Chase Manhattan Corp. is throwing its hat into the branding ring.
The nation's largest bank is planning a broad-based marketing campaign designed to bring Chase the kind of name recognition enjoyed by consumer giants like Coca-Cola and Nike.
At the center of the effort is a $45 million to $65 million national advertising blitz that will kick off in April with five-page inserts in The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. Television commercials emphasizing Chase's global reach are set to start airing across the country this spring.
"We want to see an emotional reaction to the Chase name," said Michael Hegarty, vice chairman and head of national consumer banking.
Chase officials unveiled their branding aspirations this week at a high- profile meeting with financial analysts in New York. Led by chairman Walter V. Shipley, executives at the $320 billion-asset bank said the goal is for Chase to become a household name.
"No leading financial services company, including Chase, has been able to optimize its brand position," said Thomas Labrecque, hase's president.
Chase is the latest in a string of big banks-many of which have entered new markets via acquisitions-to launch a major image-advertising campaign. First Union Corp. recently earmarked $85 million for advertising this year, and is now running television commercials identifying itself as the "first union" between a commercial bank and a brokerage. Banc One Corp., Great Western Financial Corp., and KeyCorp have also jumped onto the branding bandwagon.
"Banks are facing an unusual challenge right now because they are competing in markets where they haven't before," said William Smith, president of Addison Whitney, a Charlotte, N.C.-based image consulting firm. "They have to build their brands to compete in these new markets. That's why branding is the focus now."
The Chase campaign seeks to link its name-which already enjoys a white- shoe association with the Rockefeller family-with the word "relationship." The full-page newspaper ads, aimed at corporate America's decision makers, feature testimonials from chief executives at companies like Westinghouse Electric Corp. and Time Warner Inc.
The ads, which include the slogan "The right relationship is everything," were created by Wells Rich Greene BDDP Communications Inc., New York. The agency also handled the TV commercials, which will feature images of people from around the world doing anything but banking. Designed to appeal to corporate customers, the spots try to associate the Chase name with diversity and global reach.
McCann Erickson Worldwide, New York, is working on a companion campaign that will use the same slogan but be aimed at consumers.
Chase already spends more on annual advertising than its competitors, according to Competitive Media Reporting, a New York firm that tracks advertising. In 1996 Chase shelled out $37.5 million on all media advertising. Branding campaigns, of which media spending is only one part, often cost far more, said consultants.
Chase's closest competitor, Citicorp, spent $31.3 million on media last year. The bank, which has long been known for its branding prowess, may announce a new global branding campaign this year, a spokeswoman said. The effort would seek to capitalize on its familiar "The Citi never sleeps" tag line, she added.
Consultants said the rapidly evolving consumer banking world is forcing large banks to develop a strong public identity.
"Brick-and-mortar is less of an advantage now because people are no longer branch-dependent," said Alvin H. Schechter, chairman of Interbrand- Schechter, a New York consulting firm. "With nonbank companies offering things like credit cards and home equity products, and electronic access to all of these companies, banks are now scratching their heads and saying, 'What do I have to offer that's different?'"
Chase senior executives emphasized that technology would be used to develop the brand image by creating a seamless form of communication between Chase and its customers.
That uniformity is especially important in the electronic age, they said.
"You have to make sure that the experience of customers will be the same no matter where they go," said Mr. Schechter. "A brand is not enough. The bank has to have the management and the technology to support the brand."
At a cocktail reception following the presentation, analysts said they were pleased with Chase's plans.
"They have a strong identity already," said Bradley B. Ball, of CS First Boston. "Chase is a white-shoe name with a history linked to the Rockefellers. There are a lot of companies out there that would want to be associated with a bank like that."