Ads pave way in US for Royal Bank of Scotland

  • Business
  • Wednesday, 12 May 2004

NEW YORK: Europe’s second biggest bank had a problem. It was on track for an aggressive expansion in the United States, but too few Americans had heard of it and even on Wall Street its name was not familiar enough. 

To get itself on the map, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) turned to advertising agency M&C Saatchi and a series of North American sporting heroes it considered peerless – golf legend Jack Nicklaus, tennis record-breaker Pete Sampras and ice hockey icon Wayne Gretzky. 

Through a sustained campaign of newspaper ads featuring the sporting legends and a more recent TV commercial, RBS has at least set up a marketing beachhead for its brand name in the US. 

When, last week, RBS announced an agreed US$10.5bil takeover of Cleveland-based Charter One Financial Inc, a deal that will make RBS one of the 10 largest US banks, at least the financial world knew who was pouncing. 

“Over the last 2 to 3 years we have been gradually getting the name RBS out there in the US because the acquisitions would be done by RBS,” said RBS director of communications Howard Moody. 

“Also, in the broader investor community market, we wanted to make sure there was an understanding of RBS. We didn’t want people to say who are RBS?” 

Despite the fact that RBS now ranks about sixth biggest bank in the world by market capitalisation, analysts say it still has work to do to increase awareness of its brand in North America. 

Steven Addis, CEO of Berkeley, California-based brand consultants Addis Group, said there was a danger the RBS brand could get lost in the mix with the brand initials of rival banks like HSBC and UBS. 

“The problems with initials is they are hard to remember. There is so much clutter with initials – HSBC, UBS, RBS – that’s a problem,” said Addis, adding that the RBS initials could “blend into the alphabet soup.” 

RBS, though, has faith in its M&C Saatchi-led campaign. “It was focusing on people who had delivered absolutely at the top of their field,” said a source close to the ads. 

Moody said Nicklaus, Sampras and Gretzky fitted the theme of the RBS campaign: Less Talk. Make It Happen. 

“It's around the theme that there are some people who talk about doing things – we get on and do them,” said Moody. “If we say we’ll do something, we do it.” 

Thus far, few rivals of RBS would argue with that. RBS reported record annual profits of £6.16bil on Feb 19. It will generate about 25% of its profit in the US after completing the takeover of Charter One. – Reuters  

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