Bank One Corp. is about to get a personality makeover.
The company plans to roll out its biggest-ever broadcast and print branding effort in coming months-a $60 million advertising campaign.
Bank One has hired New York ad agency Deutsch Inc. in what experts say could be a significant development in the Chicago company's marketing strategy. Deutsch has helped to build brands for companies that compete in a wide range of commodity-like businesses.
"They've taken brands that had not been branded," said Allen Adamson, a managing director with Landor Associates, a New York branding consulting firm. He cited the agency's work for furniture retailer Ikea, and for LensCrafters, which through a Deutsch campaign has burnished its image as a quick-service eyeglass retailer.
Bank One officials are fairly tight-lipped about the campaign other than to say it will stress the bank as a trusted brand.
The banking company-the nation's fourth-largest, with $260 billion of assets-hopes to appeal to consumers' "best notions of banks" while emphasizing its plan to become the "premier financial services provider," said Patricia Shafer, a Bank One spokeswoman.
The campaign comes on the heels of several large deals signed by Bank One to market its First USA credit cards and retail banking products on the Internet. Bank One would pay as much as $500 million to America Online Inc. over five years and agreed to pay up to $125 million to market bank products through Excite Inc.
Still, when it comes to building a brand, Bank One has its work cut out for it, experts said.
"It's still an open playing field," Mr. Adamson said, asserting that no bank has fully built its brand. "When we think of brand building, advertising is the last thing you do."
"You have too many options today for your financial services partner," said Brannon Cashion, senior vice president of Addison Whitney, a brand consulting company in Charlotte, N.C. "People want the relationship; they want to know someone's there in their corner."
Deutsch has some experience with banks. It produced ads for BankAmerica Corp. before the company's merger with NationsBank Corp.
Other banks have stirred debate with attempts to differentiate themselves through unusual commercials. When First Union Corp. ran spots last year portraying a frightening financial services netherworld in which the Charlotte-based bank serves as a beacon of hope, it received some negative publicity. A New York Times advertising columnist called the commercials the "most likely to be judged the product of minds clouded by bad acid trips."
First Union officials say its $100 million campaign has been a success. Sandra Deem, a First Union spokeswoman, said the commercials generate an average of 100 calls a day to a toll-free number that appears in the ads.
Mr. Cashion said even if some people didn't like the ads, the spots have been effective in gaining consumer attention.
As it rolls out its bank name on former First Chicago NBD branches over the next few months, it seems Bank One wants to present a unified message. It is unclear whether the company will take its message beyond the 14 states in which it has bank branches.