Christian Lund is the Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder of Templafy, a unique software solution that empowers enterprise organizations to easily govern brand content and optimizes how employees create documents, presentations and emails in Microsoft Office and Office 365 applications. He has spent over 15 years optimizing business document templates in Microsoft Office applications to empower his customers to keep their employees' documents and emails on-brand.
The importance of cultivating and maintaining a strong brand image is undeniably one of the biggest issues facing businesses in today's financial sectors.
Take the UK's finance scene. A recent YouGov survey placed the reputation of the financial services industry at 26th out of 26; lower than even the gambling industry. If this wasn't worrying enough, the Edelman's Trust Barometer – an established global survey on customer trust – revealed only 45 percent of British consumers found financial industries trustworthy, making it the most distrusted sector in the country.
The fact is, more than ever financial institutions have to work hard to cultivate and maintain positive brand reputations. Particularly as many consumers don't differentiate financial service providers from banks, it's paramount to invest in a strong visual identity to gain customer confidence and stand out both from competitors and within the industry.
The strongest financial brands understand that the integrity of their identity is rooted in a consistency upheld at all communication touch points with their customers. Customers need consistent brand experiences to ensure an authentic and trustworthy relationship with a company. If a brand slogan is "putting the customer first," but the customer services team doesn't put the customer first or a business is marketed as a tech innovator but their sales team have email signatures circulating links to old apps, the end result is a conflicting and weak brand identity that instills confusion, doubt and mistrust.
As crucial as it is to get your brand identity right, it doesn't need to be a daunting or painful process. We've experienced many success stories with a variety of financial services suppliers, that have overcome brand integrity issues through the effective use of Microsoft products.
Here are a few main points to consider when approaching brand identity strategies:
Making employees effective brand ambassadors
As daily communicators of your brand guideline distribution employees are instrumental in the success of a company's branding. Whether sending emails, presenting sales pitches or designing social media assets, it's key that internal teams are aligned with your brand identity and have the tools they need to remain on-brand.
Our recent work with Danish Fintech company SDC highlights the common issues that arise when employees are communicating with off-brand content. On joining SCD, CMO Sille Stener became aware that multiple versions of documents such as presentations – most of which were out of date, were circulating within the firm; conveying in Stener's words "unprofessionalism" and assets that were "simply not up to scratch."
Stener was very conscious of what this meant for SDC: "In the FinTech market, professionalism and brand perception are vital building blocks. If our clients are going to trust us as a company, and choose our banking solutions ahead of those supplied by our competitors, image really is important."
We worked with SDC to deeply integrate SDC's Microsoft Office applications with Templafy's branding automation tools and digital asset library to filter out rogue brand assets and keep all communication on-brand. Because Templafy is hosted on Microsoft Azure, SDC's brand and content updates could be made online and rolled out instantly across the organization without any manual updates or installations required. On the result, Stener commented:
On a brand level, we definitely come across as being more professional – there is less maverick content in our presentations. Also, because it is so easy to use, we have experienced a real win-win situation. With [this new solution] it is easier to produce on-brand content than to go off-brand. From the CEO and throughout the entire team."
Paying attention to detail
A brand's image is made up hundreds of interlinked elements. So the biggest mistake a company can make is to only focus on hero visual assets and ignore seemingly smaller details. Company email signatures are prime examples of an overlooked everyday customer touchpoint.
Recently, we worked with a leading Scandinavian insurance company to address their email signature compliance issues. With more than 50,000 outgoing emails per day and no visual streamlining of Office 365 email signatures, the insurance provider's brand consistency was suffering in customer facing business communication. As a company benchmarked by its professionalism, precision and reliability, it's brand integrity was being affected by sloppy, off-brand email signatures with old legal disclaimers.
Hosted on Microsoft Azure, email signature management tools were introduced to the company to authenticate users and filter data via Azure AD. Running on Outlook and Office 365, all changes were centrally controlled, rolling out personalized employee information enterprise-wide without the need for manual updates from the IT department. Within 48 hours the insurance company had its unique tenant running on the service with their bespoke email signature designs, SSO setup in place and Azure Active Directory integration fully running.
Employee communications are crucial to the reputation of financial services firms yet this is often one of the hardest areas for branding and compliance teams to govern.
Identifying the off-brand
Monitoring brand compliance across all company documents and communications needs to be a major focus to ensure brand consistency is properly maintained.
Dynamic best practice templates and an asset library will give employees a solid starting point to producing on brand content. However on top of this, to ensure your brand identity remains consistent across all channels, consider integrating built-in brand & compliance functionalities to your Microsoft products. This allows employees to easily validate documents from PowerPoint presentations to emails by identifying any off-brand content including fonts, company colors, and logos. At the click of a button it offers users on-brand alternatives.
In essence, the more control you have over the execution and governance of your company's design and content used on Outlook and Office 365, the more power you have in implementing a strong and successful brand image.