For most of financial institutions in Vietnam, there always a problem, that is the message to customers, employees and employers, investors may not say the same voice.
The consumer brand designed to attract and retain customers. Then there’s the internal brand to engage employees, and the employer brand that human resource crafts to attract talent.
A bank’s consumer-focused TVC, OOH and print ads, for example, might tout exceptional customer service. Internal messaging, however, encourages employees to emphasize the bank’s competitive pricing and attractive promotion when they speak to customers, while potential employees hear that the bank is best known for its teamwork.
Aligning a bank’s three primary brand voices poses a challenge because they’re often developed and championed by different departments: marketing for the external consumer brand, internal communications for the employee brand and human resource for the employer brand.
Integrating the external and internal brand messaging strengthens the power of the overall brand, giving stakeholders across a variety of communication channels a consistent message. A recent study by LinkedIn and brand strategist Lippincott found businesses that closely align their internal and external brands produce a five-year cumulative growth in shareholder value of 40 percent.
Vietnam International Bank (VIB), one the 7 banks in Vietnam with highest financial strength, rated by Moody’s Investor Services, seamlessly aligns its employer, consumer and employee brands. But it takes plenty of coordination, led by the bank’s Marketing and Communications Division, to present a consistent, continuous brand look and feel, tone of voice across a variety of channels. VIB’s cumulative growth in shareholder value of 124 percent as the bank has been listed on Vietnam Upcom at VND17,000 per share by Jan 2017, and increased to VND38,000 per share as of Feb 2018.
We recently spoke with Mr. Duong Ngoc Dung, Board of Management member cum Head of Marketing and Communication Division (Marcom). He explained that the Marcom consists of representatives from across the bank. These include VIB’s retail banking marketing and wholesale banking marketing team, corporate affairs, digital marketing, internal communications, media relations and support the human resource division to manage the message about talent acquisition.
A set of brand guidelines keeps them all on the same page; a coordinated effort with the brand team ensures consistent messaging. At the core of VIB’ brand messaging, an engaged, empathetic workforce plays a starring role in the consumer, employer, investor and employee channels. Of course, it’s the employees themselves who must deliver on the brand promise for customers. Robust internal brands help drive successful external brands.
“I believe we’ve done a good job combining our consumer brand with our internal brands,” Duong stated. “In our Advertising materials, PR articles, on our website site and on our career site, it’s all about our colleagues and how they help our customers reach their potential.” The same theme carries through bank’s employee communication channels.
The advertising and other branding work that puts VIB’ employees front and center makes recruiting easier. “It’s awesome from a brand perspective because it gives talent acquisition so much to work with,” Duong says. “Not every company in Vietnam has that easy crossover. The fact that our colleagues are featured in our ads speaks volumes about how much emphasis we put on them.”
The communication channel and message feature branch managers and personal bankers, who describe in very human terms how they’ve helped their fellow “VIB” with the same everyday financial problems that they themselves face. The spots have an authentic ring to them and the messaging is consistent with what potential hires and employees hear in their respective channels—including social media, which is growing ever more influential with candidates.
VIB’s career page puts its talents in the spotlight as they tell their story, giving prospective hires a more intimate sense of what it’s like to work for the bank. The stories are compiled and told by a copywriter in talent acquisition and reviewed by the brand team.
The melded branding effort, which began about few years ago, delivers a handsome dividend for VIB’s employer brand. Duong points to several key metrics: higher ratings on Glassdoor, an increase in employee referrals, a decrease in cost-per-hire and a reduction in the time it takes to fill a position.
His advice: “Understand your value proposition by doing research with your employee base and your executives to learn what makes your bank unique from a candidate’s perspective. Then create a campaign that illustrates that uniqueness to candidates that is cohesive with your consumer brand.”
Can VIB’s unified brand strategy work at other bank? It certainly can if there’s support at the executive level, which can encourage, if not mandate collaboration among the stewards of the consumer, employee and employer, investor brands. And it can if a cross-functional brand team is established that works from a single set of brand guidelines with a rigorous brand review process.
A unified chorus singing the same praises of a brand’s promise can resonate with audiences far more so than the voices of several soloists—and produce the banking equivalent of three-part harmony.
By Holly Hughes, Bank Administration Institute, Chicago.