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At a Financial Communications Society lunch, Jaime Kalfus, then the Global Head of Brand Experience at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, presented a behind-the-scenes look at the creative strategy driving the firm’s new brand campaign. We were intrigued to see how her experience of the challenges in developing a specialty financial services brand compares with ours.

It’s a journey, not a just destination

Building a quality financial brand from the inside out takes time, focus and commitment. If a company views its brand as a truly strategic investment, it will understand why the journey may take between six and 18 months, depending on the scale of the initiative. It was noted that building relationships in specialty financial services is often all about the long game — the same goes for creating the brand that will support those relationship-building efforts.

We’ve found that getting enthusiastic buy-in from management is critical to the success of a large branding initiative, and we work closely with brand managers, CMOs and their teams to navigate this crucial alliance. And it’s equally important to keep management in the loop beyond the brand launch: What are you doing to maintain momentum? Are employees embracing the new brand and acting as convincing brand ambassadors? Demonstrate ROI by making sure brand deployments are visible and effective.

It’s a bottom-line investment

A question from the audience prompted a reminder that, traditionally, many banks and specialty financial services companies have been focused on quantifiable investments, and brand may seem to have an intangible ROI. It’s important to present the brand as a strategic investment and long-term asset.

We agree: beyond a tagline or logo refresh, a well-developed, comprehensive brand is a toolkit that strengthens and amplifies messages across all marketing opportunities. We always begin brand development with a broad-based messaging platform that underpins every decision. Marketing touchpoints change frequently — a strategically sound brand will provide the flexibility to respond quickly and consistently. Ultimately, that consistency will drive business growth.

Focus on feeling

With clients across a broad spectrum of products and services, specialty financial services companies need messaging that resonates with every constituency. Emotional storytelling has the power and reach to support a brand broadly, both internally and externally.

Jaime and her team developed a film to showcase their new brand focus: “Let’s Solve It.” The film showcased the range of people and experiences that make up a global company and its clients, underscoring their contributions to solving client problems.

It’s a great start to a strong brand. But taking an aspirational tagline beyond brand launch and living it every day across the company and around the world is an ongoing challenge. Especially in a service business, your people are your product, and the brand must give them the tools they need to succeed, from solid messaging to compelling marketing support.

Get out of your own way

Jaime quoted Roy Disney’s well-known maxim that “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” But when you’re faced with a complex inflection point, your existing internal decision-making process may not be enough. For an initiative as critical and strategic as branding, consider a partner to collaborate with you and become your objective heart and mind.

Whether you need an outside authority to “speak truth to power” or the advice of an experienced sounding board, a strong agency partnership will support your efforts and help you see your organization and its goals more clearly. We value the collaborative relationships we’ve developed with clients, and we feel privileged to help them deepen and expand their brands beyond the initial launch.

Congratulations to Jaime and her team on a successful launch. And our thanks to the FCS for hosting another great event.

About the author

Seth Margolis

Seth Margolis is a Senior Strategy Director who has spearheaded branding efforts for financial services, professional services and technology companies, as well as for not-for-profit organizations.

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