TD Bank comms team promotes relaunch

The relaunch of TD Bank has given the company's communications team the opportunity to utilize a variety of marketing tactics.

The relaunch of TD Bank has given the company's communications team the opportunity to utilize a variety of marketing tactics.

Given the ongoing recession and accompanying international financial turmoil, it would seem liquidity would be of greater concern to consumers than lollipops.

However, after Commerce Bank was acquired by TD Bank Financial Group in March 2008, plenty of people were concerned about whether the lollipops, a Commerce fixture, would remain. So the communications team planned “Decision 2008: Pick Your Pop,” just one of the campaigns executed during the first round of the brand relaunch for TD Bank. “Pick Your Pop” left the choice of whether to keep the green or purple suckers to enthusiastic bank constituents. It ultimately kept both.

The new TD Bank brand was unveiled this past fall in branches from Connecticut to Florida. After the second launch in fall 2009, all of the nearly 1,100 branches will be renamed TD Bank. The overall rebranding effort has blended advertising, guerrilla marketing, and PR to spread the word about the self-proclaimed “America's most convenient bank.”

“We did a lot of work around preparing ads, direct marketing, the usual media that are traditionally employed to market the company itself,” says John Cunningham, CMO of TD Bank. “Then we thought of things that were somewhat unique... [and] attention-getting. We find that when we do those together and... put support behind them, they're tremendously powerful and effective.”

While the bank tried to raise awareness of the new brand, the marketing and communications teams – a five-person PR team and more than 80 marketing staff members – had to contend with a historic election and an equally historic financial meltdown.

TD Bank decided to use PR and guerrilla marketing to stand out.

“The theory is to go where the people are,” Cunningham says. “It is a way to get your basic brand position messaging out about [convenience] in a way that's completely and utterly disruptive.”

Branding preparations were made through spring and summer 2008. The company issued a press release announcing the rebrand on October 31, the same day that acrobats, helium balloons, and other fanfare helped unveil the new name at an event at TD Bank's executive offices in Cherry Hill, NJ. The next day, a similar event was held in Vienna, VA. The team also posted video from the events on YouTube.

The aforementioned lollipop effort was part of a teaser to the rebrand, designed to coincide with the presidential election. Launched the week of October 13, a site was created for online voting, and four rallies were held in key markets, including Philadelphia and Washington, in the following weeks, where both the Green and Purple Lollipop “candidates” sought to drive votes. The site was brought down at midnight October 31, the same day an announcement event was held.

“Giving away lollipops was always a key characteristic of [Commerce Bank],” says Neil Parmenter, SVP of corporate and public affairs. “You'd be amazed at how many questions we got from both customers and employees about what the future of the lollipop was going to be.”

“The media was all over the election,” adds Rebecca Acevedo, TD Bank's PR manager. “We had to compete with that. That's why we had the lollipop campaign – to capitalize on the election and let people feel they had a say in TD Bank and what was important to them.”

TD Bank also sent “convenience crews” armed with goodies like free newspapers and coffee to hand out in local markets throughout the holidays. Free pizzas, dry cleaning, and gift-wrapping were also given away.

“From a media relations end, the convenience crews and... guerrilla-type marketing efforts did two things for us,” Parmenter says. “They reinforced the brand positioning – themes of convenience and service – and... [they] allowed us to pitch to local media something that was unusual, different, and noteworthy.”

Economic factors
The team has had to deal with some serious issues as well, such as a faltering economy. The TD Bank communications effort has included media relations to let the public know that it isn't suffering from the problems of other financial institutions. And it has equipped employees with information on fact sheets and in talking points so they can answer nervous queries from customers.

By mid-December, the marketing team was pleased with the preliminary results: the “Pick Your Pop” page had received 53,801 page views between October 12 and 31; media hits in top-tier publications had been secured; most customers had been retained; and outside research showed a dramatic increase in brand awareness in the mid-Atlantic.

The marketing plan included two rest periods for the election and December holidays, and then a period to reassess the effort at the end of January. However, the economic troubles roll on, President-elect Barack Obama's new administration will take office, and there's still the New England region left to launch the rebrand.

“The message is we're strong, we're open for business, we love our customers, and we're going to service them to the highest degree,” Cunningham says. “And we get to do it all over again next fall.”

Key messages for TD Bank's relaunch

America's most convenient bank
This tagline from Commerce Bank, in the marketplace since 1996, emphasizes such qualities as numerous locations, seven-day-per-week store service, and access to coin counting

Financial liquidity
While other financial institutions are struggling with issues resulting from reckless lending, TD Bank stresses the strength of its balance sheet in its media relations efforts

Local and community banking
In addition to its national rebranding efforts, TD Bank seeks to keep a “community feel” with customers that focuses on the local banking decisions made in each one of its branches

*In print, the title of this story is "On the money"

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