Citizens CMO Pushes Brand Unity Following IPO

Bank Returns to TV, Plans to Boost Spending in Key Markets

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Citizens Financial Group is unifying its brand as it begins to separate from the Royal Bank of Scotland, bringing its retail, consumer banking and consumer lending businesses under the Citizens name.

On the heels of last week's IPO, Citizens is also gearing up to push its commercial brand, which has become the primary driver of revenue at the bank. The new campaign will call out the commercial business, now called Citizens Commercial Banking, as its own unit, while drawing on the strength of the Citizens' name.

Arturo Perez
Arturo Perez

"We're building capability beyond the retail bank," said Arturo Perez, CMO for Citizens Financial Group, about the commercial brand. "We went from being a relatively minor player to being at the table and competing for deals or clients with any of the national and international banks."

As part of the overall rebranding effort, the Charter One retail brand, operating in Ohio and Michigan, will become Citizens Bank, which already operates in nine other states. The commercial brand, known as RBS Citizens, became Citizens Commercial Banking, and the consumer lending business will be called Citizens One. The transition began with the retail branches, and that first phase is expected to wrap up by mid-2015. The franchise as a whole, including commercial banking and consumer lending, will move on by the end of next year, said Mr. Perez.

"As we've moved through the IPO and as we continued to evolve, having that fragmented brand strategy didn't really make sense," said Mr. Perez. "In putting everything under one name, it just makes it a lot simpler for consumers and clients as they interact with us."

The decision to spin off Citizens into a standalone entity was led by RBS, which wanted to improve its capital position and expand its focus on the United Kingdom. But Mr. Perez said the rebranding probably would have happened regardless, as the company sought to unify its national brand.

"The rebranding was something we had been talking about for a while," he said. "There was a really big emphasis on bringing everything under the Citizens name. The timing just happened to work out."

Citizens Bank ad for One Deposit Checking in Philadelphia.
Citizens Bank ad for One Deposit Checking in Philadelphia.

The rebranding comes on the heels of Citizens recent "Bank Better" initiative, launched in January. And it follows years of steady decline -- Citizens brought in $4.69 billion in revenue during 2013, down 4% from $4.89 billion the previous year, and 7.8% below its 2009 revenue of $5.08 billion, according its annual report.

"Bank Better" is focused on making banking more simple, clear and personal. With that, came new products such as One Deposit Checking, which waives the monthly maintenance fee for customers who make one deposit a month, as well as enhanced customer service and messaging that aims to be straightforward.

So far, "Bank Better" appears to be working. The bank's checking account volume grew 24% year-over-year during August 2014, said Mr. Perez. Its retail customer satisfaction rating in New England also rose from 723 points last year to 770 in 2014, slightly above the regional average, according to the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study.

The ongoing initiative is supported by TV, out-of-home, print, direct marketing, public relations and digital media. Citizens went back to TV this year after dropping it from its marketing strategy for the second half of 2012 through 2013 as part of an internal strategy that emphasized direct marketing. The company will spend about $15 million on TV in 2014 and ramp up to around $19 million next year. Citizens is aggressively pushing TV in its top markets including Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, as well as Detroit and Cleveland. TV represents about 25% of Citizens' marketing budget, said Mr. Perez.

Ogilvy & Mather, Citizens Banks' agency of record, is leading strategy for the rebranding, Miller Zell is heading up merchandising, Merkle handles the direct marketing, and SapientNitro and Rosetta manage online.