The Ad Club CMO Breakfast Series: Meredith Verdone, Takes Bank of America from the Institutional Era to the Human Era

08 Jul 2013 12:35 PM | Anonymous

Last Tuesday morning, Meredith Verdone, SVP & Brand, Advertising, Research and Sponsorship Executive at Bank of America, unveiled the remarkable rebranding of Bank of America in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Date back to 2006 and Bank of America is leading the competition as the #1 financial services company. However, that period of extreme growth and wealth experienced a major shock when the financial crisis hit in 2008. To resurrect itself, Bank of America needed to overcome more than their financial setbacks. Despite their stock hitting $2.53 in 2009 after reaching an all time high of $54.90 in 2006, their most challenging task would be to transform their business from the inside, out to rebuild relationships and trust.

Meredith highlighted the need for a companywide transformation compared to a simple acquisition of capital as she shared the story of the infamous “$5 debit fee.” In 2011, in an effort to come back from the ashes, Bank of America briefly considered a $5 transaction fee for a fraction of its customers, and inevitably the idea was met with serious backlash from social media. 

The swirling media attention that severely hurt Bank of America’s reputation taught the company a valuable lesson that would fuel the company’s rebranding.

“The $5 Fee Heard ‘Round the World” taught Bank of America a tough lesson, but they gracefully embraced the incident as a pivotal moment in their rebranding and saw it as an opportunity to design a more holistic plan to rebuild the company in a way that extended beyond generating liquidity.

Bank of America’s damaged reputation was not unique within its industry; the majority of financial services were suffering from a lack of trust, and Bank of America quickly realized “the era of too big to fail” would no longer suffice.

Meredith’s emphasis on the depreciation of “too big to fail” is reflective of a greater change in societal attitudes. Meredith said, “trust in all institutions has been declining for decades, whether in organized religion, health care providers, big business or government.” To rectify theses changing attitudes towards big business, Bank of America ran with the idea of taking the brand from the “institutional era to the human era.” Meredith spoke extensively about how brands in the human era are “inherently human in the story they tell and the experience they provide.”

To enter the human era, Bank of America choose to rebrand their company with the all encompassing phrase- Life’s better when we’re connected, because it’s “powerful, credible, timely, and timeless.” To implement the ideas of connectivity in the human era, Bank of America initially focused on their internal side because “real change starts from inside” and “the most successful companies create real change by starting inside the company first.”

Meredith cited CEO, Brian Moynihan’s effort to change the behaviors of the company by restating the company purpose as one of the most important steps in the company’s rebranding. The goal of transforming Bank of American into a “Human Era Company” was brought to fruition by committing to the following series of key behaviors:

  • 1.     Become easier to work with
  • 2.     Make our expertise more accessible
  • 3.     Make relationships more real and human
  • 4.     Align our interests with those of our customers in shared success

As Bank of America was committing itself internally and externally to the human era, their external campaigns made some of the greatest strides for the company’s rebranding. The series of advertisements that is centered on the idea that “Life’s better when we’re connected” demonstrated the appropriate empathy, humility, and integrity to tell meaningful stories and engage numerous and new demographics. The notable commercials that Meredith shared with us touched upon many relatable moments in our everyday lives, and it was evident in the room of over 250 attendees from various businesses, that these commercials truly strike a familiar chord within all of us. In particular, the closing of the Newfoundland Dog commercial achieved the reaction from the audience that you could tell Meredith and her team had anticipated. In the commercial, a young couple arrives at a farm to pick up their new puppy. As the husband observes the large full-grown version of his puppy, while the wife is simultaneously cradling the infant version, his reaction to a glimpse into his future is one of those priceless moments that everyone watching sees themselves experiencing at some point in their life. Whether it’s becoming a first time pet owner, getting married, growing a small business, or even experiencing the simpler moments, viewers are having meaningful interactions with these commercials because they are putting themselves on the receiving end of the stories.

As Meredith’s presentation came to a close, I admittedly began to feel the connection to the company that they were seeking for their customers in the wake of this human era transformation. As a rising senior in college with a personal debit card from a local bank about to expire, I found myself ready to sign up for my new checking account with Bank of America for the simple, yet meaningful moments and life milestones they incorporated in their advertisements. The ability for big businesses to capture the connectivity and familiarity once native to small businesses truly changes the landscape for the future of companies like Bank of America and their customers.

Check out other great “Life is better when we’re connected moments” from Bank of America.

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