Charles Schwab Corp. has evolved far beyond its discount brokerage roots, but not far enough, apparently, to mess with the cachet of the 148-year-old U.S. Trust name.
Whatever synergy may exist between Schwabs flagship brokerage business and its U.S. Trust Corp. unit is all but invisible on the branding front.
Over the last few weeks Schwab has reached out to soothe the frayed nerves of brokerage customers rattled by the markets lunge into bear territory and, simultaneously, launched a second ad campaign aimed at generating new customers for U.S. Trust.
In the first campaign, the Schwab brand flies high. In the other, which touts the New York private bank it acquired last year, there is no mention of the Schwab name not even in the fine-print trademark notices at the bottom of the page.
Our objective is to manage that brand separately, said Jack Calhoun, who heads Schwabs advertising and branding effort. Its a very different brand, and U.S. Trust offers very different services.
The ads for U.S. Trust have appeared in a variety of publications, including Fortune, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Magazine.
Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys Inc., another New York branding company, said that by keeping the U.S. Trust campaign separate, Schwab is sensibly recognizing the limits of the Schwab identity.
Given a list of names that includes, say, J.P. Morgan and Schwab, a wealthier audience is likely going to choose J.P. Morgan, Mr. Passikoff said.
The challenge for U.S. Trust, which caters to clients with a least $2 million to invest, is to appeal to a newly wealthy clientele while not alienating existing customers, Mr. Calhoun said.
The ads, designed by The Martin Agency of Richmond, Va., may not offend existing U.S. Trust customers, but may raise a few eyebrows among the more fiscally challenged.
The headline has the potential to offend Admit It. Youre Rich, it says but the ads overall tone is cajoling, even soothing. An illustration of a thirty-something man, dressed tastefully in black, appears alongside.
The headline can be a little shocking, Mr. Calhoun conceded. But the body copy came out of testimonials from hundreds and hundreds of interviews.
The idea is to get newly wealthy potential customers to see themselves as having special financial services needs, he said.
But where the U.S. Trust ads diligently avoid mention of the Schwab name, they may be reflecting the parent companys spirit.
With the irreverent headline and its hip, youthful imagery, U.S. Trust seems to have walked away from the old-money-and-country-houses approach typically found in ads for private banks. This should also help distinguish it from competitors, Mr. Calhoun said.
A lot of stuff in financial services advertising is wallpaper black-and-white photos of people in yachts. I could put any put any companys name on an ad like that, he said.
By comparison, the brokerages latest print and television ads appear remarkably serious.
In some, company namesake and chairman Charles R. Schwab urges investors not sit on their hands but to talk to one of Schwabs investment specialists for advice. Lets not mince words here. These are emotional times. No one has a crystal ball on Wall Street. And sitting on the sidelines without evaluating your portfolio may be risky, reads the body text. Another ad features one of Schwabs 3,000-plus investment specialists. The campaign, by New York firm BBDO, is designed to show how Schwab has evolved beyond its discount roots to a company with an advisory approach to investing.
The campaign addresses a sharp drop in do-it-yourself online trading one that has forced Schwab to cut 13% of its workforce. Schwab has even limited its ad spending to last years level, $332 million.
Were constantly re-evaluating our ads, said Mr. Calhoun.
And while the current brokerage campaign is in response to the current market downtick and resulting anxieties, the company said it has always taken an educational approach to investing. We werent telling people a year ago that if you buy stocks you can buy your own island, Mr. Calhoun said, referring to competitors campaigns at the height of the dot-com-driven investing frenzy.
Schwabs parallel campaigns probably make sense in this market, said Charles B. Wendel, president of Financial Institutions Consulting, a New York-based brand consulting company.
But Mr. Wendel was nonetheless skeptical about the U.S. Trust ad. Do I think its a great tag line? No, I think its a little too glib, he said.
From Our Archive