Magazine article ABA Bank Marketing

Name Game: In the Past, a Moniker like 'First National Bank' Might Have Made Sense. but in Today's Competitive Market, a Bland Generic Title Limits Your Options. You Need an Appellation That Not Only Expresses Your Unique Brand Identity but Also Your Dynamic Future Aspirations

Magazine article ABA Bank Marketing

Name Game: In the Past, a Moniker like 'First National Bank' Might Have Made Sense. but in Today's Competitive Market, a Bland Generic Title Limits Your Options. You Need an Appellation That Not Only Expresses Your Unique Brand Identity but Also Your Dynamic Future Aspirations

Article excerpt

"A good name is more valuable than great riches."

So says the ancient book of Proverbs.

In business, a good name is a prerequisite to great riches. Nowhere is that more true than in a trust-based industry like banking.

Your name is the foundation of your bank's reputation, or brand. It's the one thing no competitor can copy. A good name gives you an edge to maximize market share and profitability. As the banking industry consolidates and becomes less "local" and more competitive, a good name is imperative.

Let's look at some of the elements that make up a "good name." A good name is

* Unique In other words, it is distinctive. There's only one Cher, and there's only one Wachovia--or Crazy Woman Creek Bancorp. An inimitable name is memorable and sets you apart from your competitors.

* Expressive: It supports the values, personality and objectives of your bank. Horizon Bank says a lot more than the old name "First Tennessee" did. A strategically valuable name furthers your bank's future aspirations.

* Limitless: It does not impede expansion. Geography isn't the only potential limit. Your name should be flexible enough to extend to new products, businesses and market segments. It should empower unlimited growth.

* Functional: Your name should be easy to say, spell and use. It should fit on the side of a building as easily as it does the face of a check. The name is something that can be promoted, and it is attractive both in sound and appearance. It does not hurt either if the name suggests a visual representation--that makes for a memorable and powerful logo.

* Ownable: A good name is one that enjoys trademark stares--not just at the state level, but nationally. Owning your domain name on the Web is a must. If your institution doesn't own its name, it doesn't truly own its reputation.

Name trouble areas

Not every bank has a good name. A number of names are less than ideal for a variety of reasons. Some of the categories of "less than ideal" names include the following:

Anonymous names: Venerable name traditions that worked before deregulation and convergence are less meaningful today. "Some banks have condemned themselves to anonymity with names that are too generic," says Denis Riney, a brand expert and partner at Prophet, a brand and business strategy consulting firm with its headquarters in San Francisco. Over-used words include:

* First, 1st and One.

* Colonial.

* Banc (in all its permutations).

* Community.

* American.

* Bank of (fill in the blank).

* Capital.

* Center or Central.

* Citizens.

* Commerce or Commercial.

* Financial.

* Farmers, Merchants or Manufacturers.

* Fidelity.

* National.

* Peoples.

Names that tie you down. Names with a specific regional reference need special consideration. If the strategy of your bank is to build a reputation as a local, neighborhood bank, a regional name is workable. La Jolla Bank can stake a claim in its community that Bank of America cannot. Regional names, however, are intrinsically limiting. Pacific Financial Corp. could not take that name to Miami and Northeast Bancorp would not work in Topeka. Augusto Medelius, the financial services industry specialist at FutureBrand, New York, sums it up: "You need a name that will travel and take you where you want to go."

Names that can't grow. As banks expand into insurance, asset management and other lines of business, old style names can be limiting. BB&T, for example, has been remaking itself into a one-stop shopping financial services company through acquisitions. "While BB&T has been transforming itself as a company, it hasn't transformed its brand name," says Medelius. The BB&T name is too strongly associated with retail banking to stretch to the other businesses. …

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