What would posses somebody to walk into a bank today and hand over all their life savings? Do we trust banks to make the right investment decisions, given that not even banks have a say in what happens to a market. Are we impressed by the banks facilities, levels of service and infrastructure or still reminiscent of the days when SBI handed us a token at the counter and asked us to wait. Can we overlook something like the Citibank fraud, fake currency and scams; simply putting a little faith in what our bank-of-choice advertises.
With the global financial industry only just recovering from a three-year long disarray, banks are approaching branding with renewed vigour. Take for example one of the world’s leading banks – HSBC, which has quite a strong presence in India as well. This is the third year in a row The Banker magazine and Brand Finance have awarded the self-styled “World’s Local Bank” the title of strongest banking brand. Increasing its brand value by 12% to US$28.5 billion, HSBC attributes its success to the fact that it is very good at the basics. They’re extremely down to earth, deliver very good products, very good services and run a tremendous advertising campaign. The two other valuable banking brands, coming in second and third respectively, were Bank of America and Santander – the world’s fastest growing retail bank brand.
However, in-spite of the US’s dominance of the global banking industry, there has been a drop in the number of US banks in the Global Top 500, down from 95 in 2008 to 85 in 2009. This gives a number of nations the opportunity to now step up, and with Europe being so heavily dependent on the dollar, it could very well be Asia.
The Indian banking scenario has changed drastically over the last 5 years. Internal banking reforms, procedural changes, mergers and acquisitions, re-branding exercises and some very relatable ad campaigns have seen the likes of ICICI, SBI, Axis Bank and even Punjab National become some big house-hold names.
Differentiation through strong branding is becoming more and more important for Indian banks, increasing the need for each brand to communicate just how it is unique in satisfying customer needs. It is not just branding, some public-sector banks have decided to shed their ‘old-fashioned’ image to appeal to the younger generation — which constitutes close to three-fourths of India today. With Shah Rukh Khan stepping in to promote the largest private sector bank in the country – ICICI bank, Rahul Dravid batting for Bank of Baroda, Bank of Rajasthan’s down-to-earth endorsements by actor Hema Malini; memorable campaigns like ICICI’s Chinta-money and SBI’s ‘a banker to every Indian’; and a raised promotional expense by about 40 per cent, in the past two years, the Indian banking industry is going all out to show a new, more contemporary look. Advantageous moves, all these come just in time, as banks, the world over are still struggling to restore faith in investors.
The challenge, however, lies in delivering the brand promise and not letting the bank brand become something its not.