Bank of America
Headquarters: Charlotte, N.C. Brand established: 1923 2005 advertising: $260.3 million 2006 Interbrand/BusinessWeek ranking: Not ranked in top 100 Brand Value: $23 billion CoreBrand ranking: 8
STRENGTHS: Ries: Everybody thought that Citibank would dominate the consumer banking business worldwide. Not so: Bank of America is creeping up on Citibank and should overtake them in the near future. Roth: BofA has continued its comprehensive rollout of its new branding livery behind a strong customer service positioning. Breaking traditional rules about “red” associations with money, the branding program is certainly distinctive and bold, with a heavily consumer-driven look and feel at retail. CHALLENGES: Roth: It will be interesting to see how Bank of America’s intensely consumer-oriented branding will play against more conservative institutional audiences over time. Gregory: While still very strong, Bank of America brand equity has dropped from 10.7% in 2003 to 10.2% in 2006. This is cause for some concern as it might indicate that the brand doesn’t have leverage to continue growing.
In an industry made impersonal by online bill payment, automated teller machines and a bank seemingly on every corner, Bank of America worked hard this year to define its personality and become a destination brand for companies and consumers alike.
The bank, already the nation’s No. 1 small-business lender, launched a portfolio of online services under the moniker Business 24/7 that is intended to help small businesses with their day-to-day office needs. The kickoff—in New York’s Grand Central Terminal—demonstrated not only the bank’s desire to differentiate itself in the marketplace but its growing affinity for experiential marketing.
It was the second time in less than a year that Bank of America went to Grand Central. Late last year, as it unveiled its “Keep the Change” promotion related to a new debit card product, the bank set up a sofa 20 feet long and 10 feet high in the terminal and let people dig under the cushions for prizes.
While the experiential marketing campaigns are meant to complement more traditional efforts—the bank’s annual marketing spending tops $2 billion—bank executives say they have generated buzz and that more spending will be devoted to such events.
“It’s a way to reach people a different way,” said Robbyn Tangney, a brand marketing executive with the bank. “We’ve all read the studies on how cluttered the media is. The challenge is getting the message to break through. We have a robust range of messages.”
But the underlying message remains the bank’s reputation and its “higher standards” tagline. To keep that reputation burnished, the bank has stepped up its community sponsorships nationally.
In the Northeast, where Bank of America acquired Fleet Boston Financial in 2004, it increased charitable giving and is moving forward to restore pre-merger employment levels, Tangney said. The bank also generated positive headlines by offering cash incentives to employees who bought a hybrid car.
“They have done a pretty good job of making Bank of America about people,” said Steven Addis, CEO of brand consultancy Addis Group. “It’s not exciting. This is more grassroots. It’s about people helping people.” Scott Davis, senior partner at Prophet Inc., said Bank of America’s efforts are helping it cut through the clutter in the marketplace.
“There is no reason for a consumer to go into a bank anymore,” Davis said. “You don’t have to know your banker, but you have to know your bank. At the end of the day, with banking there is a relationship. Bank of America has planted some good flags in the ground of where they aspire to be.”
—Mary Ellen Podmolik