What’s in a Name?

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When a new name requires a rebranding strategy

By Andrea Knotts Bona

Catchy Community Bank Taglines
What does your community bank’s slogan or motto really say about you?

A few words can say a lot. Marketing taglines are all pithy, but the best ones vividly encapsulate what a company’s brand, values, personality and culture are all about.

Here are some taglines that community banks have crafted as part of their organizational marketing and rebranding efforts.

“Your life. Your bank.”
—Community Financial Services Bank in Benton, Ky.

“We make more possible.”
—National Bank of Commerce in Superior, Wis.

“Strong—Loyal—Innovative.”
—The Bank of Elk River in Elk River, Mont.

“Modern Banking … the Old Fashioned Way”
—Oostburg State Bank in Oostburg, Wis.

“Thinking Forward”
—Progress Bank in Huntsville, Ala.

“Until It Grows On Trees, See Us!”
—Wayne County Bank in Waynesboro, Tenn.

“Sound advice. Smart money.”
—The State Bank and Trust Co. in Defiance, Ohio

“Where Doors are Opened”
—FNB Bank Inc. in Romney, W.Va.

“Where banking feels good!”
—Heartland Bank in Gahanna, Ohio

“Your Future, Your Bank”
—Kensington Bank in Kensington, Minn.

“Rock Solid and Home Owned Since 1906”
—JP Stone Community Bank in Portales, N.M.

“Experienced people. Exceptional service.”
—Machias Savings Bank in Machias, Maine

“Believe in the Homestead, because we’ve always believed in you!”
—St. Landry Homestead Federal Savings Bank in Opelousas, La.

“Banking Should Be Easy … So Relax, We’ve Saved a Seat for You.”
—First American National Bank in Iuka, Miss.


The Five Most Common Rebranding Mistakes

When Independence Bank in Havre, Mont., rebranded its corporate image, it put a lot of thought into the effort, which involved several strategic meetings to articulate exactly “who we are and where we are going,” says Terry Lilletvedt, the bank’s marketing manager. From those meetings an updated logo and new tagline were created, and the bank’s entire image was updated.

A lot of time was put into getting the redesign of the Independence Bank brand right, Lilletvedt says. Conversely, some organizations don’t understand the breadth and depth of work required for a successful corporate rebranding process, which leads to many common mistakes.
Below are five common mistakes companies make when rebranding.

1. Moving forward without research. You have to ask yourself whether a corporate rebranding is necessary and what benefits it would bring to your community bank. Before you move forward with a costly and labor-intensive rebrand, do your background research and test your concepts at each step of the way. “It’s important to test new brand images and copy to ensure it still works for your audience. While you need to lead, not follow, your market, you should also understand how your company fits into their lifestyle,” says Ilya Pozin, founder of digital marketing agency Ciplex LLC in Los Angeles.

2. Confusing physical markers, such as a logo or website, with the brand. A brand is the commitment a company makes to its customers to deliver products and services, Pozin says. Companies have to move past the mindset of “my brand is my logo and colors,” because it is not.
Your brand is many things, like customer perception, quality, market environment and much more. A rebranding is a fundamental strategy change that cannot be executed by design alone, according to design firm Element212 LLC in Anderson, Ind.

3. Going it alone. This goes hand-in-hand with research. It is important to solicit input from those with branding expertise. Getting a fresh perspective from external sources can validate your choices and is an important part of branding, says Susan Gunelius, contributing editor to the AYTM.com blog.

4. Launching and walking away. “Creating and launching your rebrand is just the first part of the rebranding process,” Gunelius says. “You need to monitor your brand reputation, brand buzz, brand publicity and so on to ensure the new brand is appropriately received. You should also conduct follow-up research to better understand what works and what might need to be tweaked or better communicated.”

5. Burying the lead. Make your brand stand out and be one to remember. “If your company is amazing at something, make this an essential part of your brand,” says Pozin. “Know what you’re good at, what makes your company great and what differentiates you from the competition. Make sure this is an important part of your brand messaging.”

“Rebranding your company can be a big challenge, but it also can be a huge opportunity to redirect your organization and change your story,” he adds. “If you truly believe in your message, keep your brand authentic and avoid these missteps, a successful rebrand is just around the corner.”
—Andrea Knotts Bona

Changing any community bank’s name, logo or image can have a dramatic effect on its business and identity, so community banks approach branding and rebranding very thoughtfully. Business expansion, acquisitions and keeping up with the times all can play a part in why many community banks undertake rebranding activities to one extent or another. Some banks find that sprucing up their brand can breathe new life into their image, which in some cases could be many years old.

A common theme among recent rebranding efforts by community banks is how those banks ensure success; the key to a successful rebrand is having a well-thought-out plan, clear goals and, in most cases, a little help from a good marketing and design agency.

“A brand refresh is taking an existing brand and updating it with a modified logo or fresh colors to renew it while keeping most of the brand elements in place. It’s like a makeover for your brand,” explains Christina Drews-Leonard of Annapolis, Md.–based The Cyphers Agency.

“On the other hand, a brand redevelopment is crafting a new brand for a company whose old brand no longer resonates with their audience. This is a total redo from the logo to the marketing materials. This requires understanding the audience’s needs and telling a clear story for the brand,” Drews-Leonard says.

Banking on the Hi-Line

All well–executed branding projects start with a strategy. Independence Bank in Havre, Mont., engaged a marketing firm to guide its branding initiative three years ago. “We started our rebranding process in 2011 with the help of Kinetic Marketing & Creative and launched the new brand in 2012,” says Terry Lilletvedt, marketing manager for the $516 million-asset community bank.

