What makes a good brand? To find out, we’re joined by Leanne Fremar, Chief Brand Officer at JPMorgan Chase. Leading such a well-known brand certainly holds a level of responsibility, but it’s one Leanne is well-prepared for, influenced by a lifelong fascination with brands, a childhood shaped by retail environments and a career leading brand strategy for household names like Under Armour and Starbucks. Leanne shares how unifying around a brand’s purpose and shaping creative teams to deliver at scale is essential for delivering on customer and employee experiences. Plus, find out what all good brands have in common.
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Design Mind frogcast
Episode 16: What All Good Brands Must Have
Guests: Leanne Fremar, Chief Brand Officer, JPMorgan Chase
[00:09] Welcome to the Design Mind frogcast. Each episode, we go behind the scenes to meet the people designing what’s next in the world of products, services and experiences, both here at frog and far, far outside the pond. I’m Elizabeth Wood [EW].
[00:25] EW: Today on our show, we’re talking about the role of brand in delivering on customer experience. Now, we’ve talked a bit before about how a brand is much bigger than any logo, tagline or even any one product—even if that’s what first catches our attention. Instead, a brand is a sort of promise companies make to their customers, informing a longer term, more holistic vision of business success.
[00:48] EW: To talk about brand, we’re joined by a true expert on the topic. Leanne Fremar [LF] is Chief Brand Officer at JPMorgan Chase, a legendary two-century old financial institution and the largest bank in the United States. Leanne says growing up around retail environments has deeply influenced her belief in the power of brands to inspire, inform and even encourage better behaviors. Here’s Leanne now.
[01:12] LF: I grew up in retail and around retail at certain points. Both of my grandfathers were retailers. My paternal grandfather had a fruit and vegetable stand and a fruit and vegetable store in Kensington Market, which was a pretty bustling area of downtown Toronto. And my grandfather on my mother’s side had a shoe store. And so I just, I loved the retail environment.
[01:38] LF: I remember as a young child going to places like the Hudson Bay Company or being able to see commercials on television or my favorite pizza place at the time, which was Pizza Pizza. I can recite the phone number from the jingle of my favorite pizza delivery company when I was growing up as a kid in Toronto. I just always was sort of curious. And I found that those brands really kind of made an impression on me. That launched what has become a very long love affair and curiosity with brands.
[02:15] LF: I’m Leanne Fremar, and I am Chief Brand Officer at JPMorgan Chase.
[02:23] LF: Brands are living, breathing things.You don’t just build them once and put them on a shelf, and it’s just a logo and a color palette and it sits there and does its job. It’s something quite different. There’s, of course, a ton of discipline around building a great brand and understanding the value of the mark, but you also have to continue to move that brand forward and make it relevant for your consumers of today and for your consumers of tomorrow.
[02:50] EW: As a native of Toronto, Canada and a long-time New Yorker, Leanne is drawn to the energy of cities, and its constant source of creative inspiration.
[03:00] LF: I’ve been living in New York for a little over 20 years. I really do believe that I was probably always a New Yorker. I remember as a young kid growing up and seeing New York in television shows or on the silver screen, and just being so curious and drawn to New York City. And when I finally got the opportunity to move to New York, it was really almost like walking through the movie of my dreams. I had really fantasized about New York as a kid and lived that in my mind.
[03:41] LF: Whether I saw it, you know, as part of like, the backdrop to the Muppets, or something a little bit more glamorous, like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, New York has always been a part of me.
[03:53] LF: It is a feast for the eyes in every way. And I feel inspired, you know, just going to CVS. You can walk the streets of any borough or any neighborhood and really get inspiration from the retail environments, the city streets, the parks, the subway. There’s people everywhere, and I do really love to see what’s what’s going on.
[04:21] LF: I just happen to love those bustling environments where you can really see what people are wearing, what people are eating. What are they carrying? Who are they with? It’s just really fun to be able to be an observer in these environments.
[04:37] EW: Leading a brand like JPMorgan Chase—a household name for most U.S. residents—holds a certain level of responsibility. But it’s one Leanne has plenty of experience with from her time at globally recognized brands like Under Armour and Starbucks. Though differentiation is usually the name of the game when it comes to branding, to Leanne, she’s learned there is something essential that all good brands must have.
[05:00] LF: While each brand is very different, and these industries are very different, there’s a lot of commonalities across brands as well. I would say that all great brands have discipline in common. And I think that when you’re working on the inside of a great brand, what a lot of people don’t necessarily maybe realize on the outside looking in is you’re saying “no” a lot more than you’re saying “yes” in terms of opportunities that come your way for brand partnership, for brand innovation, for brand exploration and evolution.
