Can a deviant shade of blue or a misplaced logo on official correspondence undermine a bank's branding effort?

Yes, according to the marketing consultants who put together Chicago-based Bank One Corp.'s latest corporate image campaign.

In recent weeks, senior managers at $264 billion-asset Bank One have received a manual describing everything from the correct shade of blue and complementary colors to the proper size, shape, and design of the logo and mandatory fonts. The official color, for example, is Pantone 661, a hue somewhere between deep blue and royal blue. (Pantone is a standard color-matching system.)

Forty-five compatible colors, ranging from "natural russet" to "bright citrus green," are approved for use alongside Bank One blue.

The corporate logo is similarly dictated: block letters spelling out Bank One with a horizontally striped "1" separating the words. On letter-sized correspondence, the logo must be one and a half inches wide and must be positioned one-third of the way down the page on the left-hand side.

Employees are forbidden to "deface" the logo by altering the size or order of the words or the location of the "1," according to the manual.

"It is more important than ever that Bank One demonstrate a consistent reflection of our brand," the manual advises.

It may sound a little picky, but the "tool kit" -- as the manual is described by William H. Faust, senior vice president and managing director at the Worthington, Ohio-based brand firm Fitch -- is designed to help executives and outside marketing and advertising advisers develop a coordinated message. Such tool kits are common practice within the branding world, consultants said.

"We didn't want to be brand police," Mr. Faust said in a recent interview. "But we did want to make sure we all were singing from the same hymnbook."

Bank One hired Fitch in 1997 to develop a brand strategy after years of cross-country expansion. Bank One's longtime policy of allowing its state bank subsidiaries to operate autonomously added to the challenge of creating a common theme, Mr. Faust said. Bank One's old marketing strategy included hundreds of logos, corporate colors, and corporate name spellings.

Then came last year's merger with First Chicago NBD Corp.

"Bank One has spent the last few years building its empire and really needed the unity of one brand," Mr. Faust said. "It got to the point where if we were to scrap everything and start all over with a new name, that would have been fine with them."

At the time the merger agreement was announced, Fitch and Bank One had settled on a campaign that would be biased toward Bank One's strength in retail services. First Chicago's historic emphasis on corporate banking would have been drowned out, Mr. Faust said. The deal meant the brand designers had to head back to the drawing board to incorporate elements of the First Chicago brand philosophy.

"The merger slowed things down," Mr. Faust said.

A common thread was the use of blue by both banks. "We decided to lean on that," Mr. Faust said.

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