Brand Perception IS Reality

by Lillian Mehta, Director of Branding

Published: Monday, August 1st, 2022

We’ve all heard the saying: “Perception is not reality.” However, when it comes to a financial institution’s brand, how consumers perceive that brand is in fact reality. Ultimately their perception is their opinion, and if they don’t hold a high opinion of a financial brand (or an opinion at all) then they’re unlikely to do business with it.

This ideology requires brands, big and small, to work harder in order to attract, entertain, and engage with consumers of all types. Where does the ideology come from? It stems from a misconception that the word brand itself is simply the name of a company or a product. A brand is much more than that and requires a more holistic way of thinking. Let’s debunk.

Start With The Misconception Of Brand

As mentioned above, most people think of a brand as a company, a product, or simply a logo. A basic Google search will tell you exactly that, but the real meaning runs much deeper. While it does include the previous components, it is also how an institution is perceived by those who experience it.

In today’s busy and dynamic economy, a huge emphasis has been put on branding and its importance in a competitive ecosystem. The banking industry has not been exempt from this.

It's Time For A Shift...

From transactional to relational. Virginia-based C&F Bank is currently working with La Macchia Group to transform its network of 30+ locations all into a cohesive brand experience. As part of the project, internal GIS and research analysts at La Macchia Group provided a guidebook that helped C&F Bank maximize resources that catered to customers and employees alike. The initial findings put the building blocks in place to set the stage for a cohesive experience C&F Bank desires for future success. Their team is even taking the effort one step further to work with Vivalociti, La Macchia Group’s division of technology, experiential, and content experts, to elevate the C&F brand at every touchpoint.

Watch: How C&F Bank brings every aspect of its brand together.

What YOU Think Of Your Brand The BRand Experience

It’s important for financial executives to realize that what THEY think of their brand will not completely align with what the market thinks. Start by asking these three questions:

  1. Do people know they can join your financial institution?
  2. Do people understand what your financial institution has to offer and how it’s different from your competitors?
  3. Do people believe that you can help them achieve their financial goals?

If the answer is “no” to any of these questions then it becomes that much harder to win the hearts and minds of consumers. In addition, what these questions also expose is another reality. If a consumer were to answer these questions (whether it be the way a financial institution hopes they answer or what they genuinely think) then that is the consumer’s perception of the brand. Period. After all, financials can only control so much of the perception out there. Other parts can only be influenced by internal teams.

So, let’s evaluate what a financial institution can influence: the consumer journey. The consumer journey is ongoing which presents a lot of opportunities for people to interact with a brand (even passively). It can be unpredictable to know how, when, and through what channel a person - customer or non-customer - will interact with a brand. These touchpoints include:

  • Driving past a branch
  • Advertisements (online and physical)
  • Online reviews
  • Word-of-mouth from family and friends sharing their experiences

The opportunities are endless to improve the brand experience in the journey of consumers. Every touchpoint counts.


Pulse Check: Dig Deep Into The Data, Understand Your Brand & Market Presence 

How can financial institutions learn what people think of their brand? There are two primary methods to help collect this data and understand it:

  1. Conduct simple outreach to customers requesting their feedback on experiences with your brand.
  2. Perform ongoing market research efforts with a trusted partner in your industry space.

The first method is more surface level, but nonetheless a great step in the right direction. The second method is an extremely valuable investment toward a long-term partnership that will not only build a financial institution’s brand but its footprint across the communities it serves.

A financial institution brand that has a handle on its market presence through existing or newly acquired data will be able to:

  • Understand if the brand is expressing itself consistently
  • Know if the brand experience aligns with the WHY
  • Understand if the market connects with the brand in the way you intend it to

We at La Macchia Group know the greatest asset today is data, which can be turned into insights that create action for financial brands.


Start Putting Your Brand To Work

Now that it’s clear a brand is much more than a company or a logo, it’s time to assess the different factors that impact a financial institution’s brand and its perception in the market. Some factors can be controlled, some can only be influenced. 


Download: 3 Factors That Impact Your Brand Perception




Lillian Mehta - edited

Lillian Mehta | La Macchia Group

Lillian Mehta is the Director of Branding at La Macchia Group. She received her MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and brings over 10 years of experience building both national and regional brands. Lillian believes the key to winning the hearts and minds of consumers is through recognizable and memorable branding. She is passionate about identifying what makes a brand special and bringing that to life in a way that connects with the right audience, building loyalty for years to come.