Marie Chinnici, Managing director-marketing & communications, Global Markets & Investment Banking Group, Merrill Lynch

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It had been two years since Merrill Lynch & Co.'s Global Markets & Investment Banking Group launched a repositioned marketing strategy, so Marie Chinnici decided earlier this year it was time to take stock.

Chinnici, managing director-marketing & communications for that group as well as the Leadership & Talent Management Group, had a gut feeling that the marketplace had shifted and the company's message might need tweaking. She and her staff have spent much of this year talking with employees and clients to get their perceptions of what they want—and what they are getting—from Merrill Lynch, and the attributes and services they seek from an investment bank. The results, just now coming in, proved Chinnici's hunch correct.

"We don't want to end up in a place where we have to end up in a revolution," she said of the decision to check the campaign's effectiveness. "We have an opportunity to enhance our positioning. Frankly, everybody really is in the relationship space right now. In 2004, there were definite categories of how people were talking about themselves. Now, more of the competitor set is talking about the relationship."

She attributes the shift in the industry's marketing message to both the faster pace of the market and the fact that clients view many of the industry's product offerings as commodities.

Chinnici's aim now is to weave together marketing messages that speak to Merrill Lynch's relationship with its clients as well as its suite of capabilities. "We're really going to sort of notch up the messages, and it will look a little different," she said. "But I don't want the marketplace to think we are changing gears completely. It really is the same strategy."

Print ads, sponsorships and client events will continue to dominate the marketing mix. A recent eye-catching print execution featured a colorful drawing of men decked out in business suits and superhero gear while the copy explained how Merrill Lynch structured a financial transaction for Marvel Entertainment. The ads ran in The Economist, Financial Times, International Herald Tribune, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

This year, Chinnici experimented with online efforts but was surprised to find the venue was not as effective as she thought. While online will remain part of the marketing mix, she has decided the Internet is not the best way to reach Merrill Lynch's target C-suite audience. Last year, Merrill Lynch's global spending on advertising and market development totaled $599 million, up from $533 million in 2004.

Chinnici, who has been with the company since 1982, was named head of communications for the Global Markets & Investment Banking Group in 2001; two years later she also assumed responsibility for marketing. —M.E.P.

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