[05:43] LF: There are some fundamentals that we really focus on and that I focus on with my team, which is really understanding how to build great discipline around brand frameworks and messaging frameworks, and making sure that we are really staying true to the key pillars that might be driving an initiative or product or the organization.
[06:06] EW: Because a company’s brand has the potential to touch just about every aspect of its offering and operations, it can be difficult to find any one way to measure the value that brand offers an organization. Alongside analytical reports, Leanne recommends a more holistic approach to understanding brand success.
[06:25] LF: So we have a variety of metrics that we use internally to measure brand success. There are many studies and dashboards that we use to report on the health of the brand, the success of a campaign, the memorability of something, the buzz that we might create around something.
[06:44] LF: But ultimately, as marketers, our success is evaluated by the consumer. Did we drive towards the outcome that a consumer will respond to? And at the end of the day, did we create a better experience for the consumer because of what we knew and applied to improve that product or that service or that message or that environment or that experience?
[07:13] LF: You know, more and more, we’re seeing that the remit of brands is expanding, and it is very important for brands to have a voice and weigh in on key social issues. Especially, I would say today where big parts of your customer base are expressing their own beliefs and values around important social issues. And so that does create an extra layer of responsibility as well as storytelling.
[07:43] LF: So at Chase, we are the first bank to serve customers through our branches in 48 states in the continental US—we are the largest bank in the United States—and we have a responsibility to take the lead on issues that matter most to those we serve: our customers and our communities, but also our employees. And so we are constantly listening to those stakeholders to ensure that we are supporting the things that they are passionate about and that make a difference.
[08:19] EW: We’re going to take a short break. When we return, Leanne will share how a brand’s purpose can influence business decision-making, as well as inform its storytelling.
[08:31] BREAK: Hi, I’m Toshi Mogi, AVP of Innovation Strategy, overseeing frog’s financial services practice. Investing big in digital transformation is not a guarantee of success. To build trust and instil consumer confidence in the evolving world of finserv, it’s more important than ever to lead digital transformation with design. Check out this series of frog insight reports all about designing transformative, inclusive and customer-centric financial products and services that are built on trust for a new digital world. Download Digital Transformation Needs Design and Design for Digital Trust.
[09:07] EW: Now back to Leanne Fremar, Chief Brand Officer at JPMorgan Chase.
[09:13] LF: Chase’s mission is to help people make more of what’s theirs. What that really means is we are charged at JPMorgan Chase and at Chase with helping people make the most of their money so that they can make the most of their lives. And it is absolutely core to everything that we do: the products, the services and the stories that we tell about our customers, our clients and the communities that are using them are really our opportunity to help people understand how these tools and services can work for them in their lives.
[09:49] LF: I’m very excited about the storytelling that we continue to do with Kevin Hart around our Freedom credit card, and the incredible work that he helps bring to market with his extraordinary vision and talent, and his investment and passion for financial health and teaching people about good financial habits.
[10:13] LF: I’m also super excited about the work that we are doing around our mobile app, and talking to customers around the country about all the incredible features and benefits of the Chase mobile app. You know, as I said, a passion for me is retail and so I get extremely excited about the partnership that we have with frog and some of the incredible work that we are doing around reinventing our physical spaces around the country and, ultimately, globally.
[10:47] EW: During our conversation, Leanne talked about how our relationship with physical spaces has changed dramatically as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of her work as Chief Brand Officer is making sure Chase’s retail branch experiences can deliver on the brand’s central purpose at a time when so much is changing around how we interact with these spaces.
[11:08] LF: But I will say that while retail and physical space will absolutely evolve and iterate because of the changes that we have seen and behaviors that have been accelerated by the pandemic, I think all of us, or many of us I should say, in one way or another have really missed the community and the connection and the energy that comes from being in a physical space with others. And that might be in an incredible store, that might be in a concert hall, that might be in a museum, that might be in a restaurant, that might be seeing live music in a small, local bar. But that energy and that collective experience is something that I have certainly felt that I have missed quite a lot throughout the pandemic.
[12:04] LF: In order for people to now come back to physical space and physical retail in particular, you’ve got to make that experience compelling, rewarding and frictionless. And so there’s very high stakes now, or I would say, a very high bar in terms of what the next iteration of retail experience will look like because of that.
[12:27] LF: frog has been a terrific partner. We are just thrilled with all of the work that we have been able to do with frog. It’s an incredible team of people and they have really helped us, you know, I think challenge our own existing perceptions on ideas, and really start to break through in terms of thinking about how we can continue to be in better service to our customers.
