PNC Bank Corp. has joined the ranks of the un-"banked."

This week the $75.4 billion-asset Pittsburgh company announced it would henceforth be known as PNC Financial Services Group, or just PNC.

The change is part of a $25 million campaign to strengthen PNC's brand image, in both the real world and the on-line world. Market research concluded that the public thought of "PNC Bank" as just a regional institution.

"We were misunderstood," said Denise Thorne Johnson, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, who joined the company in September 1998 to help get its branding act together. " 'Bank' no longer made sense for us."

It seems to be branding season.

National City Corp. in Cleveland announced Wednesday that it has launched the next phase of a three-year-old branding campaign. Last week Barclays PLC in London announced its first-ever corporate branding campaign.

At PNC, the change came a few weeks after Thomas H. O'Brien, chairman and chief executive officer, announced he would retire from day-to-day management duties after 15 years on the job. He will be succeeded by his longtime lieutenant, current president James E. Rohr.

Mr. O'Brien's decision to step down and the launch of the branding campaign were not timed to coincide, Ms. Johnson said. The branding campaign has been in the works for more than a year, she said. The branding switch also came just six months after hometown rival Mellon Financial Corp. also said it would drop "bank" from its name. Like PNC, Mellon found that the public perceived it primarily as a regional bank, not as a diversified company.

The former Pittsburgh National Corp. was founded in 1864. The initials PNC were further ingrained in the corporate culture in 1983, when it merged with Philadelphia-based Provident National Corp.

But in more recent years, PNC has acquired a number of companies beyond the realm of typical commercial banking, including BlackRock Inc., a New York-based asset management firm, and Hilliard Lyons Inc., a Louisville, Ky., brokerage for high-net-worth individuals. PNC also runs a securities processing unit, a mortgage unit, and real estate and structured finance units.

The new brand - most times PNC will be used in place of the full legal name, PNC Financial Services Group - is meant to bridge what are essentially seven separately run businesses and create an overall image as a broadly diversified company, Ms. Johnson said.

Television advertisements introducing the new brand, created by Arnold Communications in McLean, Va., begin running next week in selected markets, including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Louisville, and Cincinnati.

The ads depict people in various life stages facing an event that requires financial advice. A narrator suggests that PNC can be that adviser.

Print ads also begin running next week in selected business magazines and national newspapers including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. The tag line is "The thinking behind the money."

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