Bank of America Corp., formerly NationsBank Corp., says it is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to put its name on everything from branch signs to door handles to establish itself as an international brand.
"Our belief is that a master brand will enable us to build a world-class company that our customers and associates will be able to relate to more effectively," said Van Perry, senior vice president in charge of brand management at the Charlotte, N.C., banking company.
Bank of America officials said the changes which will include 45,000 signs and more than 40,000 forms -- make this the biggest brand change in history.
But it will take still more to create a brand that consumers recognize, one analyst said.
Though the company does need "a common name, signage, and symbol and the sooner the better," said Michael Ancell, a bank analyst at the Edward Jones securities firm in St. Louis, a lot of brand development remains to be done.
"The average person on the street doesn't know what they do," Mr. Ancell said.
The $614 billion-asset company was formed last September when Charlotte-based NationsBank Corp. bought the old BankAmerica Corp. of San Francisco and took its name, later amended to Bank of America Corp.
The new company which has offices in 21 states, the District of Columbia, and 39 foreign countries -- is rolling out the brand change gradually. It has made conversions in most of its overseas locations and much of the United States, but the project will not be finished until changes are made to the large California network inherited from BankAmerica. That is supposed to be finished by Oct. 31 of next year.
Bank of America officials declined to say how much the change would cost.
The company has budgeted $750 million in all for expenses related to the merger.
The conversion is big enough "to create an economy unto itself," Mr. Perry said. He said the bank has hired nearly 20 sign makers and is using a few primary vendors for its new forms. More than 15% of the spending on signs and forms is going to minority businesses, Mr. Perry said.
The new Bank of America logo is also being printed on credit and other plastic cards, business cards, and flags, and it is being incorporated into the company's computer systems.
Bank of America's more than 30 million household customers and two million business customers will not be inconvenienced by the conversion, Mr. Perry said. "Everything a customer has today, whether it is checks or a credit card, will continue to work."
When customers order new credit cards or checks, they will see the change, Mr. Perry noted.
For customers of the former BankAmerica, the impact of the rebranding is minimal. And since NationsBank was an active buyer of banks, "most of the old NationsBank customers are so accustomed to seeing sign changes that they won't notice," Mr. Ancell said.
Though Bank of America is highly visible as the nation's only coast-to-coast banking company, with more than 14,000 automated teller machines, it needs "to be known for service, or cost or quality hopefully a combination of those," Mr. Ancell said.
Being the first bank with a national presence is both an advantage and a disadvantage, Mr. Ancell said. "I don't think any bank has built a successful brand name" in the United States, he said.