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How Citizens Bank Knew It Was “Ready” for a Rebrand

• Author: , Sr. Account Supervisor

How do you know when you’re “ready” for a rebrand?

For Citizens Bank, it was when customer data said so.

When banks rebrand themselves, it usually captures our attention. When they effectively construct their new brand platforms around supporting what is essentially the individual customer’s life journey, we do a double take.

About a month ago, Citizens Bank, a regional bank with a major presence in the northeast, launched its new brand platform: “Made Ready,” which recognizes “that the journey to accomplishment is no longer linear and that individuals are made of all they have done and all they are going to do.”

Part psychology, data science and consumer lifestyle evolution, Citizens is using its new brand to share its commitment to deliver on the promise of every customer’s unique story.

And its own.

It’s a bold move: Made Ready is at once youthful yet established. Challenging yet reassuring. Independent yet supportive. And it is extremely compelling and competitive. We like it.

Regional banks, and maybe even especially regional banks like Citizens, need to evolve their brands to stand out and remain relevant. Beyond the northeast, Citizens vies for customers against big-budget national bank rivals and smaller credit union and community issuers who have the inherent advantages of affinity audiences, intimate market knowledge and trust in a footprint spanning several Mid-Atlantic and Midwest states.

But the story is a bit bigger than a stand-out brand – it’s about differentiation. A recent The Financial Brand article went poking around under the hood of Citizens Bank’s brand relaunch to learn that Citizens has truly committed itself toward data analytics and the ultimate use of artificial intelligence to fuel a highly personalized customer experience. It’s a bid to set itself apart from “the pack” of commoditized service, convenience and value offerings.

This investment represents the foundational underpinning for maintaining the authenticity of the Made Ready brand. By understanding customers – and that their unique journeys are more akin to the randomness of “climbing a jungle gym” than following a straight, linear, route – Citizens is able to target customized products and services on an individual basis. It builds emotional affinity, and that in turn breeds loyalty. It seems logical. Financial institutions should be talking to their customers as they migrate through their life stages with relevant products and services, but not many do outside of the large banks, an example of which we wrote about a few months ago.

For the brand platform launch, Citizens recruited Questlove, an artist whose multidimensional career and unique journey has included performances as the drummer and front man for the Grammy-award-winning and in-house Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon band The Roots, co-production credit for the Broadway musical Hamilton, authorship of several books and service as an adjunct professor at New York University.

Questlove’s background “is” Made Ready – and the decision to align with his celebrity is brilliant. Certainly, Questlove’s appeal is highest among Millennials and the brand campaign’s 25-40 target audience. But as a Gen-Xer toward the Baby Boomer-side of things, I can really appreciate his story, as well, and I don’t feel alienated by it. (More on that in a moment…)

Resonating with a customer’s personal life journey is only one part of the Made Ready brand promise. It must also scale to the bank’s business audiences. On the commercial side, Citizens recognizes that “You’re Made Ready” applies to corporate entities, too. Positioning the brand as a challenge “Are you ready to rise?” aligns nicely with middle market companies as well as the mid-corporate space. Organizations are made of people, and people need protagonists like Made Ready to remind them that the non-linear path they’re on will get them to where they are supposed to be with the support of Citizens.

You’re made ready and so are we.™ represents a near-perfect brand positioning for Citizens to make. In it, the FI both recognizes the potential in each customer and uses it to create a mutual affinity for its own corporate story. Everything that Citizens is as an organization rolls up to this moment to support who its customers are and what they need.

While I think that the brand positioning is spot-on for what Citizens is trying to be for its customer base, the branding initiative itself was actually lost on me.

You see, I happen to be a customer of Citizens and have been since 2004 when it acquired my bank. I rarely visit a branch, and my sole point of engagement for most of my banking needs is my mobile app. The app (at least the current version) does not contain any branding or brand announcement detail, and Citizens didn’t send any brand communication to me via DM or email. (I subscribe to them.) I didn’t even know that one of my own banks rebranded until I read an industry article weeks later about the rollout. That is an unfortunate oversight that I suspect (and hope) will be addressed in the near future. Just this morning I saw my first billboard for the campaign.

Citizens’ prior “Ask a Citizen” branding didn’t mean a whole lot to me and seemed superficial and somewhat unmemorable for a financial institution.

Citizens’ customer data hinted that it needed a brand refresh. Fortunately, they were listening.

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