We are all familiar with the famous brands of the 20th Century such as IBM, General Motors, Nike, Coke and Budweiser. These brands are stamped into our minds, and they evoke in us specific thoughts and feelings. They also have something in common: These companies are selling tangible products, such as computers, cars, running shoes, soft drinks and beer.
Selling tangible products makes it easier for them to brand and package themselves. Their prospects already understand what they are selling because, at a basic level, a shoe is a shoe and a beer is a beer.
This is not the case if you are in the financial services industry. Because you sell intangible services, the branding and packaging process is much more difficult, and ironically, much more important.
It is like you are selling an “Invisible Box.” You know it is great, fantastic, incredible – it is something your existing clients love – but you’re frustrated because your prospects can’t see it. You do your best to explain what you do, but they don’t listen, and if they do, they don’t get it. Or they understand what you’re saying, but they don’t get as excited as you think they should. And you know if more people knew about your business, understood what you do, and appreciated how great it is, your business would take off.
That’s why branding and packaging is so important for financial service professionals. You have to make your Invisible Box visible.
Branding and packaging: Is there a difference?
Many people throw around the words “branding” and “packaging” without giving you a clear definition of what they mean. Some people think they are the same thing and others admit they really don’t know the difference. To demonstrate how to use branding and packaging, we had better start with a definition of these words.
Branding. Your “brand” is the combination of feelings and thoughts your company, your services, and even you yourself evoke in the hearts and minds of your clients.
Packaging. Packaging is the combination of ideas, words, images and experiences used to place your “brand” in your clients’ hearts and minds.
We like these definitions because they are simple and practical while showing how branding and packaging are different and yet inextricably linked together. Your brand is something literally “inside” the hearts and minds of your clients, and packaging is what you do to get it there. You can’t have one without the other. Your “brand” is a thing, a noun, and “packaging” is an action, a verb.
Let’s use Starbucks as an example. Their business, a combination of both tangible (coffee) and intangible (atmosphere) value, has a very strong brand in North America. When customers think of Starbucks, they have strong, vivid thoughts and strong visceral emotions fueled by our basic human need for comfort, companionship and status.
The key point is that the value of Starbucks’ brand is not something found in their stores, or their coffee, or at their head office. It is something found in the hearts and minds of their customers.
So how did Starbucks get their “brand” into the hearts and minds of their clients?
They used “packaging” of course. They put together a “package” of ideas, words, images and experiences that make a strong and lasting impression on their customers, and over time, the result is a permanent “brand” in their customers’ hearts and minds.
The four elements of packaging
Helping financial professionals build their brand using packaging techniques has helped us develop a clear model that we call The BIG Idea Packaging Model. It has four elements:
1. Your BIG Idea–Something new, better and different that helps you stand out in a crowded market.
2. Conceptual Packaging–The ideas, words, themes and stories you use to communicate with prospects and clients. Effective conceptual packaging is essential if you are to engage your prospects’ and clients’ interest.