The Independent Bankers Association of America is stepping up its image-building campaign for member banks.

A year since it began the effort with the slogan "On Your Corner. In Your Corner. Your Community Bank," the trade group is preparing to mail out a batch of campaign packages to many of its 5,500 members.

The program, which incorporates the slogan in various forms of advertising and promotion, is the IBAA's effort to distinguish independent banks from larger regional and national rivals.

"Many banks might only see competition from other community banks," said Monique E. Hanis, IBAA marketing director. "They have to remember that there is competition from everybody in their customers' mailboxes."

She said a second mailing was needed to further spread the word. So far, the trade group has considered the push primarily a grass-roots effort and has not done coordinated, national advertising.

The association is pleased with member banks' responses so far but acknowledged that it needs to do more to convince bankers to build the community banking brand.

Anthony S. Abbate, president and chief executive officer of Interchange State Bank, Saddle Brook, N.J., said many independent bankers do not understand the importance of "community branding." "I'm hopeful that in our follow-up, we'll get more people to understand," said Mr. Abbate, who proudly displays the diamond-shaped "On Your Corner. In Your Corner ... " seal.

In a recent survey on the image campaign, IBAA found that 35% of the 767 members who responded display the decal.

Of those who didn't post it, 44% said they didn't get one; 12% said they didn't have time to use it; and 11% said they didn't like it.The rest listed "other reasons."

Ms. Hanis at the IBAA said she regarded the 35% positive response as "pretty high." Of those using the decals, 42% were banks with less than $50 million of assets.

The survey also found that 83% of the respondents were receptive to the image campaign-saying it would benefit their banks. And those who use it seem to be enthusiastic about it.

Bank of Ohio County, Murray, Ky., uses the slogan in cable television ads, billboards, golf course tee markers, and on customers' personal checks. "It's catchy and recognizable," said Jon A. Lawson, chairman, president, and CEO. "It should be easy to remember."

Hope Johnson, president of $40 million-asset Slocomb (Ala.) National Bank, said she liked the design so much she ordered the T-shirts, banners, and jingles made available by the IBAA.

"It's very community-banking specific," she said.

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