Brand Update in the Works for Wachovia

CMO Talks About Agencies and Reaching Outside for Insight

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Ranjana B. Clark took on one tough job. Not only is she CMO of Wachovia, the fourth-largest asset-based bank-holding company in the U.S, she assumed the role after the retirement of Jim Garrity, a well-known figure in the ad world. But today, Ms. Clark is feeling good about her progress. She's assembled a marketing team focused on consumer insights and has embarked on a review of the bank's estimated $145 million marketing account for the first time in years.
Ranjana B. Clark
Ranjana B. Clark

During a visit to New York from her home base in Charlotte, N.C., Ms. Clark took some time to speak with Advertising Age about plans for updating the Wachovia brand.

Rupal Parekh: What are some of the key challenges you've faced so far as CMO, and what do you think lies ahead?

Ms. Clark: Traditionally, the marketing was focused much more on advertising, sponsorships and communication. The mission of the division today is a much broader charter. My challenges are propelling effective revenue growth and propelling innovation in a large, diversified financial-services company in a challenging environment.

Ms. Parekh: When Wachovia recently reorganized its marketing structure, it seemed the bank chose very consciously to make hires from outside the financial-services industry to lead new departments under the marketing umbrella, like "insight and innovation" for example. What influenced that?

Ms. Clark: I believe in diversity, and what I mean by that is I want diversity of thought, background and expertise in my group. ... In creating the new marketing division, we were looking for cross-industry experience and looking for experience from certain industries that have fostered best practices in things such as consumer insight and global branding. Financial institutions haven't been the leaders in those areas, so we reached outside.

Ms. Parekh: Last month, Wachovia placed its rather large marketing account in review, and is now out searching for new agency partners. Why?

Ms. Clark: There are three reasons. One, we haven't really reviewed these agency partners in six or seven years. Mullen was hired in 2001 following the Wachovia-First Union merger, and Carat we hired in '02. Our marketing challenges at that time and the landscape at the time was different. So I think it's a good time for us to step back and see what else is out there, find out what we're missing and see what other firms have to offer. Part of it is an education process for ourselves. These firms have done a fine job with the Wachovia account, so it's not a reflection or a comment on the quality of their work, just a reflection of where we where we are. Secondly, the marketing environment is changing ... we are asking ourselves, "Are we are changing fast enough and are our partners keeping up with us?" And third, I now have a leadership team in place that brings some great skills and understanding from different industries.

Ms. Parekh: Can you discuss your plans for updating the Wachovia brand?

Ms. Clark: One of our key goals is to raise the relevance and value of the Wachovia brand. ... We are currently in the midst of a brand-strategy and brand-research project; we've engaged [Interpublic Group of Cos.'] FutureBrand, and they are in the throes of the work right now, which is centered around identifying our brand essence and creating distinctive value propositions for the firm. We should have the bulk of that work completed by June, and we are conducting the agency search at the same time.

Ms. Parekh: What does Wachovia's marketing media mix consist of? Do you plan to alter or tweak that strategy?

Ms. Clark: We use all the traditional media and some nontraditional media. If I were to look in a crystal ball, three years from now I expect us to be using more digital media and more nontraditional media. But, if you look at an adoption curve, our core client segment tends not to be early adopters. ... Search marketing I consider traditional media; we do a fair amount of that.

Ms. Parekh: How does a financial-services marketer build trust and credibility with consumers in recessionary times?

Ms. Clark: By truly listening to them and responding to their needs. In general, American consumers don't save enough, have too much debt, probably have too many credit cards in their wallets. ... Some providers and a small number of lenders may have engaged in practices that were not consumer-friendly, but I do think the industry overall has gotten a bad rap based on the actions of a small number of rogue providers. The way we gain consumer trust is by truly listening and responding to our customers. ... Our latest product introduction, "Way to Save," is a way to help customers get into the savings habit. ... We make it easy and we make it fun, and we make it possible for people who are either not in the habit of saving, or have very little to save, to begin.
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