Marketing a Successful Corporate Name Change
By Terry Brown
On March 29, it was official…First National Bank became National City Bank. As a member of National City Corporation since 1977, it was time to establish the National City name throughout the Miami Valley community.
Since November 1992, First National Bank planned and prepared a name-change marketing strategy to introduce its new identity.
“Our goal was three fold. First, to inform customers the name change was coming, then to secure customer confidence that everything other than our name would remain the same – our local management, decision-making employees, community commitment – everything. Third, to be very cost conscious in our marketing efforts,” said Franz Rieger, National City Bank vice president, marketing.
The name change unified all National City Bank branches in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, as well as aligned the Miami Valley office with its sister company, Dayton-based National City Mortgage. “Consolidating under one name helps significantly reduce costs, especially in operations and marketing materials,” said Anne Davis, National City Bank vice president.
A Marketing Challenge
First National Bank and P/O/N, its long-time agency, designed and implemented a two-phase program. Phase I informed customers, the community and businesses that First National Bank was changing its name and maintaining its service and local autonomy. After introducing the name National City Bank, Phase II was to keep all promises.
“We knew the creative approach had to reflect all of First National’s customer assurance goals,” said Paul Lindamood, P/O/N senior vice president, creative. “Our goal was to effectively convey that changing to National City Bank was positive and would have no negative effects on customers. Our desire to keep the message simple required a direct, understated, and easy-to-understand theme.
“That’ how the slogan ‘Same Bank. New Name.’ was born,” added Lindamood. “People understood the theme for exactly what it is.”
Phase I Programs
During Phase I, Eldin, Jr. (that’s what bank employees call him), a five-foot-tall cut-out cartoon character, was specially created to noticeably deliver new name messages in all bank lobbies from mid-January through mid-April. Paint cans (with catchy name change messages), statement stuffers, in-bank Q & A pieces, counter cards, posters, corporate announcement cards, employee fact triangles and three-sided mobiles were prepared to reinforce the bank’s upcoming event. First National also was the sole financial institution sponsor of “Making it in America” to reaffirm its commitment to Miami Valley businesses.
Phase II Elements
The second phase, beginning March 18, introduced television, radio, newspaper ads, outdoor and a media relations program to communicate the new name. Billboards presenting the “Same Bank, New Name” theme lined Miami Valley roadways. Nearly 150 National City Bank volunteers were spotlighted in the new ads to convey “a feeling of the same faces, the same service,” said Lindamood. National City’s new advertising theme, “Going the Distance…For You,” kicked off on March 29 and marked the first official day as National City Bank. Dayton’s Gem Plaza was renamed National City Center. And at a National City Bank news conference that morning, Dayton Mayor Clay Dixon proclaimed National City Bank Day, honoring the bank’s dedication to the Dayton community. The new National City Bank responded by awarding three Wright State University scholarships and underwriting free RTA Wright Flyer rides during April.
“Changing a bank’s name, if not handled properly, can be a confusing process for employees, customers and the community. It’s not every day that one of Dayton’s largest employers adopts a new name,” said Rieger. “We took the time to inform our employees and assure out customers that we truly are the same bank with a new name. And we reassured Miami Valley community leaders, businesses, and media that the name change was very positive.”
“The response has been wonderful,” said Davis, “from customers, our business clients, and community leaders.”
“We’ve even had competitors congratulate us on our success. It’s nice to know our plan was successful and that National City Bank is well positioned to step into the future.”