Branding May Be a Bigger Deal Than You Think

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Branding May Be a Bigger Deal Than You Think

What comes to mind when I call your attention to Starbucks Brand? Maybe the green logo leads you to think about the blissful smell of fresh coffee, or maybe disdain for what you consider an overpriced beverage. How about Chick-Fil-A’s brand? (Y’all know I love Chick-Fil-A so only happy thoughts come to mind when I hear those words). What about Wal-Mart, Apple, ATT&T’s brands? Every company has a brand, and that brand conjures up a host of images for each of us. Some are positive and some are negative. Let me be clear that I’m no marketing expert. But my goal in today’s Podcast is to talk about the role of visual branding for your small business. On this very day I’m excited to announce that our bank has launched a new look at brand, and I want to share some things we’ve learned along the way that may be helpful to your small business. So this isn’t a marketing expert sharing marketing expertise. It’s the experience of a humble bank in West TN going through the process of refreshing its brand.

So what is a brand? The first image that comes to mind for me when I hear that word is livestock. At one time, it was common to design a piece of metal or steel into a unique shape, heat it up, and apply it to the livestock that you owned to make it clear that they belonged to you. Brand designs had to be unique so they could be differentiated from other brands on other animals. In some ways, these brands acted as a signature. In today’s hyper-marketing world, the sense I am using brand today is a businesses’ visual signature. A brand is not the same as culture, but a brand should reflect its culture. A brand is not merely a logo, although a brand will include a logo. A brand is a visual representation of who you are. It is meant to be distinctive, and it is meant to be representative.

As I mentioned, we’ve just gone through a rebranding campaign over a period of several months, so we’ve had to think hard about how to visually represent our culture, our values, and our strengths. As a bank that celebrated its 90th birthday this year, one of the things we value is financial strength. In our previous brand, we tried to visually represent that with bricks, and I think that we accomplished it in our imagery. In our new brand, you’ll notice those bricks being replaced by columns. The building in which we began in 1934 in McKenzie TN has some beautiful columns on the front of it (still to this day), so using columns in our new look allowed us to give a nod to our roots. But columns also convey a sense of stability and strength. That is part of who we’ve always been and who we want to continue to be – so that is why we chose to incorporate that into our brand. But even though we are an old bank, we are forward-thinking. To reflect this, we chose a new set of color combinations that we think communicates freshness and futuristic focus. It’s a hard thing to completely change your colors – but we felt like this was appropriate for us in this season. We also needed to choose a logotype or a font that would communicate a blend between our strong past and our hopeful future. We landed on a classic font, with a few changes to give it a fresh look. While our old brand was appropriate for a time, we find ourselves in a season of our business in which it makes sense to freshen up our look. So we’ll be phasing in this new look over the next few weeks. Same bank. Same ownership. New look. Does your brand reflect who you are? Does it communicate these things that you want to communicate? Are you proud of it?

Does a brand really matter? Yes and no. Everything in businesses speaks. Everything. Your facilities, your people, your products, your policies. Everything associated with what you do says something. That also includes your brand. And frankly, the same brand can say different things to different people, as I illustrated with Starbucks at the beginning of the podcast. In that sense, your brand most certainly matters. Some people may never walk in your doors, but they may see your brand somewhere else. That may be the first exposure they have to your company. Although we don’t know exactly what that brand will say to those who see it, we can at least spend time, energy, and money on what we intend for it to say. So brand most certainly matters, because it’s one of the primary messengers of your business. And yet there are many companies who have old, tired, or maybe confusing brands, but do really well in spite of it. The culture of a company and the experience it offers to people who do business with it can redeem a bad brand. If a restaurant has the best cooking in town, but their logo was designed on the back of a napkin and looks like it was printed at home, you really don’t care. As long as it’s great food, you’ll keep coming back regardless of the visual representation of that brand. In that sense, your culture and your experience are more important than the visual brand representation of that culture and experience. So visual brands matter big time – but not in the make-or-break sense.

Why did we decide to rebrand? The main reason is that our organization has evolved. We began as McKenzie Banking Company in 1934. For 54 years we operated in one town – McKenzie TN. In 1988 we expanded into Paris and began to utilize the brand MBC. In 2003 we expanded into Alamo TN, again, under the brand MBC. In 2005 we started a presence in Jackson, and for the first time we introduced a new brand alongside MBC. We called it Foundation Bank, a Division of McKenzie Banking Company – and this name was influenced by Matthew Chapter 7, the passage about the wise man building his house on the foundation of the rock, as well as 1 Timothy 6:19. In 2007 we opened in Obion and Paris Landing under the new brand of Foundation Bank. Because Paris Landing was under this new brand, the Paris office wanted to change its brand to Foundation Bank as well. Not long after, our Alamo office followed suit. But it’s not just markets that have changed – our culture and our people have changed. I don’t mean changed in the sense of going in a whole new direction, but in terms of growing every day into a better version of ourselves. We never arrive, so as time goes by, we should be getting better at what we do. Now, because we are proud of our roots, and believe them to be an asset worth celebrating, we chose to retain the McKenzie Banking Company Brand alongside our Foundation Bank Brand. They are two sides of the same coin. Same organization, but different brands depending on the market we are serving. So we felt like a rebranding was an opportunity to communicate more clearly and concisely and compellingly who we are today.

Should you rebrand? This is one of those projects that is so overwhelming, it often gets put on the back burner. The daily business of taking good care of your teammates and serving your clients well often leaves little time to even think about brand. As I’ve already said, brand may not be ultimate, but it does matter greatly. So you might want to secure the services of a great marketing team who specializes in this, and let them walk you through the journey of making sure your brand reflects you – not just the you of the past, but also the you of the present and future. But be picky about who you work with. You don’t want to spend a lot of money just to get a different logo. You want the exercise of rebranding to be clarifying for your own team and invigorating. It takes a good partner to help you do that. There’s nothing quite like having a stronger sense of who you are and a more accurate representation of that in the public square. There’s nothing like having a brand you and your teammates are proud to wear out in public. There’s a time and a place for everything – and it might be time for you to take a close look at your brand.

Brand means little unless you can back it up. We really are a strong institution that wants to build strong relationships with its clients and wants to invest in what we consider to be strong causes along the way. By God’s grace, we were recently recognized as one of the top 10 best performing banks in the country in our asset size by the Independent Community Banker’s Association. If you are looking for a strong institution to partner with in your finances, we hope you’ll give us an opportunity to serve you. Start a financial conversation with us today by exploring our website or visiting one of our branches. We hope you’ll subscribe to this podcast to it in your favorite podcast app and share it on social media. Until our next episode, God bless you.

-President Chad P. Wilson, CFP

Today’s episode of “Money Matters” was written and recorded by President Chad P. Wilson of Foundation Bank / McKenzie Banking Company on May 15, 2024. This episode does not constitute financial advice. Please consult a financial professional to discuss your specific needs. Any rates mentioned are subject to change and are accurate as of the recording date. Foundation Bank/MBC is an Equal Housing Lender, Member FDIC.