Proactive plan builds bank brand

SunTrust acquired Central Carolina Bank (CCB) in October 2004 as part of its $7 billion merger with National Commerce Financial, CCB's parent company.

SunTrust acquired Central Carolina Bank (CCB) in October 2004 as part of its $7 billion merger with National Commerce Financial, CCB's parent company.

Because CCB was a brand that had strong roots in the Carolinas for generations, SunTrust needed to establish trust and enthusiasm for the new SunTrust name in the minds of area customers.

The bank teamed up with North Carolina stalwart French/West/Vaughan, which had previously been CCB's agency, to build brand awareness among consumers. FWV wanted to help customers transfer the trust they already had in CCB into the new SunTrust brand, which had never been in the Carolina market before.

Strategy

FWV planned a six-month publicity push that would "generate as much media coverage and as much brand recognition for the SunTrust name as we could" throughout the conversion process, notes FWV group account director Natalie Best, so that the bank would be firmly established when the actual rebranding was completed in April 2005.

The campaign focused on the positive changes SunTrust would bring to the market and emphasized continuity and community involvement.

Tactics

An aggressive media relations campaign was the centerpiece of the agency's efforts. It worked to pitch not only business stories about the bank itself, but also human interest stories and profiles of the bank's managers in various regions.

SunTrust also sponsored a speaker series that brought Steve Forbes to the area and held separate seminars for customers with SunTrust's chief economist.

The bank also sponsored the March of Dimes' WalkAmerica events throughout North Carolina to give it "ownership of a cause" and a positive community image, Best says.

Local special events like a "Youth Bank" at a middle school and a sponsorship of the Durham Bulls minor league baseball team helped boost visibility.

The campaign also involved a proactive media relations effort aimed at informing area residents about the removal of a longtime Durham, NC, landmark; CCB letters that had graced the top of a building since 1964, a staple of the city's skyline, were replaced with the SunTrust name.

Results

The campaign generated more than $320,000 in local market earned media value, with more than 6 million media impressions, including coverage in the Carolinas' largest newspaper, the Charlotte Observer, and North Carolina Magazine.

In addition, the speaker series attracted more than 1,000 current and prospective clients at each event, and the seminars drew more than 500 attendees.

As the March of Dimes' lead sponsor, SunTrust had a presence in 55 North Carolina communities, with the events drawing more than 300,000 participants.

Future

FWV is continuing to work with SunTrust to help the bank maintain visibility in its post-conversion period.

PRWeek's View

This campaign was successful because FWV knew it had to get the SunTrust name as much exposure as possible and chose a variety of tactics, from business seminars to the March of Dimes cause sponsorship to the Durham Bulls and Youth Bank special events. These provided both business and human interest angles that helped the brand gain visibility in the eyes of multiple audiences.

Key to the campaign was its proactive nature. Changes like altering a longtime landmark often aren't readily accepted, so it was crucial that FWV give the community time to adjust to the idea. By promoting the positive changes SunTrust offered, FWV helped reassure the community that SunTrust would continue to be just as dedicated to it as CCB was.

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