Travelers lost the umbrella logo -- which has been associated with its brand since the 1870s and was its official logo for about a half-century -- when it was spun off from Citigroup in 1998. Since then, the agent-sold insurance concern, a light advertiser, had little use for its well-known emblem.
Ramped up spending
But that has changed in recent years as insurers of all shapes, sizes and types have ramped up spending. Insurers spent twice as much on ads in 2005 than they did five years earlier. Last summer Travelers decided it couldn't sit out the boom, boosting its annual advertising spending from $5 million to more than $100 million.
Even though the umbrella had been used by Citigroup for more than a decade, Travelers' research showed the symbol was still more associated with Travelers than any of the company's current marketing emblems or taglines.
"As we launched our own campaign, we found that the strength of the umbrella was still very apparent," said St. Paul Travelers CEO Jay Fishman. "It has one of the great customer-recognition dynamics of any financial-services logo or name."
So Mr. Fishman called Citigroup CEO Charles Prince last summer to ask about reacquiring the logo from Citigroup, which had been publicly reviewing its branding initiatives. Mr. Fishman didn't hear back. But recent press coverage about marketing changes at Citigroup sparked another inquiry, and this time Mr. Prince responded. "The opportunity [for a deal] happened just within the last few weeks," Mr. Fishman said.
Terms of the deal -- which is awaiting regulatory approval -- weren't disclosed, although Travelers said the price would not result in an earnings charge.
Mr. Fishman said Travelers is also in discussions to purchase the red umbrella statue sitting in front of Citigroup's New York headquarters, although Mr. Fishman said he was unsure where Travelers would put the statue.
The insurer is also changing its parent's corporate name from St. Paul Travelers to Travelers.
Incorporating the logo
Mr. Fishman said the advertising campaign it launched last summer under the tagline "Insurance. In-synch," by Fallon, Minneapolis, would incorporate the logo but wouldn't change drastically. A Fallon spokeswoman said the agency is working on a new round of ads that should launch in the spring.
A round of national print ads announcing the insurer's reunion with its umbrella is expected to run later this week. "I wanted to do [the ads] on Valentines Day, but we missed the deadlines," Mr. Fishman said. "We thought it was cute that the name and logo were getting back together again."