[12:56] LF: We have done some amazing work with frog around our portfolio of cards and the products and services that we will be bringing to light this Fall and into next year. We have done some really incredible thinking with frog on our physical spaces, our branch designs and those design principles. As well as really thinking about just fine tuning, evolving our customer communications to be more empathic, more informative and just more helpful to customers.
[13:30] EW: Designing great brand experiences takes vision, strategy and a lot of creativity. Here Leanne shares what it takes to maintain creative energy and build a creative community at scale.
[13:42] LF: The community part is the important part. It is, I would say, the more important part. It’s important to attract incredible creatives and to bring out creativity. But what really brings that out in people best, in my experience, has been the community part of it, and ensuring that we are working as one team. And that team is made up of, ideally, a very diverse group of people with lots of opinions and differences and perspectives.
In particular, from my perspective, it’s really important to be protective of my team’s time. Because it does require a lot of time and energy to be a maker and to create—and constantly create.
[14:36] LF: My team, as an example, works across 16 lines of business. You can imagine how many products and services are coming to market over the course of a year—times 16. And so it’s really important that people feel like they are being set up for success and being able to have the creative time to be able to do that. As well as the rest and the relaxation required outside of work to recharge your batteries is what I think is critical to leading a creative team.
[15:12] EW: In an industry like financial services, one known for being rather conservative and heavily regulated, it’s hard for a brand to enjoy the same consumer spotlight as other industries do. However, Leanne believes this may be changing thanks to the introduction of more products and services that are designed to help customers develop a better picture of their own financial wellness.
[15:34] LF: The financial services industry hasn’t traditionally appealed to consumers the way other lifestyle brands may have, whether that be in fashion or in sport or in technology, or even in consumer packaged goods. But I will say that the products that we work on at Chase really set us apart in terms of their importance and their relevance in people’s everyday lives.
[16:02] LF: Where I believe we are seeing a shift is with generations like Millennials and Gen Z being so digitally native and fluent, you are seeing products and services that tie money, payments and the teaching of good financial habits to those generations. And so I really do believe that we are seeing a bit of a sea change in our industry. Consumers, even from a very young age, are a little more tuned in to finances and money in a way that is different than we’ve seen in other generations.
[16:42] LF: Not thinking about it so much as a category, but thinking about it more as a product and a service that can really help people make the most of their money so that they can make the most of their lives is I believe to be a very important role that we on the brand team at JPMorgan Chase have.
[17:02] EW: For Leanne, delivering on a brand’s purpose requires creating the right environment for success, which means both nurturing a safe, inclusive culture with internal creative teams as well as growing a creative community that includes perspective from outside collaborators.
[17:20] LF: And I will say I do feel very fortunate to lead such an incredible team and get to work with so many really excellent people. I think a lot of that is around creating a great environment—creating an environment that is diverse in background, in thought, in perspective and in point of view. Allowing people to feel safe and supported at expressing different opinions so that we can really get to the best solution. Being really integrative in our thinking and being able to work with agencies like frog to help us even coax that out. Sometimes you get stuck in a way of thinking and it does take a new person joining the team or an outside agency to help shake things up a little bit and challenge you to think differently.
[18:17] LF: We at JPMC obviously take very seriously, and I believe, are making a lot of progress and doing a very good job at reflecting the values and the social issues that are most important to our communities. When we announced our five-year path forward commitment last October, we knew that it would resonate equally with our customers and our employees. And in the almost one year since that announcement, we’ve made tangible progress in helping to build a more inclusive economy. And we know we have a ways to go.
[18:52] LF: When we take a business-led approach to improvement, and we pair our very strong leadership with our policy and our philanthropic expertise, we have a unique ability at JPMC to move the needle and we are very focused on that.
[19:14] EW: That’s our show. The Design Mind frogcast was brought to you by frog, a global design and strategy consultancy that is part of Capgemini Invent. Check today’s show notes for transcripts and more from our conversation with Leanne Fremar, Chief Brand Officer at JPMorgan Chase. We really want to thank Leanne for joining us, and sharing so much about what it takes to lead creative teams in delivering on a brand’s purpose.
[19:38] EW: We also want to thank you, dear listener. If you like what you heard, tell your friends. Rate and review to help others find us, and be sure to follow us wherever you listen to podcasts. Find lots more to think about from our global frog team at frog.co/designmind. Follow frog on Twitter at @frogdesign and @frog_design on Instagram. And if you have any thoughts about the show, we’d love to hear from you. Reach out at frog.co/contact. Thanks for listening. Now go make your mark.
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