We recently released the 2017 Prophet Brand Relevance Index™, and it reveals several insights for global retail banks and other financial services companies. PayPal, Visa and TurboTax are among those brands consumers rank as the most relevant, while Fidelity, Capital One, and Discover are some of the fastest-gaining. It may be surprising to see the strong performance of these established players given the narrative surrounding financial institutions the last several years, but many consumers consider these brands downright indispensable – they can’t imagine living without them.

Where Financial Brands Rank High

The financial services brands that rank the highest in our Index share two things in common. First, they’re strongest on our measures of ruthless pragmatism, and they score better than most other brands on statements like “is available when and where I need it” and “I can depend on it.” PayPal, for instance, which ranks No. 18 out of all the brands we surveyed, soars to No. 4 in “makes my life easier”–only Google, Apple and Amazon do better.

It makes sense that consumers would evaluate these banks and payments players based on their practicality. Who wants to trust their money to a company that doesn’t get the basics–like automated payments, up-to-the-second balance updates and mobile transactions–right every single time?

Second–and perhaps just as importantly–the financial services brands that score the best (and are the fastest-climbing) are also actively looking for ways to increase their customer obsession, which is measured by sentiments like “meets an important need in my life.” PayPal, TurboTax and Visa outperform hundreds of other brands on this component. And while retail banks aren’t there yet, they can be. In fact, they are in a better position to be than newer players like Mint and Square who lack the hard-earned dependability and pragmatism that consumers seek. All that’s required is a shift in the way they think about their customers.

Becoming More Customer Obsessed

 The brands that are most essential to consumers aren’t just innovating for the sake of “new” or because updated technology became available. They excel at first identifying underlying consumer needs and then developing solutions to meet these needs, not vice versa.

For these winners, every innovation comes through the lens of the customer. Citibank did this years ago when it “invented” the ATM and used that technology solution to build stronger customer relationships. Years later, Chase did the same with mobile technologies, (e.g. QuickPay) and raced to the top of the charts on innovating on behalf of customers. Recently, a big pain point for consumers is mobile data usage, so BBVA Compass decided to get rid of data charges when consumers are using their app.

But where else can financial services’ brands improve? By creating emotional connections. It’s surprising that in a category that deals with one of the most essential parts of our lives – our finances – no brand has built the stickiness Apple or Amazon have in their categories. The reason why Amazon has been able to move beyond books to so many aspects of a consumer’s day-to-day is because it became emotionally embedded in our lives. Amazon provides the safety net and convenience many of us count on to run our lives today.

Improving Brand Relevance

Another way financial service companies can improve their relevance is to begin thinking about new fintech startups as partners, not competitors – finding ways to engage them to innovate on what is valuable to their customers. Chase, for example, recently bought WePay, and the Wall Street Journal reports that there have already been more than 166 deals involving payments companies this year alone.

Our research shows that for retail banks and broader financial services companies, providing powerful and pragmatic benefits are the bedrock of their relevance. Without this, brands do not have an entry point into consumers’ lives. But that’s not enough. To build strong lifetime relationships, financial services brands need to become more obsessed with what customers want, and find ways to create meaningful emotional connections.

Final Thoughts

There has been a strong push in the category toward “purpose driven” branding. But we believe these connections will be built on a foundation of practical, everyday interactions. Consumers need to feel that the financial services brands are there to support them, be there when they need them – be on the journey with them. That’s how you get interwoven into customers’ lives.

Looking to improve your brand relevance? Prophet works with financial brands to increase their relevance and drive their customer obsession.

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