Sometimes what our customers want is not what they need.

Sometimes, what they think is true is not true.

When this is the case, we’re happy to push back. That’s the beauty of our branding and research process. It soundly blows away the fog of speculation and lets the truth shine through. Hey, if we always roll over and give clients what they THINK they need, we would just be another “Yes Man” marketing firm.

Based on our reputation as a financial brand development leader, Cortland Banks engaged MarketMatch with a mild expectation that we would recommend a name change due to their having expanded well beyond the Cortland city limits into four counties.


After several preliminary brand assessment discussions, we landed on the following objectives:

  • Increase awareness.
  • Appeal to a younger demographic.
  • Position the bank for growth in new markets.


  • Perform Customer Experience Shops at all 12 Cortland branches and 13 key competitors to identify branch experience and any differentiation, competitive intelligence or need training that might come from it.
  • Review all competitive messaging.
  • Perform customer mapping to identify geographical opportunity gaps.
    • All customer locations by county
    • Key products and balances by county
  • Conduct staff interviews: 19 total interviews to identify trends in the bank’s internal culture, customer input, bank strengths and possible hurdles.
  • Undertake quantitative research (phone surveys): 377 customers and 383 non-customers. Objectives were to identify:
    • Awareness
    • Perception
    • Primary financial institution
    • Purchase criteria
    • Product usage


  • There was very little awareness of the bank among non-customers.
  • Even though Cortland Banks is named after a small Ohio city, there was no negative perception of the name.
  • Market share leaders were not necessarily mind share leaders.
  • Of those who knew of the bank, there was high brand equity, and people thought highly of the bank’s service.
  • Overall service in the market was low among competitors, allowing an opportunity to stand out and differentiate.
  • We did not recommend a name change (other than dropping the confusing “s” in “Banks”)

New Look, New Culture, Same Name

So, the results were not quite a “love you just the way you are” revelation. Nor did they reveal grounds for changing a name. We tend to only recommend a name change if: 1) your name causes confusion in the marketplace, 2) your name causes a barrier for entry, or 3) there is a negative perception in the marketplace. That said, we determined that a New Look, New Culture solution would be the best way to meet the agreed-upon objectives.

New Look: Refreshed Brand

To kick things off, on the creative side, we developed:

  • A new brand look and feel, complete with logo change
  • A new website design (
  • A brand style guide
  • In-branch promotional materials to build awareness of the new brand (not to mention a more uniform appearance across all locations)

New Culture: A Life Stage Marketing Approach

In addition to the new look, it was vital to define the personality and culture of the bank. To assure a consistent customer experience at every single touch-point, we defined new:

  • Mission
  • Vision
  • Values
  • Personality (written as if Cortland Bank were a person)
  • Brand Promise
  • Brand Essence (The most refined description of who the bank is)

The defined brand essence is to be “Your Neighborhood Boutique Bank,” to provide a personalized, specialty, honest, high-quality experience. While the bank started with outstanding service, we provided the following tools to help focus the service to be more personalized:

  • Life Stage Marketing Program & Materials
  • Financial Future Form (Personal Budgeting Tool)
  • Customer Profile (Relationship Building Questionnaire)

A key element to the culture change is the recommended life stage approach. By identifying a customer’s life milestones, staff can better understand the financial needs that arise from the life stage and recommend the most relevant products and services.

With these marketing tools, and the information gold they gather, staff are empowered to move from a “what can I sell you?” approach, to a truly customized, “here’s what you need approach.” By proactively recommending products and services based on real life milestones Cortland truly walks the talk of being a local, neighborhood “boutique” bank.