How Broadway Helped BNY Mellon Modernize Its Message

CMO Spotlight: Aniko Delaney, BNY Mellon

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Aniko DeLaney
Aniko DeLaney
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Unlike the rest of us, brands have no age. The ones that endure for decades -- centuries, even -- merely find a way to reinvent themselves, time and time again. Sometimes, that "way" comes in the form of an opportune moment in popular culture, like in the case of 232 year-old BNY Mellon, which formed in 2007 with the merger of The Bank of New York and Mellon Financial Corp. BNY Mellon saw and seized the chance to engage with an insanely popular Broadway musical, whose starring character just happened to be its founder: Alexander Hamilton. As Global Head of Corporate Marketing Aniko Delaney tells it, "Hamilton" opened a stage door that allowed her company to share its story in a more engaging way than ever before.

The Opening Scene

When Aniko Delaney became the Head of Corporate Marketing, she was well versed in the BNY Mellon brand, having been the head of marketing for six of its businesses. In addition to building a reputation as a respected and trusted organization, says Ms. Delaney, BNY Mellon's executives also hoped to modernize its message.

Fortunately, when Ron Chernow's book, "Hamilton," became Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway sensation, the historical Mr. Hamilton had already been playing a starring role at BNY Mellon for more than two centuries. "As long as I've been at the company," says Ms. Delaney, "we've always celebrated our founder, Alexander Hamilton, and his pioneering and innovative spirit." As the musical garnered acclaim, Ms. Delaney and her team understood that popular culture was celebrating a hero they knew well. They seized the opportunity four months ago, beginning a new year-long campaign.

Ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange as part of the 'Invested in Our Legacy' campaign.
Ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange as part of the 'Invested in Our Legacy' campaign. Credit: BNY Mellon

"We affectionately call it the Hamilton campaign," she says, "but we officially call it our 'Invested In Our Legacy' campaign." Throughout, BNY Mellon's message can evolve into something relatable and relevant, with a story well-suited for digital and social media.

Act I: The Content

Ms. Delaney and her team, working with creative agencies like Chiat/Day, brought the BNY Mellon story to life, timing the campaign's start to the bank's 232nd anniversary on June 9. The company rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, deployed shareable fun facts about Hamilton's bank on Facebook and LinkedIn, GIFs during the "Hamilton"-swept Tony Awards and a dose of humor from Alexander himself. For example, this Tweet: "Lin-Manuel gets a Tony for Best Book! Much-deserved, tho at a mere 20,000 words, I call it a pamphlet. A.Hamilton." Says Ms. Delaney, "Hamilton was such a prolific writer, so can you imagine him trying to tweet?"

With a blessing from the C-suite, the social component of the campaign allows BNY Mellon to enter conversations where it may not have been welcome before, Ms. Delaney says, ultimately boosting brand visibility. "Gerald Hassell, our chairman and CEO, is an Influencer on LinkedIn, so he really has set the bar very high for our company," she says. "It's very important to reach out to our diverse constituents in channels that they use."

The campaign also features a series of videos for web and social, as well as TV spots bookending PBS/WNET's documentary, "Hamilton's America," of which BNY Mellon is a sponsor. "It really brings to life not only the story of the show, but also the story of Alexander Hamilton," says Ms. Delaney.

Act II: The Continuing Story

As Ms. Delaney and her team move forward with the campaign, she floats the idea of using new media, even virtual reality, to tell their story. But to remain effective, the message must still resonate. "More and more, especially with social media channels, we have to be really careful to make sure the content is educational and meaningful, but then have some fun with the creative," she says. "Again, this is a theme we've been using as long as I've been with the company. Now, we're just able to tell the story in a much more engaging way."

So far, the collective effort to modernize has put up impressive numbers, with triple-digit increases in engagement and awareness on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, according to Ms. Delaney. Perhaps more impressive has been the intangible impact on BNY Mellon's brand and the company itself—the true measure of a good story. Call it the Hamilton Effect.

Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos and Lin-Manuel Miranda in 'Hamilton's America'
Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos and Lin-Manuel Miranda in 'Hamilton's America' Credit: Courtesy of Joan Marcus/PBS

"The content resonated, and I think it's more than just how cool Hamilton has become, but it's the person he was," says Ms. Delaney. "He was truly insightful and innovative, but he also got things done. He was an implementer. Having that special connection has inspired our employees, clients and other constituents to be really proud of the company that Hamilton founded."