What banks in Qatar are doing wrong when it comes to branding

by  — 26 December 2013

Anthony Ryman the managing director of a brand consultancy in Qatar writes that banks in Qatar need a better brand story, one that is about honest and authentic values that they believe in.

I remember once biting my tongue at the peak of the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009 when a banker said to me, “Crisis? What crisis? We don’t have a crisis in Qatar.” And be that as it may, I thought, we must know of someone whose family suffered through job losses, retrenchment, bankruptcy and so on. It seemed to me that there was a massive chasm between this guy and the real world, which, believe it or not, relates to banking as brands in the country today.

A basic tenet of banking is trust, and it is this trust that was so abused as we screeched towards the precipice of a global meltdown. As I continue to approach banks about expressing and living their brand values, I realise there remains a huge divide between them and us. 

It is not a lack of intelligence. It is more their left-brain focus, where their world is viewed from a cost/profitability perspective versus a right-brain sharing/caring perspective, and this is just the beginning of the divide.

Let’s start with some facts: There are 18 banks in Qatar for a population of two million. We are overbanked. There is also a lack of clarity and positioning in brand communications in the sector. Good branding has more to do with the customer living the brand at every touchpoint than is being communicated from newspapers and hoardings. It has more to do with understanding human behaviour, experience and needs-based requirements than screaming about a free interest on your credit card offer that lasts for six months before you hike it up to 23.4 percent annual percentage rate (APR). 

I urge you to try putting your finger over the logo on a baking advertisement and then guessing which bank it is, as the ubiquitous family photo with a smiling child in a perfect family setting beams out at you.

Falling short 

Technology company SunGard’s research recently revealed that Qatar’s banks are not yet meeting customer expectations, showing: 

  • Just 48 percent of customers in Qatar feel their bank understands their needs, despite 95 percent of customers still visiting their branch on a regular basis.
  • 43 percent of customers picked mobile banking and 51 percent highlighted online banking as services that need improvement.
  • 27 percent of Qatar’s customers surveyed were dissatisfied with the resolution of a complaint. 

It seems Qatari banks have not truly integrated the power of brand values into the customer experience. Ask any branch teller what their bank’s brand values are, they would not know. If they do know, ask them how they live these values and they would not know. It’s not their fault or even their problem. 

Here’s the rub. The world has moved away from broadcast to bookmark (the place you go to first: online or offline). I am not talking about online chats or social media. I am talking about being relevant and useful in our new, always-on and always-shared world.

Banks must become more relevant, valuable and stand for a higher purpose that is more about us and less about them.

Banks must become more relevant, in other words, valuable and stand for a higher purpose that is more about ‘us’ and less about ‘them’. That is the bottom line. They must stop defining themselves by what they own or what they have done (“the world’s greatest, richest, gazillion dollar, profit-hungry local bank”). 

Their new brand story should be about the honest, authentic values that they passionately believe in and the world they want to share with us and give us the freedom to participate in and co-create. It is this sharing of values that will make people sit up, take notice and act.

When your values match mine as the consumer and you mean them honestly, you give me the power to interpret, act and use them to help define me as an individual, then we are moving beyond ‘transaction’ and the functional (‘free’ credit cards, or ‘great deals on loans’) to a ‘relationship’ (understand or help me grow; create my future; believe in what I believe in). Financial institutions have to incorporate the action of  ‘trust’, ‘integrity’, ‘honesty’ and ‘transparency’ at the centre of their beliefs, attitudes and communications. 

Trust, integrity, decency and identity must surely form the cornerstone of any financial institution’s self-worth and belief. These values translate into doing good work which breeds more self-confidence and expression of values that people can believe in and want to belong to. Create happy experiences for customers. Now there is a thought.

Image: christian.senger / CC BY-SA

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