Does Your Banking Brand Have a Strong Strategy?

New insights reveal how brand drives business success for the financial services industry

Strategy fundamentals for financial institutions that pave the path for growth 

For any financial institution looking to grow, strategy is their stealth superpower. A backbone for organizations of all sizes, strong strategy provides the foundation that enables brands to stand out, connect with audiences that matter, and ultimately empowers businesses to thrive. Strategy is the connective thread linking organizational goals to customer outputs and business processes to performance measures. For banks and credit unions, strategy plays an essential role in decision-making, impacting every imaginable consideration from the brand to the branch.  

Focus on Business Strategy First

All different kinds of strategies flow first from an overarching business strategy that defines the business goals companies want to achieve and sets the overall direction of the organization. “As any leader knows, a good strategic plan includes a bucket list of action items that will get resources and attention – dependent on shifting conditions and institutional priorities – with decisions about what to advance and what to hold,” according to Adrenaline’s Bethany Lewis in her exploration of strategic planning for financial institutions.  

Successful business strategy requires influence and buy-in, from the board member level to executives and all the way through to leaders across the company. Even more, a company’s business strategy is never one-and-done; it’s consistently referred to by key stakeholders across the company and should be fully reviewed, refreshed and renewed every three to five years. Everything begins and ends with this business strategy. It’s the primary driver for how a brand shows up in the world and how the business will pursue its growth path.  

Deliver on Strong Strategy

A solid business strategy serves as a roadmap forward for FIs – outlining goals for the organization in the long-term, mid-term and short-term – and defining the resources to meet them. Companies prioritizing strategy develop business goals that are then mapped to tactics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that benchmark success. From there, institutions determine a division of labor to meet these goals, with progress consistently measured against these KPIs to keep the organization on track. 

All other forms of strategy flowing from a holistic business strategy. These include: brand strategy, creative strategy, customer experience strategy, employee and culture strategy, retail strategy, branch network strategy, marketing strategy, campaign strategy, social strategy, and more. While it is possible to deliver individual strategies in key lines of business, like marketing or customer experience, for example, there is one major caveat. For any standalone strategy to be effective, brand strategy has to be clearly established and in good working order.  

Ensure Strategic Success

Working with financial institutions of all sizes, we’ve found that sometimes the need to establish a strong brand strategy comes to light as organizations begin implementing other key programs. For example, when recently developing marketing campaign elements for a regional credit union, it became apparent that there were some gaps that were much deeper and more profound that needed to be addressed first. Questions around what the credit union’s focus should be, what business need a program is solving, and what kind of experience to deliver couldn’t be answered by a marketing campaign alone. These considerations called for a more comprehensive assessment to address the strategic underpinnings of the brand and business.  

Activating data is another foundational way financial brands prosper. In every phase of the strategic planning process, smart FIs demonstrate an unwavering dedication to data. By fostering an entirely agnostic approach to information-gathering, leaders can go in with their expertise and experience, but remain open to what research will tell them. For strategy-minded institutions, every decision should be based in data, and data doesn’t lie. Whether it’s customer, market or performance data, the picture these insights paint helps organizations see the path forward with clarity. 

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, a company’s approach to strategy is a marker for their future success. If they prioritize strategy and link it to all areas of their business, they’re more likely to thrive. How they do that is by priming the entire organization to view success through the lens of strategy. But many financial institutions don’t necessarily have the internal resources for implementing strategy in their organizations, so they partner with expert strategists who have entire teams devoted to the role of strategy. Even more, many FIs prioritize a single partner that can connect all of those dots from across the organization.  

For more information on building brands for growth, or to speak with one of our brand to branch experts about your brand strategy, contact us at Be sure to also stay tuned in to Believe in Banking as it highlights industry news and views for banking leaders and to Adrenaline’s Insights channel featuring additional banking and credit union strategies for success. 

Adrenaline is an end-to-end brand experience company serving the financial industry. We move brands and businesses ahead by delivering on every aspect of their experience across digital and physical channels, from strategy through implementation. Our multi-disciplinary team works with leadership to advise on purpose, position, culture, and retail growth strategies. We create brands people love and engage audiences from employees to customers with story-led design and insights-driven marketing; and we design and build transformative brand experiences across branch networks, leading the construction and implementation of physical spaces that drive business advantage and make the brand experience real.

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Strategy fundamentals for financial institutions that pave the path for growth