Founded in 1995 as an online trading site for broker-dealer executions, the firm went through regulatory difficulties following the dot-com crash and brought in a new management team in 2002.
Since then, the company has evolved into a full-service financial services firm for asset management and global markets.
"Historically, Knight did not invest in the strategic development of a brand," said Margaret Wyrwas, senior managing director-corporate communications and investor relations at Knight Capital Group. "We wanted to close the gap between perception and reality regarding the firm's evolution, and thought creating a brand platform was the right way to go."
To create that brand platform and an integrated marketing campaign, Knight hired b-to-b agency Doremus, New York, in late 2005.
In May, Knight launched a campaign with the tagline "The science of trading. The standard of trust."
"We really wanted to build awareness of Knight and tell their story in a cohesive, compelling way," said Jane Lauterback, exec VP-director of marketing at Doremus. "What makes Knight different is how they work and the kind of people they have."
To bring Knight's people to life and show their commitment, Doremus hired rock photographer Danny Clinch to shoot images of traders on the floor during a typical day.
"These guys are rock stars in the investment banking world," Lauterback said. "We wanted to capture their rugged and determined attitude."
Clinch, who has photographed musicians including Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews and Simon and Garfunkle in energetic poses, used the same approach with the Knight campaign, capturing company executives and traders at different times during the day, from the opening trade to the closing bell.
"Trading is all in the moment. We wanted to capture what these guys do within the trading day and show how they have a real handle on it because of their knowledge of the market," Lauterback said.
The campaign kicked off June 1 with an eight-page insert in financial publications including Bloomberg Markets, Pensions & Investments and Traders Magazine. Different executions of print ads ran in publications including Absolute Return, Barron's, Institutional Investor and Security Industry News.
One shot, labeled "9:29 a.m.," shows Thomas Joyce, Knight chairman-CEO, leaning on a rail above the trading floor, intently surveying the activity below.
The next shot in the series, labeled "11:31 a.m.," zooms in on Joseph Mazzella, managing director-head of listed block trading, handling a trade in the middle of the busy day.
Another shot, "2:41 p.m.," captures Director of Research Ralph Acampora gesturing in front of a wall of charts.
Doremus used a very targeted approach in its media strategy, developing formats to make the campaign stand out and selecting narrowly targeted trading publications.
The eight-page insert was printed in black and white on grainy paper that resembles newspaper stock.
"It really stands out in a glossy magazine, and it gives the campaign a gritty, realistic feel," said Chris Philip, senior VP-media director at Doremus.
Doremus also created a new ad format, called the "horseshoe," which wraps around copy on a spread.
"It keeps your eye on the page because there is copy on the page, and it has the impact of a spread without the price of a spread," Philip said.
Another major component of the campaign was a "station domination" effort in New York's Grand Central Station, a hub for financial commuters. Doremus purchased all four wall dioramas in the station's main terminal.
"Grand Central was really a way to start the buzz going in New York, which is their most important market," Philip said. "We're getting people going uptown and downtown."
Online was another important element, with Flash banners running on sites including Bloomberg.com, MarketWatch.com and WSJ.com.
Doremus purchased targeted placement in the online publications, such as editorial on WSJ.com dealing specifically with hedge funds.
Online ads drove users to Knight's Web site, which was updated to reflect the new campaign. Critt Graham & Associates, Atlanta, designed the Web site and developed collateral, which was tightly integrated with the brand platform and ad campaign.
Doremus also developed an animated 10-second ad running on the stock ticker of cable network CNBC during prime time.
In addition, the campaign included a live event: On July 17, Knight held a party for clients, analysts, regulators, the media and other guests at a restaurant in Grand Central Station, giving visitors an opportunity to view the campaign up close.
While Wyrwas said it's too early to see any impact from the campaign in terms of raising brand metrics, Knight is getting positive response from clients, the trading community and even competitors. "The response has been extraordinary at multiple levels," she said. M