Ask a Brazilian which brand he or she associates with the World Cup, a big music festival or a popular city bike program, and he's likely to say Itau, Latin America's biggest bank. Last month, Itau was named the No. 1 client that ad agency CEOs in the country would most like to work for (Coca-Cola was No. 10). And Interbrand has ranked Itau as Brazil's most-valuable brand 10 years in a row.
Itau and Fernando Chacon, the bank's CMO since 2009, believe that to be a relevant brand, the bank must transform peoples' lives and the world around them. Last year the bank launched the platform #thischangestheworld (#issomudaomundo in Portuguese) to link that mission with Itau's sizable investment in education, culture, sports and urban mobility. Efforts include giving away more than 32 million children's books to encourage parents to read with their kids, as well as a bike project that will offer 7,900 mostly free bikes in seven cities by year end.
A 272-person marketing department reports to Mr. Chacon, and Itau, Brazil's 20th biggest advertiser, spends about $400 million a year on media advertising. (That outlay would also make the company one of the top 100 advertisers in the U.S.)
About 13% of Itau's media and production budget is devoted to digital; the norm in Brazil is closer to 5%. "This year we'll invest as much to produce digital content as on TV production," said Mr. Chacon in an interview at Itau's Sao Paulo headquarters, where he keeps one of the city bike program's bright-orange rides in his office. That investment has paid off. Itau is the country's biggest brand channel, with more than 105 million views for 691 videos. It also has more Facebook fans (6,731,096) and Twitter followers (245,474) than any other bank in Brazil. And 45% of all comments about the financial sector in social media last year were about Itau.
Even as it has embraced new media, Itau has stuck by -- and grown with -- its longtime agency partners. The bank started working with DPZ in the 1970s, DM9 DDB in 1996, and Africa the day the agency opened in 2003. "We have a very close relationship, but it's more than that," Mr. Chacon said. "We're people that believe the same thing. It's not the big creative insights that change a big organization's performance. That's not what changes the game. You need a lot of consistency over a very long time."
In fact, his predecessor held the CMO post for 30 years. Mr. Chacon, whose background is in technology, finance and marketing, has 12 more years ahead before he must retire at 60. At this rate, it's likely Itau will have just two CMOs for the better part of half a century.