Using Marilyn Monroe, George Burns, and Babe Ruth to make the point, Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp is trying to convince its customers that changing a name is not so bad.

In television commercials, on billboards, and in print ads beginning to appear this week in 11 states, the former First Bank System is surrounding its new logo and name with pictures of the former Norma Jeane Baker, Nathan Birnbaum, and George Herman Ruth.

"When you change your name, people take notice," the ads say.

The advertising, scheduled to run through April, coincides with the renaming of 389 First Bank branches in 11 midwestern and western states. The banks bore the First Bank name in all but Colorado, where they had retained their Colorado National Bank moniker. Now all the branches- including those in Colorado-will be labeled U.S. Bank.

The company would not disclose the cost of the ad campaign.

First Bank bought Portland, Ore.-based U.S. Bancorp last August. U.S. Bancorp is a better brand name because it is less common and implies wider geographic reach, company officials said.

The new logo is an updated version of the old U.S. Bancorp's, which has been around for more than 20 years. It features new corporate colors, though: red, white, and blue.

The ads are a preview of a major campaign planned for this summer. Then the $71.3 billion-asset banking company will roll out its new brand in the rest of the 17 states where it has branches, said David Ingraham, a senior vice president in charge of customer equity management.

Other big banks have also been trying to enhance their brand identities. "In consumer banking, branding is becoming more critical," said analyst Joseph Duwan with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc.

Though Chemical Banking Corp. took Chase Manhattan Corp.'s name when the two banks merged in 1996, it is not common for an acquiring company to change its name after an acquisition.

U.S. Bancorp executives "want people to quickly understand that we changed our name but not who we are," Mr. Ingraham said. "The objective was to be real straightforward."

The bigger branding campaign planned for the summer will note the company's strength but also stress its commitment to service, Mr. Ingraham said.

The First Bank brand had been troublesome because the company sometimes entered markets in which there was already a bank with a similar name. That is why the Colorado National name was retained.

In some cases, local banks sued First Bank over name duplication.

Martin/Williams Inc., a Minneapolis advertising agency, developed the current 11-state campaign and will be in charge of the bigger one planned for the summer.

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