Though Mr. Philbin is playing a part in commercials for TD Bank in which he purports to be dismayed by its merger with Commerce Bank, he's emblematic of consumers in this era of financial churn. And that's why TD -- and other local banks -- are reaching out to them.
"There's been a lot of trust lost, and that's the foundation of any brand, said Lynn Upshaw, author and principal of brand consultancy Upshaw Marketing. "When trust is lost, it's extremely hard to regain it. Something's got to run in that void, because you really do have to put your money somewhere. And community banks are taking advantage of that."
In TD's case, it was caught more or less in the middle. Yes, it was growing larger with its acquisition and planned to change Commerce's name, but it still wanted to retain that high-service, high-touch, local-bank feel that is the hallmark of Commerce.
So recently -- even as an acrobat dangled in the air above the headquarters of Commerce Bank to pull off a cloth and reveal the new TD Bank moniker and logo -- the company launched a $20 million marketing push to assure consumers the name and logo are about all it is changing.
Seven-day-a-week banking that extends well into the evening, free use of coin-counting machines, treats for kids and dogs, the famous free pens (other banks chain them up) and even the tagline "America's most convenient bank" will remain under the TD Bank brand. Even Commerce's 20-year veteran chief marketing officer, John Cunningham, will remain at the helm.
"I think it's pretty rare," he said, for an acquiring bank to adopt the policies of its target. "But it's substantive. 'America's most convenient bank' really means something. ... A lot of bank brands' [taglines] are a bit esoteric. We will now continue to drive home the convenience message, which I would argue we own because we've stuck with it so long."
Mr. Philbin and Kelly Ripa, who began as Commerce spokespeople three years ago, will continue to tout that messaging in TD Bank advertising. "I felt it was a tremendous opportunity to make the transition even smoother," Mr. Cunningham said.
Tierney Communications, Philadelphia, created the ad campaign, which will run through January to communicate the re-branding of about 575 banks in the mid-Atlantic region. Another campaign and rebranding is planned for September 2009, when the company will convert the "legacy" TD Banknorth branches, mostly in the Northeast, to the TD Bank brand, Mr. Cunningham said.
While forging ahead with a new brand and a multimillion-dollar supporting campaign may sound counterintuitive in the shaky economy, TD Bank is far from alone.
Local banks these days are still touting their early financial-crisis marketing messages, reassuring customers with pledges of safety and security. But now many banks have stepped it up, with promotions, giveaways and deals to attract customers.
Atlanta's SunTrust Banks, for example, is running a new campaign themed "Live solid. Bank solid," from Mullen, Winston-Salem, N.C. "Today more than ever, people and businesses are realizing the value of a solid financial foundation," said Rilla Delorier, SunTrust's CMO. "They know that when they feel in control of their money, their lives feel more grounded, substantial and gratifying, and they want their bank partner to be on a similarly solid foundation."
Data show that mail volume for banking acquisitions grew 8%, to 290 million pieces, from the second to the third quarter this year, according to direct-mail tracker Mintel Comperemedia. Mintel researchers found several direct-marketing trends by smaller local banks in response to the economic crisis, including touting safety and security; advertising "buy back" programs offering to purchase checks and debit cards from new customers' old banks; and connecting to the community through school-based donations programs and incentives, a Mintel spokeswoman said.
But whether it is local banks' marketing gains or big banks' losses, the evidence shows that community-bank deposits are growing. Karen Tyson, senior VP-director of communications for the Independent Community Bankers Association, estimated that two-thirds of its members have had deposits grow 10% or more in the past year.