The Internet mortgage company E-loan has hired the executive credited with making Saturn a nationally recognized automotive brand to be senior vice president of marketing and development.

Joseph J. who started at Saturn Corp. in 1985 as a core member of its 40-person start-up group, says he plans to help E-loan become "the first nationally branded multilender."

Investment partners in Palo Alto, Calif.-based E-loan include Benchmark Capital, Sequoia Capital, SoftBank, Technology Partners, Yahoo!, and E- Trade.

Mr. Kennedy spoke to American Banker about his new challenge.

What is the importance of creating a brand name, with Internet companies in particular?

KENNEDY: This is a tremendous opportunity for E-loan to build a national brand name as a multilender. Any electronic commerce company is dependent on brand-building.

In the Internet world, there are enormous choices, and already, even in its youth, (it) has far more sites than consumers can ever digest.

The consumers will migrate to sites they know and trust, and that is what branding is all about.

What marketing ideas will you bring to E-loan from your experiences at Saturn?

KENNEDY: Saturn revolutionized the part of buying a car that people did not like, and E-loan is doing the same thing with loans.

At the core of both companies is the vital role of customer service and brand-building.

Underneath, there is the same critical role of building an enthusiastic company culture.

E-loan has done a lot of marketing to date, with a combination both on- and off-line.

It (E-loan) has used a variety of print, radio, and television, and I plan to build on those initiatives directly.

As the company continues to grow, there will be greater funding capabilities for marketing and spending will be at significantly higher levels.

Aren't cars and mortgages fundamentally different products to sell?

KENNEDY: The products are completely different, but they share a commonality in that they are the biggest purchases that people make in their lives.

They are both high-involvement purchases. It's not like going to the grocery store. Hours and days are invested in buying a car and in buying a home.

Also, the magnitude of the financial commitments raises customers' concerns, and historically there have been parts of the process that they have not been in control of.

Saturn's greatest opportunity was to put customers back in control of car shopping and the buying process. That is what E-loan is going to do for homebuyers.

You created a warm corporate image of family and teamwork for Saturn. Is that the plan for E-loan?

KENNEDY: Friendly and trustworthy are two very important dimensions of the E-loan brand image. Is the marketing going to be similar? I'm not sure I want to go there.

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