By Scott K. Stucky
We’re all familiar with the Internet these days and it seems like everyone has a mobile smart phone. We hear about how millennials do all of their business from their mobile devices, everything has to be online, etc. As mortgage lenders we still taking applications, process, underwrite, close the loans and continue to go about our business. We’ve got systems and technology that allow a pretty efficient processes. Many lenders have some type of online presence, certainly a website, maybe a way to take an application online. But do mortgage lenders have a digital brand, a message, or image in the ever increasing online world? Do they need one? If so, what things should they consider before they do decide to develop a digital brand?
Let’s start by understanding what a digital brand is. It’s basically very similar to any other marketing brand, it’s an image, a reputation, a standard or expectation associated with a company. Many times it’s associated with an image (i.e. logo or slogan). In the digital world, it’s just that, digital. Not print, not radio or TV, but digital. So is it really different from a regular brand? Yes and no. The overall concept is similar, but in the online world things move and change fast. Anyone remember myspace.com? Basically gone these days. In the digital world social media allows consumers to gather and share information rapidly. When something goes crazy in the digital world it’s said to be ‘viral’. Well, relative to a digital brand something going viral could be really good or really bad. Really fast.
Lenders continually hear how the millennial generation is the largest ever and how they are different. They are heavily influenced by online information and studies show they pretty much always go there first to gather information. They value their peers above others in terms of opinion. If you don’t have an online reputation, a digital brand, odds are pretty high they aren’t going to get exposure to the services your firm offers. Millennials aren’t the only generation that uses mobile online technology, studies show that baby boomers and others also rely on it to gather information.
While there is significant potential associated with having a digital brand, many organizations lump it together with their regular marketing and brand development initiatives. This can be a mistake because of the rapid rate at which information moves and changes online. If something negative comes about relative to your brand online it can be very difficult and expensive to correct. If something positive comes out online you’ll also want to take advantage of those circumstances as well, but you’ve got to be ready to do so quickly. You will hear about the issue almost instantaneously and it will be necessary for you to manage your brand and reputation immediately. This is where a digital brand is very different from a traditional brand. Furthermore, it’s very important to ensure your digital branding efforts are focused on potential borrowers where they can have the most positive effect for your company.
Establishing a digital brand is important in our current economy. Companies who ignore the concept or consider it the same as regular marketing and brand development stand to be left behind. The 2 largest generations in our history rely on digital online information before all other sources and the succeeding generations will as well. The upside is huge, but due to viral reviews and rapid communication the downside is important to consider as well. Make the most of the opportunity and establish a strong, well-managed digital brand for your firm so you and your company don’t get left behind.
Scott K. Stucky is Executive Vice President of Data and Software Solutions for SettlementOne in San Diego, California. He is an alumnus of the University of Florida, has been in the financial services industry for over 30 years, and is an avid outdoorsman. He can be reached at email@example.com.