Truist discloses $125 million in expenses tied to rebranding

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Truist Financial in Charlotte, N.C., said in a court filing that it has spent $125 million on its new brand.

The company, formed by the December merger of BB&T and SunTrust Banks, made the disclosure in a court document tied to litigation with Truliant Federal Credit Union in Winston-Salem, N.C. Truliant filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Truist last year in an attempt to force the $506 billion-asset regional banking company to change its name.

Truist's disclosure, filed on Friday, was in response to the $2.9 billion-asset Truliant's February request for a preliminary injunction barring the company from using its name while the the lawsuit is pending.

Truist said it spent $7 million to create the name, $4 million to have it approved by regulators and shareholders, $40 million to configure operating systems to reflect the new branding and an additional $75 million in marketing. When Major League Baseball resumes, the Atlanta Braves will play at the rechristened Truist Park.

Truist said it would cost $34 million, and take up to nine months, to change its name again. A shareholder vote would also be required.

“A preliminary injunction changing the status quo would cause irreparable harm to Truist’s reputation and goodwill, and to the Truist brand,” the company said in its filing. “After informing clients and the public that BB&T and SunTrust are 'Now Truist,' switching would undermine those relationships.”

Truliant, however, claims it could be damaged if Truist moves ahead with the “tru” prefix.

"Despite the investment which the defendants have made in the development of a new name, we remain steadfast behind the facts of the case which demonstrate the strength and vitality of the Truliant name," a Truliant representative said. "No company may infringe upon the name and goodwill of another simply because of the size of its investment."

Earlier this yea,r the credit union commissioned a professor from the University of North Carolina to conduct research to determine potential marketplace confusion between the brands. Truliant said the survey found a 37.8% net likelihood of confusion among consumers within its geographic field of membership.

Truist countered that the survey demonstrated no actionable confusion and that it was biased in favor of Truliant. The company said that, based on its own survey findings, confusion was at 3% or less.

Truist admitted the "tru" prefix is similar, but pointed out that over 7,460 federal registrations use the prefix and that the "three-letter overlap is insufficient to warrant extraordinary relief.” For example, Fifth Third Bank offers a "Truly Simple" credit card while Liberty Mutual advertises "TRU" Services.

The company argued in Friday’s court filing that in addition to the expense of another rebrand, “a second name change — no matter how well orchestrated — will extensively damage Truist’s reputation,” along with customer relations, sponsor relationships and damage the bank within the broader marketplace.

The brand rollout, Truist concluded, “has been well received. The legacy banks’ goodwill will not transfer as well to a new name.”

The credit union indicated that it expects to keep up the fight as long as necessary.

"Truliant is a commercially solid ... credit union with more than 30 locations in three states and has built a strong brand identity," the credit union's representative said. "We plan to continue protecting it as any business would."

This article originally appeared in Credit Union Journal.
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Lawsuits Credit unions Branding Truist Financial