Why work with us
Offerings for RIAs
- Technology & Platforms
- Investing & Wealth Management
- Business Solutions & Support
- Contact us
What's in a brand?
Kelly Spors, 08/24/2019
Pretty much every advisor in the world thinks about how to attract and retain clients through marketing.
But far fewer think about their brand.
Before you create a brand, you need to understand exactly what it means, and why it matters. A brand is about more than marketing, and much more than a logo and website colors. It's everything your company stands for.
When executed correctly, your brand should serve as “emotional glue you create between the consumer and the product or service," says Martin Lindstrom, a well-known branding expert, author, and consultant for several Fortune 500 companies.
Renowned brands don't happen by accident; the companies work hard to build and maintain a distinct identity. Consider Coca-Cola and the feeling of refreshment it tries to evoke around drinking its signature soda. Or how Apple's tone and imagery tout the simplicity of its products.
The strongest brands can be tied to a single word, Lindstrom adds. Say “search," for example, and many people will automatically think of Google. Say “tissue," and most people will think Kleenex.
But even small companies that aren't household names should be able to create a powerful identity that resonates with their target audience. A strong brand translates into customer loyalty: Consumers tend to remain with brands they like, even when things go awry. As an advisor, a strong brand can strengthen your client relationships and attract new interest.
“Your goal," says Lindstrom, “should be to create a brand that is so unique and special that the consumer does not even consider any other option."
The ABCs of branding
As you start to think about branding, Lindstrom recommends coming up with the one word you want to be known for—whatever that may be. (Maybe it's “innovative" or “youthful" or “tech-savvy.") Look at your five or 10 main competitors. Do they have a distinct brand? And, if so, what is it? Where are the opportunities or voids in the market that you can fill?
Lindstrom suggests sitting down with several people in your target client base and interviewing them extensively about what they are looking for in an advisor. “It's about mapping out the landscape and determining what the audience wants," he says. '' The goal should be to differentiate yourself, which often means charting your own path, Lindstrom says. Don't be afraid to create an image that no one else in your market has claimed.
“The trick here is not to be conservative and go down the conventional path," he says. “You need to find something in the moment that is unusual about how you approach your business."
Marie Swift, who runs a PR and marketing agency focused on the financial services industry, recommends advisors trying to create a brand identity first talk in-depth with trusted confidants—associates, friends, or even their spouse—about their goals, purpose and values. Their brand identity should organically emerge from this process.
“If you start to get to the 'why,' then the words and images you want to convey will start to bubble up," Swift says. “The brand could be edgy to attract more progressive clients, or the brand could be more conservative if you're trying to attract a more traditional client."
Swift points to a Washington, D.C.-based financial advisory firm that focuses on serving clients who are politically progressive and socially liberal. While financial advice isn't political in and of itself, the firm's founder is passionate about progressive politics, so it only made sense to build the brand around that passion and attract like-minded clients.
Some advisors also build brands around simplicity—breaking down technical jargon and complex investing concepts to put clients at ease with digestible information. Others focus their brand around their expertise—demonstrating years of experience and knowledge. What's important, though, is to create a clear brand identity and stick with it.
Bringing your brand to life
Once you've defined what your brand should be, how do you turn that into reality?
To create a strong brand, it needs to infiltrate everything that you do. It should come across in your website copy, your imagery and logo, your social media presence, your brochure, the music you play on your phone system, your email signature, and what you say when speaking with clients in person or over the phone, Swift says.
Take the politically liberal firm. It might use a palette of blues and include a forward pointing arrow in its images, mirroring imagery that's used by liberal-leaning organizations. Different palettes and styles appeal to different demographics; If you need help translating your brand concept into visuals, language, and more, there are resources available, from online guides to consulting firms.
Once you've created a more comprehensive brand plan, Swift recommends creating a brand guidelines and standards sheet to give to anyone who works with you on marketing assets or content. These guidelines can spell out your mission and values, your chosen color scheme and fonts, your tone or “voice," and any style preferences for photos and other visuals.
Some larger advisory firms also create a so-called internal “message map" for employees to ensure that everyone speaking with clients communicates the brand in a clear, concise and compelling way.
Keeping it future-proofed
Once you've built a brand, you have to work to maintain it. Swift recommends doing an annual brand audit where you review all of your marketing materials and messaging to make sure the brand identity is coming through. You can hire a professional to do the audit for you, or you can come up with a set of criteria and execute the audit yourself.
It's not uncommon to lose focus over time when a firm is focused on other priorities. But remember, building a brand takes time and diligence. If you discover adherence to your brand is slipping—maybe you're using the wrong tone or messaging in your social media posts or the wrong colors in your marketing materials—use the audit to identify the places you're slipping and take steps to get it back on track. Adds Swift: “You want to make sure [the brand] is not a shabby version of its former self."
TD Ameritrade, Inc. and the mentioned third parties are separate unaffiliated companies and are not responsible for each other's services or policies.
Content provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be advice for any firm.
Call 800-934-6124 and talk to one of our experienced consultants today.
Complete this form
And we'll reach out to start the conversation.
Thank you for your interest. We treat each inquiry with the highest confidentiality. We're getting your question into the right hands and someone will be in touch with you shortly. We look forward to helping you.