Branding case study: First Federal Bank of Kansas City, Missouri

J.R. Buckner

Marketing is a particular application of a bank’s overarching brand identity and strategy. If you know who you are, you know what kinds of customers you’ll seek, what kinds of products you’ll offer and what the tone and content of your marketing will be.

First Federal Bank of Kansas City is a mutual bank whose primary customer base is homeowners. Its focus on mortgage lending drives everything from product offerings to the organizations it supports in the community. But first it had to figure out how to bridge that gap. “One of the things that we’ve struggled with as an institution is how do we market mutuality to people without going through the specific corporate structure that we have,” said J.R. Buckner, president and CEO. The bank’s mutual structure meant prospering together was a key part of branding, and the bank’s mission and vision statements bring that to bear: “To help people build a better financial future” and “Prosperity and a home for all.” Prosperity might look different for different customers, but First Federal is dedicated to working with each customer to realize their individual needs, Buckner said.

As part of that vision, First Federal has chosen to emphasize fiscal responsibility and home ownership as a step toward financial well-being. First Federal makes about $500 million in mortgage loans each year, and the bank sees home ownership as the cornerstone of its mission to help customers improve their fiscal health. The bank deliberately does not offer a credit card, but it does offer a loan to help those struggling with credit card debt consolidate it and pay it off. First Federal also has assembled a small library of free ebooks built around basics like budgeting.

“Ultimately we’re still a for-profit institution [and we] need to make a profit,” Buckner said. “But again, the things that drive our business decisions are our mission, vision and values. And if you will, that’s kind of our first filter for anything and everything that we do.”