Bank One b-to-b brand not likely to survive long

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In 1804, Aaron Burr, a backer of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.’s predecessor company, shot and killed Alexander Hamilton, founder of a rival bank. Two centuries later, the question is how soon before Burr’s successors at J.P. Morgan Chase kill off the b-to-b brand of its onetime rival and new acquisition, Bank One Corp.

J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank One marketers, hunkering down after their recent takeover announcement, declined to comment on their collective b-to-b brands’ future. Top financial marketing analysts, however, expect the J.P. Morgan Chase moniker will largely replace that of Bank One when the deal closes in the middle of this year.

"J.P. Morgan is brand equity that’s been developed with the history of this country," said Jay Nagdeman, CEO of Suasion Resources, a Roseland, N.J.-based financial marketing consultancy. "Bank One’s brand pales by

Corporate trumps retail

Allen Adamson, managing director of Landor, a San Francisco-based branding firm, said J.P. Morgan Chase’s strong corporate brand would outrank Bank One’s retail-oriented one. "It’s very hard to [take a brand] from retail banking to investment banking," he said. "You can go from investment banking on down."

So far, moves by the banks’ top executives point to a brand strategy centered on J.P. Morgan Chase.

The combined New York-based bank’s name will be J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. And it was recently revealed that JPMorgan—the name for J.P. Morgan Chase’s flagship investment banking franchise—will become the umbrella brand for the combined bank’s investment banking business. Most of the bank’s corporate banking, investment management and capital markets businesses will also fall under the JPMorgan name. These businesses will together account for about 51% of the combined bank’s revenues.

J.P. Morgan Chase is acquiring Bank One largely in a bid to increase its b-to-b presence outside the New York metropolitan area. With competitors including Citigroup and Bank of America Corp. expanding nationwide and consolidation sweeping the banking industry, the deal makes good strategic sense. The combined bank’s $1.1 trillion in assets under management will rank behind only Citigroup.

Bank One brings a strong mid-size and small-business franchise in big commercial banking states where J.P. Morgan Chase is comparatively weak, including Arizona, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. Rebranding initiatives are already afoot in these states. For example, the banks have hired marketing research firms to determine whether it makes sense to replace the Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix, home of Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks, with the J.P. Morgan Chase logo.

Chicago, Bank One’s current headquarters and one of its biggest mid-size and small-business territory, will be a boon to J.P. Morgan’s b-to-b aspirations. After the merger, the city will serve as headquarters for mid-market and small-business operations.

"The Chicago market is very competitive right now, and Chase does not cater well to that market," said Ravi Dhar, a professor of marketing at the Yale School of Management.

Indeed, financial marketers said the Bank One brand, if it survives, could be used to the combined bank’s advantage in Chicago and other midwestern markets. "There are strong reasons from a historical standpoint not to kill the Bank One name," said George Kroon, a professor of marketing at the Fordham University Graduate School of Business Administration.

The post-merger roles of some top J.P. Morgan Chase marketers, including David Nolan, senior VP-marketing and communications, and Frederick Hill, director-corporate marketing and communications, are unclear. And whether J.P. Morgan Chase’s and Bank One’s multimillion-dollar advertising accounts, currently with different agencies (Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide and The Gardner-Nelson Project, respectively) will be consolidated is unclear.

The greatest mistake the banks could make is to believe that one brand need fit all the company’s b-to-b businesses, said David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance, London. "Banks think they need to push all their brands together. They don’t."

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