BofA doesn't seem sure of exactly what it wants, but it's eager
to find a new marketing direction fast.
The bank's agencies -- which include WPP's The Brand Union,
Omnicom Group's BBDO and Interpublic
Group of Cos.' Weber Shandwick and Hill Holliday, among others --
were alerted to the review in mid-January, and a slew of meetings
have taken place in the past two weeks. Final presentations are set
to be delivered in early April; that same month, BofA execs plan to
commit to a new marketing direction.
According to Ad Age 's DataCenter, BofA is
the 17th-largest marketer in the country with $1.55 billion in ad
spending in the U.S. The company's rethink comes amid widespread
mistrust of large financial organizations that manifested in the
Occupy Wall Street movement.
One likely outcome of the review process will be BofA shedding
its current "Bank of Opportunity" slogan, which was developed by
BBDO. The tag was adopted a few years ago to replace the prior
"Higher Standards" campaign, but it lost resonance amid a recession
that tightened consumers' purse strings and crippled many small
businesses across America.
"'Bank of Opportunity' doesn't work,'" said Tom Dougherty, CEO
of Greensboro, N.C.-based branding company Stealing Share. What
does it mean? It's a throwaway term."
Mr. Dougherty said the marketer has an opportunity to elevate
its communications above its competitors. "The banking category is
so bad that there is opportunity to rise. [Banks] want you to
choose them because of convenient locations and ATMs and fair fees,
and they have not come up with a reason to be," he said.
There's no doubt the new marketing strategy is of concern at the
highest ranks within the company, as evidenced by the execs who'll
be present in final meetings with agencies this spring.
Ad Age has learned that the group includes Claire Huang, who
runs marketing globally Bank of America institutional business;
Co-chief Operating Officers Tom Montag and David Darnell; Jim
Mahoney, director of public policy; CMO Anne Finucane and the
bank's top boss, CEO Brian Moynihan.
A colorful profile of Ms. Finucane by The New York Times last
month painted the 17-year vet of the company as a hobnobber among
the Boston elite and a confidante of the CEO, whom he trusts for
her "blunt" and "brutal" manner.
It seems Ms. Finuccane will be the last one to take any mercy on
the new marketing strategy that agencies pitch. She'll also have to
ensure that the new strategy funnels down to internal
communications and has an impact on all the actions the bank takes
going forward, in order to prevent a move that is interpreted as
solely a cosmetic fix that could do even more damage to the
"They need to have realistic expectations about the rule that
the marketing can play in changing public sentiment," said Jeff
Stephens, CEO at Creative Brand Communications, a branding
consultancy that focuses on banks and credit unions. After
repairing ill will, he said, "the next challenge is getting people
to give a damn about their brand because it's such a
And talk is cheap. "Getting additional help from agencies might
catalyze some ideas, but at the end of the day, any real progress
is going to be made by showing the world what they're trying to do
rather than through words and pictures," he said. "One thing
bankers almost never do in my experience is look at other
industries and say, 'What can we learn?' One of the best things the
agencies could do is help them to open up their perspective."