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Can you pronounce Wachovia? Jim Garrity can.

As exec VP-chief marketing officer of the company, Mr. Garrity had to teach people from Florida to Connecticut how to say the bank's name after it merged with First Union Corp. in 2001.

"It doesn't play off phonetically, you have to think it through," says Mr. Garrity, 57. But plenty of people now know how to say Wah-CO-vee-ah.

The Greenville, N.C.-based bank has increased its profile through a combination of traditional advertising, leveraging sports sponsorships in each market it entered and a strong use of street-level buzz marketing to create brand recognition.

Its entry into the New York market last year was typical of that strategy. Since Wachovia was only opening three branches initially, it made no sense to put a large media budget on TV ads, says Mr. Garrity.

Instead, Wachovia made a splash by sponsoring the ceremony to open the Rockefeller Center skating rink and invited 4,000 account holders from around the country. Its brokerage firm Wachovia Securities has offices in 49 states. Wachovia also announced itself with a news conference including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and "American Idol" finalist Clay Aiken, another native of the bank's home state of North Carolina.

On opening day, street teams dressed in Wachovia shirts stood on street corners outside the branches, giving away Krispy Kreme doughnuts with blue and green sprinkles-Wachovia's colors-while teaching passers-by how to pronounce the name and signing them up for a drawing for a $5,000 prize. The strategy will continue as the bank continues to expand into new markets after agreeing to acquire SouthTrust Corp.

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