Can Your Brand Flourish This Winter?


By Andris Pone

Andris presented on the topic of branding at Sun Life’s Practice Development and Thought Leadership Summits this past summer.  In this series of six bi-weekly blogposts written exclusively for insurance advisors (both independent brokers & IIROC insurance specialists), he provides branding insights that advisors can apply to their businesses today.

I am sometimes asked if I like a particular brand name.  Likewise, I might be asked if a certain tagline is a good one.

My answer?  “It depends.”

Celebrity is a great name for a cruise line only if the staff makes you feel like a VIP.  Carnival is most certainly a bad name if the on-board experience isn’t any fun.  And Wheels when you want them would be a terrible tagline for Zipcar if their vehicles weren’t always easily available.

Of course, the degree of freedom you have over issues such as names, taglines and other key messages varies widely depending on whether you are an independent broker or IIROC, and in the latter case, which bank you work for.

Nevertheless, every marketing message you convey contains some kind of promise.  And the way to measure the quality of that message depends not upon the message itself, but whether you fulfill the promise day-in, day-out.

For example, the company names chosen by brokers are always intended to convey some kind of promise, explicitly or not.  Many of you, whether in the broker or IIROC group, have made the effort to name and articulate a process you use to serve your clients.  Or you have a quasi-tagline or key message featured prominently on your marketing materials and/or web presence.

If the service you provide is living up to these promises every day, your messaging is likely on the right track (assuming, of course, that your messages aim high enough).  If you have difficulty recalling the tagline on your website or the headline on your LinkedIn page, chances are you’re leaving alot of brand value on the table.

Consider the example of a new name in the direct-to-consumer banking industry, Oaken Financial, launched yesterday by Home Trust and developed by yours truly.  And its tagline, Plant for your future.
Oaken Financial  - Plant for your future










Oaken, defined in the dictionary simply as “made of oak,” was chosen in order to convey the values and character traits – the promises – of strength, ultimate security, respect, stability, approachability and straightforwardness.  Important attributes indeed for a bank that offers highly-conservative banking instruments including GICs and savings accounts.

Arguing for a moment in support of this name and tagline combination, I would submit that the name meets the standard of “remark-ability,” i.e. it is worthy of word-of-mouth.  The subtle twist on the common expression “plan for the future” into Plant for your future, and its connection to Oaken’s tree motif, is a hook into our brains that will make the name (and tagline) memorable and thus easier to tell others about.

Speaking of hooks into our brains (and it is not my intention to freak you out here, given our culture’s current obsession with zombies) brands are locked in an epic struggle for your grey matter – and the grey matter of your actual and potential clients.  Remark-ability breaks through the commercial appeals that are every day lusting after our big, juicy brains, in part because we trust word-of-mouth recommendations more than advertising.

Oaken and its tagline, like your messaging, have the potential to inspire and attract stakeholders including clients and strategic partners.  But, the realization of that potential depends on how these messages are leveraged now and over the long term.  For example, looking at the “Team” link on the Oaken website, one would fully expect to see bios and headshots of the company’s senior executives.  Instead there are bios and pictures of Lena, Babita, Shane and Nana:  members of the frontline staff.

This type of recognition is completely unexpected in the banking industry (especially by a company like BMO Financial Group, for example, which praised its employees with an ad that used not employees, but models).  It makes Oaken seem like an attractive place to work, and signals to customers, investors and the media that the brand’s claims of approachability and straightforwardness are the real deal.

So, do you like Oaken?  Well, as you may have guessed, that’s not the right question.  The right question is whether the name – being a message that has the potential to convey meaning, just like any of your messaging – successfully communicates value to clients.  Value that will ultimately build value for Oaken the company and Home Trust the company – their opposite number being your personal brand and the brand of the company you work for.

And if indeed the Oaken name and tagline are successful in and of themselves, the ultimate verdict is still heavily dependent on the Oaken team – just as you are responsible, at the end of the day, for keeping your promises.

By living in accordance with the brand promises or contrary to them, Oaken – and you – will determine whether growth flourishes or is stunted.

Comment from yours truly on Indigo’s stock price drop, in the National Post. 

Your opinions are always welcome, especially if you disagree with something you read here.  Just click the Leave a Comment link the top of this post, or the comment form at the bottom of this post.  You will always receive a response, along with our sincere appreciation for joining our community.

QUIZ:  Does Your Brand Mean Business?

BOOK:  Buy the #1 Globe and Mail bestselling Brand: It Ain’t the Logo at Books for Business

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RADIO:  Interview on CBC Radio One about unhappiness with Windows 8
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TV:  BNN interview re Lance Armstrong’s brand (starts at 3:30, after the ad)

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