When State Financial Services Corp. consolidated its four banks into one in June 1994, it also gave them a common - and new - name.

That was the "biggest obstacle" for the Milwaukee-area company, said Michael J. Falbo, president and chief executive officer. "The confusion, to my mind, is still there."

Conventional marketing wisdom says a new name typically takes from 18 to 24 months to catch on, according to Donna M. Bembenek, State Financial's vice president and director of marketing.

Meantime, the company did its best to instruct customers and potential customers that State Bank in Hales Corners, University National Bank, Edgewood Bank, and Eastbrook State Bank would now be known as State Financial Bank - but that management hadn't changed.

At the same time, Milwaukee's Marshall & Ilsley Corp. was buying Valley Bancorp., Ms. Bembenek said. "We didn't want people to think a bigger bank was buying us."

Using direct mail, State Financial stressed that management remained intact, but that customers now could bank at more locations.

The company ran radio and newspaper ads and sponsored events to get its name out, she said.

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