What It Takes to Make a Bank Brand Soar

October 17, 2019 | Cassandra Pudenz


When a brand is getting stale or outdated, it can be tempting to rush to the solution of a complete rebrand. It sounds fun, right? New logo, fresh colors, renewed energy.


But, marketers may be better off taking a step back to evaluate if that is actually the right move.




For those of us who have been there, done that, we know complete rebrands are rarely a walk in the park. Rebrands take a lot of time and money. And, for something as important as your brand – which stands for who you are as a community bank – it had better be done right.

That means research, buy-in and sufficient resources to dedicate to the project. Plus, once the brand is determined, it must be rolled out internally and externally, with everything from building signage to business cards.

Still sound like fun? Or maybe more like exhausting? Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for a bank to completely overhaul its brand. There are lots of success stories out there. Sadly, however, there are just as many failures.



If your bank’s brand has good bones or strong recognition, and is just feeling a little stagnant, you don’t need to throw it all out the window. In many cases, a brand refresh can actually create greater impact. Think of it like this — that same old shirt you’ve owned for years can give off an entirely new impression with the addition of some hot new accessories. Your brand can have the same experience. Working with existing elements as the foundation, you can create something that feels almost completely new yet retains the brand recognition (and ideally, affection) you’ve worked so hard to build.



Bank Iowa is one example of a successful brand refresh. After the $1.3 billion community bank’s marketing leadership conducted market research, they understood the brand had low awareness in the marketplaces most important to them. Internally, the team agreed the brand had become a bit stale and lacked personality.

So, what to do?

Did they change the logo? No. Did they change the primary brand colors? Nope. Did they take brand elements that had always been there and give them new life? Absolutely.



In conjunction with their marketing agency partner Lessing-Flynn, also based in Iowa, the bank went to work “accessorizing” the “old shirt” that was the Bank Iowa brand. The creative team implemented a modern secondary color palette, selected a new main font, ditched an old tagline and used simple, bold images and icons in refreshed advertising creative. The best part of all is the team retained the bank’s storied bird icon.


The icon had always been present in the logo, giving a nod to Bank Iowa’s founders who originally founded the company as an aviation business. Throughout the brand refresh, Bank Iowa and Lessing- Flynn made sure to elevate the bird to become a true symbol of the bank, incorporating it in various promotional campaigns and ad creative.

From creating a “Bird’s Eye View” aerial video social campaign for all the communities Bank Iowa serves, to the “Catch the Bird” frisbee promotion at Iowa Cubs games, to launching a new product — “FreeBird CheckingTM” — together with Bank Iowa, we gave new meaning and significance to the logo.



Throughout the brand refresh, the Bank Iowa team demonstrated that it wasn’t afraid to do things outside the banking box. Yet, it’s also important to note that each of its decisions its leadership made along the way was based on data, gathered in conjunction with its research firm Discida. While there are certainly appropriate times to go with the gut, the democratization of advanced analytics makes it almost silly not to deploy research ahead of a brand project of any size. Getting inside the mind of your customers and understanding the root causes of their choices and behaviors are insights no financial institution can afford to ignore into today’s highly competitive and customer-centric banking environment.

That’s not to say you can’t put down the reports and have a little fun. Throughout the rebranding process, Bank Iowa CEO Jim Plagge body surfed through bank employees for a photo shoot. Team members created an April Fool’s social post announcing the fictitious launch of a line of personal care product called Eau de Wallét (The $cent of Money). There was also a Pandora audio ad campaign promoting the opening of a new location in a Dutch community that had a lot of fun with the native language.



While there was obviously tons of fun in the reinvention of the bank’s, there was also a serious focus on results. Great marketers know the job of brand management is never really done, but there are important milestones to hit along the way, and the Bank Iowa team has gathered excellent metrics so far. Check out these stats:

47% growth in social media followers

67% growth in engagement on social media within 1 year

16% growth in website sessions within 1 year

30% increase in brand awareness

9% increase in the Discida Brand Health Score (a measure of performance, awareness, recall and loyalty)

The stats say it all — you can refresh your brand without doing a complete overhaul. And when you’re strategic and creative, you can even make your brand soar.


Cassandra Pudenz is an account manager with digital, advertising and marketing agency Lessing-Flynn. She can be reached at cassandra@lessingflynn.com. ]