone build their skills and confidence, which allows them to have a record-breaking game. A composer creates a new composition and musicians come together to perform it and allow it to soar to an even higher level of beauty.

As a leader, you never know where your leadership might lead. Allison hears stories from people who have been inspired by her book and they always bring their own words, examples, and applications to it. She’s always surprised to hear how her ideas have flourished in other people’s lives.

James Robert views it as a form of letting go. You have to build the courage to let go of your ideas and allow them to inspire others in their own ways.

Keep in mind that when it comes to branding, the adventure never ends. It’s an ongoing process that constantly evolves, which makes it endlessly exciting.

“I think that brand is one of the greatest classrooms that we have,” Alison says. “It's pre-built to make mistakes, to try new things. So you never stop learning when you have a brand-first mindset.”

For more information, connect with Allison Netzer on LinkedIn or visit thinklikeabrandbook.com. You can also reach out to James Robert Lay and access more resources about digital transformation at digitalgrowth.com.