12 DEC. 2012
Verbal Branding in Banking
Going back several decades, people understood banks to be, simply, a place of saving and loaning money; however, with the recent development of the banking industry and the change in needs of customers, nowadays they play an integral part of our daily lives that extends beyond savings and loans.
Like other more popular industries, branding is an essential component of a bank’s business strategy. With fierce competition, the verbal branding of a bank should not just emphasize on names, but also on slogans as well. The main goal of slogans within the banking industry should express the impression of being reliable, honest and professional.
Many banks include the words “we” or “you” in their slogans. Using these personal pronouns may help the organization connect with individuals on a more personal level and highlight its emphasis on friendly service. For example: the slogan of Citi Bank reads ‘Your citi never sleeps.’ Bank of America’s slogan: ‘Think what we can do for you.’ Meanwhile, the slogan of Centurion Bank is ‘We value your time.’ This is the same for certain Chinese slogans in banking industry. Sunflower, a financial project provided by China Merchants Bank (CMB), created its slogan as “专注您所关注” [zhuān zhù nín suǒ guān zhù] which means, “we focus on what you are interested in.”
The slogans in the banking industry should also place more emphasis on expressing credibility and professionalism. However, the means of doing so is different in English and Chinese: In the English speaking world, slogans often express complete meanings through short phrases. The most common framework is ‘XXX Bank, ……’. As shown, the words before the comma represents the name of the bank, while the words after the comma represents the core mission of the bank. Here are some examples:’ Bank of America. Higher Standards.’ ; ‘HSBC. The world's local bank’; ‘Dresdner Bank. Advice you can bank on’; ‘Commerz Bank. Ideas Ahead.’ When you read these slogans, you may get the sense of strong rhythm; this kind of cadence accentuates power and boldness.
These types of slogans can also be found in certain Chinese banks, for example ”烟台商业银行，伴您走向辉煌” (Yiantai Merchants Bank, helps you to reach glory.). In general, Chinese bank slogans are more willing to use ancient idioms. Due to the high-context culture, (silent language role is emphasized according to Hofstede’s culture dimensions theory), Chinese slogans tend to use abridged phrases instead of complete sentences. In these phrases, clever rhymes, word positioning, and alliterations are also very important. We can see an example with the following phrase that exhibits clever word choice with six characters on either side of the comma (representing balance) and the last syllables of each word rhyming: ABC, Agriculture Bank of China’s, slogan, "无论春夏秋冬，农行助您成功” [wú lùn chūn xià qiū dōng, nóng háng bàn nǐ chéng gong] (No matter which season, ABC helps you to reach success.)
A lot of Chinese slogans use partial tones in their slogans. In this methodology, they adopt traditional Chinese idioms whilst changing one or two words that have the same pronunciations but different meanings. It is common in the banking industry, since this can show a sense of lightheartedness, thus rendering the slogan easier to remember. An example is the slogan of one of the investment projects of China Construction Bank: “乾元－日鑫月溢” [rì xīn yùe yì]; it has the same pronunciation of “日新月异 (rì xīn yùe yì)”, which means change happens every moment. But in this slogan, 鑫 means ‘prosper’ and 溢 means ‘overflow’. The slogan evokes ‘the Growth of Wealth’. In addition, Citi Bank’s Chinese slogan is, “投资全球债券，坐享心安利得” (invest in bonds all over the world, gain wealth at ease). In this slogan, 心安利得 [xīn ān lì dé] has the similar pronunciation with 心安理得[xīn ān lǐ dé] which is a very famous Chinese idiom.
Because of the difference in value and culture, creating a proper slogan in multiple languages is a great challenge and an urgent task. Nevertheless, an excellent slogan is key to improving brand identity in the banking industry.