There’s a lot of banking in the community, but how much community is in the bank? Today, people are seeking brands that demonstrate a commitment to the community. So to banks that are pushing product to prove their value, we ask: what’s your community strategy?

What exactly do we mean by a commitment to the community? I am not just talking about your CRA obligation, which belongs in the realm of “need to have.” I am talking about your authentic commitment to community that will make a meaningful difference and get people talking.

I am also talking about your conversations around community involvement. How do we talk about community in a way that reflects a true commitment? This question is even more challenging today because most big banks are doing everything they can to act like a community bank.

So what is a true commitment to community? It is creating a strategy that defines the meaningful role you as a bank want to play in the community and then develop strategies to live this commitment so that it extends through conversations, yes, but also into connections and contributions the bank makes to and with its neighbors.

Part of a community strategy, too, is your branch strategy. We’ve been working with Webster 5 on its branch strategy for nearly two decades.

Webster Five is a community bank in central MA that we repositioned a decade ago to reflect the culture and distinct DNA of the company. This project resulted in the positioning line “We’re different. We’re better. Believe it.” To live the new brand, we developed a branch strategy that included environmental branding and designs that ensured the bank was different and better to the community.

Our unique branch design and elements created an inviting and welcoming environment that enabled employees to deliver a better experience that was inviting and memorable. And, with every new branch opening, we invited the community to join us at an opening event complete with fun themes, family-friendly entertainment (like magicians, balloon twisting, face painting, refreshments, and giveaways), and special VIP events for business customers.

Umpqua Bank on the west coast has been challenging the model for branch locations, having launched the ‘neighborhood’ model in 2010, in which they reimagined their branches as gathering places for neighbors, complete with a coffee bar, free Wi-Fi and performance spaces.

Recently Umpqua has taken their model and tweaked it for today’s environment, creating a new flagship store in SF complete with a digital, interactive ‘context wall’, banking service kiosks, roaming tellers with iPads, and a concierge. The goal? To make people feel more comfortable.

Because today, people don’t just want technology. People want to believe in a bank’s commitment to them as individuals and to the communities they call home. People want to feel a sense of belonging. They want support, advice, and knowledge so they can make better, more informed decisions that will get them or keep them on a road to financial health. And they want their banks to help them reimagine what banking looks and feels like – whether they are banking in person, on the phone, or online.


Beyond branch strategy, what are you doing for your neighbors?

S-Bank is a community bank on the South Shore. Not only was it struggling with brand confusion in the marketplace, but it was also facing aggressive new marketing efforts from competitors. The key question they asked us is “how do we differentiate ourselves?”

To that we had a simple answer – define your brand then live it. So, in addition to creating a new brand identity that leveraged the bank’s South Shore roots with modern and impactful flair, we helped them launch a series of week-long events for the community featuring a community Shred-day that is now an annual tradition, a “Hollywood” theme week, a “Premiere Toast” for customers, VIP events for business customers and local businesses, and fun community events for the whole family.

In fact, the entire campaign was named a “Top 10 Business Event” by local press brought in millions of dollars during launch week and drove an overall increase in deposits.


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