Branding is an essential aspect of any organization, including Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies (SACCOs). To thrive in an increasingly challenging and competitive business environment where they need to stand out from other financial institutions, SACCOs need to think and act like brands. A powerful brand can assist SACCOs in standing out from competitors, gaining the members’ trust, and communicating their values and distinctiveness.
SACCOs can gain a lot from developing strong brands. By adopting a brand mindset, SACCOs can promote their mission and services and attract new members by emphasizing the special advantages of joining. Building a strong brand can establish credibility and reinforce SACCO’s commitment to providing its members with high-quality financial services and keeping a strong community focus. This can be crucial in collaborating with other stakeholders, keeping existing members and forging better bonds with their members.
To think and act like brands, SACCOs should consider the following.
- Conduct a Brand Audit: A brand audit involves assessing the current state of a brand to understand how well it is performing, identify areas for improvement, and come up with a plan for strengthening the brand. It includes a detailed analysis of various aspects of a brand, such as its identity, messaging, reputation, and perception in the marketplace.
- Develop a Brand Strategy: From the results of the brand audit, SACCOs should create a clear brand strategy that outlines their vision, mission, values, audiences, and unique value proposition. This strategy should be communicated throughout the organization to ensure alignment and consistency in messaging. Identifying, understanding, and communicating their uniqueness can help SACCOs set themselves apart from other financial institutions either through things like their focus on community, personalized services, or competitive interest rates etc.
- Create a Compelling Visual Identity: A strong visual identity can help SACCOs stand out and be recognizable to their members. SACCO’s visual brand identity – logo, colours, and typography – should be professionally done, visually appealing, and easily memorable. It should also be applied consistently across all marketing materials, e.g. brochures, a well-designed website, and social media platforms.
- Deliver Exceptional Customer Experience: Every interaction with a member should be an opportunity to reinforce the SACCO’s brand. SACCOs should strive to deliver an exceptional and consistent brand experience across all touchpoints, including customer service, their website, and social media. Positive interactions with SACCO directors and staff can help to build trust and loyalty among members, which in turn can strengthen the brand.
- Engage Members Regularly: SACCOs should engage with their members regularly to build trust and loyalty. This could be through personalized services or regular offline communication through events and meetings. Building an engaging online presence through websites, social media, email newsletters, or short-messaging services can also help SACCOs reach a wider audience and communicate with their members more effectively.
- Support the Community: SACCOs have a strong community focus embedded in the cooperative value of “Concern for Community,” which guides them to work for the sustainable development of their communities through activities approved by their members. SACCOs should engage in volunteerism, sponsorships, and other charity endeavours to benefit the communities they serve. This can assist spread brand awareness in the larger community and reaffirm the SACCO’s core values.
- Embrace Constant Innovation: To stay relevant, competitive, and profitable in the quickly evolving financial environment of today, SACCOs must innovate. SACCOs should be open to exploring new ways to deliver value to their members. By embracing innovation, SACCOs can meet changing customer needs, stay ahead of the competition, improve efficiency, attract younger customers – through new financial products, technology, or community initiatives – and adapt to regulatory changes.
Overall, strong branding is an important consideration for SACCOs. A strong brand can help to differentiate the SACCO from competitors, build trust with members, and communicate the values and unique selling points of the Society effectively. By thinking and acting like brands, SACCOs can strengthen their businesses and build strong connections with their members. Consistent and effective branding can help SACCOs stand out from competitors, attract new members, reinforce their commitment to delivering quality financial services to their existing members, and thrive in an increasingly competitive financial services market.
NB: This article was first published in the Kenya Union of Savings and Credit Cooperatives (KUSCCO) on page 54 of Issue No 62 of its quarterly SACCO Star Magazine.
Nelson Opany is a Public Relations and Communications Management practitioner and the immediate former Vice Chairperson at Kanisa Regulated Non-WDT SACCO