Company: Bank of America Corp.
Years in current job: less than 1 (promoted from CMO in August)
Quote: "The [traditional] role of marketing—positioning a product, creating a value proposition through advertising ... has become too limited to deal with today's realities. It requires a broader approach."
Bank of America Corp.'s Anne Finucane recently spoke before the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, explaining how the bank was using funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and helping the nation's economic recovery.
It was all in a day's work for Finucane, who in August was promoted from CMO to the more accurate title of global chief strategy and marketing officer. Her duties span marketing, corporate social responsibility and public policy.
Since 2001, BofA has completed more than $120 billion in acquisitions, including home lender Countrywide Financial Corp. and brokerage Merrill Lynch & Co. The company is now so vast, and public opinion is so vocal, Finucane said, that traditional marketing barely scratches the surface of its communications needs.
"The financial services industry has certainly been under fire the last 18 months," Finucane said. "Its investors, public officials and the media all weighed in."
With this in mind, the company took eight months before it launched Bank of America Home Loans (formerly Countrywide). To distance itself from Countrywide's involvement in the subprime lending mess, it met with public officials and community leaders, and held public fairs nationwide to discuss loan remediation. In April, it officially rolled out the Bank of America Home Loans brand with a campaign (from BBDO New York; Starcom, Chicago, handled media) that included an online mortgage guide and a one-page home-loan summary, the Clarity Commitment, aimed at simplifying the terms of a mortgage for borrowers.
BofA credits its Home Loans business for generating $196 billion in first mortgages in the first half of this year, helping 879,000 customers purchase a home or refinance an existing loan. The whole experience has "evolved our thinking of how we communicate in the future," Finucane said.
The Merrill Lynch merger has also proved to be a challenging transition, as BofA is currently entangled in litigation with the Securities and Exchange Commission over bonuses to be paid to Merrill Lynch executives.
Finucane believes the strength of both brands has made a stronger whole. To kick off its BofA/Merrill Lynch operation, which caters to global corporate, investment and capital markets, it debuted a $10 million print and online b-to-b ad campaign. In early October, it launched a $20 million campaign for its Merrill Lynch Wealth Management business. The TV, print and online ads are themed "Help2," and show various ways Merrill Lynch can help wealthy consumers achieve their financial goals.
The Merrill Lynch bull, which tested well in research, will remain, Finucane said. Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos created the Merrill Lynch campaign, while Starcom handled media buying.
Just as important as marketing is product innovation, Finucane said. In March, BofA introduced Add It Up, a retail site where consumers can earn up to 20% cash back on purchases. The site complements BofA's already popular Keep the Change program, which rounds up purchases made with a debit card and deposits the difference in a customer's savings account. Since its introduction in 2005, customers have saved more than $2 billion through this program.
"These are practical, tangible examples of value," Finucane said, "and that's critical going forward."