“If I had to give one piece of advice to anyone considering a rebrand, it would be to find a good agency to work with, especially one that will work with you throughout each step of the process,” Lilletvedt says.

Independence Bank’s rebranding process started with several strategic meetings to articulate exactly what image the bank wants to project. “From those meetings, we updated our logo, created our new tagline and rebranded our entire image,” Lilletvedt says. Kinetic Marketing developed a brand book for reference and to help the bank stay within its new brand guidelines, which helped educate the bank’s employees.

Independence Bank was established in 1973, and the bank’s updated logo was designed to reflect its past but also to demonstrate its commitment to moving forward.

The bank selected the “Banking on the Hi-Line” tagline to illustrate what it does and where it operates—the northern tier of Montana is called the Hi-Line. The tagline also emphasized the bank’s investment in the region and its philosophy of its growth potential. “In essence, it means that the people of the Hi-Line can count on us, and we are counting on the people of the Hi-Line,” says Lilletvedt.

“Our rebranding focused on our ability to authentically relate to our customers based on our history, local ownership and commitment to growth along the Hi-Line,” Lilletvedt says.

Asked what was the biggest challenge involved with Independence Bank’s rebranding campaign, Lilletvedt answers that it was updating a wide range of marketing collateral materials. “Even now, there is marketing and promotional collateral that has the old logo because the logo is incorporated into so many things in the bank, such as the signs on the local little league fields. It’s not just one sign; there are signs everywhere,” she says.

Outgrowing your name

During its 124-year history, the Bank of Benton in Benton, Ky., increased its reach to five locations in the city and is looking to expand. As the bank moves beyond Benton into other local counties, the Bank of Benton name no longer fits the institution, the bank’s executives decided, so they changed the bank’s name to Community Financial Services Bank (CFSB), the name of the bank’s holding company.

“A goal of the rebranding was to make the bank a household name. The initial approach was to purchase TV, print and radio ads with the tagline, ‘We’ve outgrown our name,’” says Jeremy Rose, assistant vice president of marketing for the $656 million-asset bank.

“During the change, our biggest concern was to keep from alienating our valued customers who had grown so accustomed to our name. We did not want them to feel that they had been dropped for greener pastures,” says Rose.

One of the biggest challenges when rebranding is making sure the new brand replaces the old in print, on signs and in all digital references. This is a huge undertaking for some banks, which often hire agencies to help with the heavy lifting.

CFSB had a checklist and a good idea of where all of its signage was located. “We contracted with Joe Anderson, an agency, and they switched out all of our signage on all of our buildings over one weekend. By Monday all of our branding was new, including the signs that pointed to employee parking and the call center’s on-hold messages. I am not going to say it wasn’t a couple of worrisome days. We knew there would be some glitches, but when we found the old branding we took care of it immediately,” Rose says.

A major strategy with the rebrand was to acquire the naming rights to high-traffic areas in new communities. “We secured the name rights to the Regional Special Events Center, an 8,600-seat multipurpose arena, which is now known as the CFSB Center, or by its nickname ‘The Bank,’” says Rose.

CFSB also got lucky in 2012 when the Murray State University basketball team went to the NCAA Division II playoffs. When the national media mentioned the team, they usually also mentioned that the team played its home games at the CFSB Center. “We were able to get a lot of publicity because of that,” says Rose.

In addition, CFSB worked with Kentucky Oaks Mall to establish a Kids Pay Center, which is designed to look like one of CFSB’s banking centers. By leveraging sponsorships and advertising, the bank is well positioned to meet its goal of becoming a household name in the community, Rose says.

Branding and acquisitions

KleinBank in Chaska, Minn., has a rich history of acquiring banks to expand its regional reach; the acquisitions both complement and increase the community bank’s product offerings. Prior Lake State Bank, with $208 million in assets in Prior Lake, Minn., is KleinBank’s latest acquisition and an example of how successfully to integrate the new bank into an existing brand.

Prior Lake State Bank is about 100 years old and has been owned by the Barsness family for 40 years. “Clearly, Prior Lake State Bank has a defined culture; it was a really tough bank with which to compete and its customers love them,” says Doug Hile, president and CEO of the $1.6 billion-asset KleinBank.

“It isn’t about us putting our brand on them. We don’t try to wipe out the memory of a bank’s history.”
—Doug Hile, Kleinbank

There is an art to integrating an acquisition into a bank’s operations, culture and brand, Hile says. “From a branding perspective, there is a bridge. You cannot go in and say you are now KleinBank. Each acquisition changes the dimension of our culture and brand,” he says. “It isn’t about us putting our brand on them. We don’t try to wipe out the memory of a bank’s history.”

There will be a name change this fall at which time Prior Lake State Bank will become KleinBank Prior Lake.
“The preservation of names often can be overstated. To customers, it is more about, ‘Are you helping me the way you used to help me?’ There is a commonality of name, but it is important that the people coming into the bank feel the name gained something and didn’t lose something. When it comes to naming conventions, we use KleinBank, then add the name of the community of the bank we are acquiring,” Hile says.

Community banks are rebranding to better represent their offerings and effectively reach individuals in their community. With updated graphics, pervasive marketing and community-friendly taglines, such as CFSB’s “Your Life. Your Bank,” or Independence Bank’s “Banking on the Hi-Line,” community banks are making a difference, standing out and making an impression in the regions in which they do business.


Andrea Knotts Bona (andrea.bona@icba.org) is ICBA’s vice president, marketing.

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