Branding key issue in bank reviews

Canadian banks are in the midst of an identity crisis. Ever since last year's aborted mergers between CIBC and the TD Bank, and the Royal Bank and the Bank of Montreal, the country's big banks have had to reconsider their strategies...

Canadian banks are in the midst of an identity crisis.

Ever since last year’s aborted mergers between CIBC and the TD Bank, and the Royal Bank and the Bank of Montreal, the country’s big banks have had to reconsider their strategies for becoming more competitive both at home and in a deregulated global financial market.

One of the first to make a move was TD Bank, which through its merger with Canada Trust has gained in size, but is left with the considerable challenge of branding a new company of blended identities and cultures. Not surprisingly, an advertising agency review is expected to be one of the first orders of business for the new TD-CT.

Meanwhile, last October, CIBC began a review of its business.

Brand identity is viewed as such a critical aspect of CIBC’s future that the firm conducting the agency review on its behalf – the Westport Consulting Group – has been given a key role in helping to shape and define the bank’s positioning.

John Laurino, managing director of Westport, says the new positioning – which will replace CIBC’s three-year-old positioning statement ‘Seeing Beyond’ – will be kept a closely guarded secret until its launch by the new agency.

As for which agency that will be, Laurino says the choice will come down to which shop best understands the new positioning and proves they can execute on it.

‘We have a completely different approach [to agency reviews],’ he says. ‘It’s all based on the positioning and brand work and its interpretation, not the financials or how much you’re going to be able to cut the [agency] fee or any of that stuff.

‘In today’s world, branding is so important that getting the right agency for the right reasons and making sure everyone is on board conceptually is much more important than trying to beat them up on the fee.’

Laurino says a long list for the CIBC account has been developed, but that none of the agencies taking part in the review will be named. A winner will be announced around the end of April, he says.

Westport, which specializes in strategic planning and product development, has worked with a long list of top U.S. financial institutions, including Bankers Trust, First Interstate Bancorp, People’s Bank, Bank of America and Citicorp/Citibank.

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group