Florence Bank launches new marketing effort highlighted by first-ever television ads

Last modified: Wednesday, August 13, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — For the first time in its 140-year history, Florence Savings Bank is running television advertisements as part of a rebranding effort to raise the bank’s profile and expand its customer base.

The bank has adopted what it considers a new, friendlier trade name, Florence Bank, which officials feel has a little more marketing pizazz. But officially, Florence Savings Bank it still its name.

The campaign that launched six weeks ago includes marketing features such as billboards, radio and print ads, banners on public buses and a digital initiative centered around a new logo and the signature, “Always.” But the television ads are a new twist for the Northampton-based bank.

In them, dancers from the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School and the Young@Heart Chorus dance in front of, on and around popular Northampton landmarks including the Academy of Music, Miss Florence Diner, the Hampshire Courthouse lawn, churches and various neighborhoods. The “Always” ads are intended to show that the bank is there for its customers “in all ways,” said Monica Curhan, the bank’s marketing director.

The commercials will air 2,000 times into October on a pair of news morning shows, during Red Sox games and on numerous cable shows.

“The ads really embrace the local area, its diversity, its culture and its strong love of the arts,” Curhan said. “That’s why we did the dancing.”

The rebranding campaign was designed by Sean Tracy Associates, of Portsmouth, N.H., and developed based on research conducted by Market Street Research in Northampton. Curhan said the bank interviewed several local advertising agencies for the contract, but selected an out-of-state company because of its expertise in TV production.

Julie Pokela, president and owner of Market Street Research, said her firm surveyed 300 customers throughout the Valley to gauge their opinions and awareness of Florence Bank. The research found that the bank’s existing customers were “highly satisfied” and really well known in the market. “The bank has a very local customer base,” Pokela said.

Outside of its customer base, however, Pokela’s research found that Florence Bank’s image is not much different from other local banks. “People don’t see a lot of difference between the banks,” she said.

That information was critical as bank officials developed its rebranding initiative around a central idea that the bank can take care of a customer’s financial needs now and forever, Curhan said.

“The bank’s been there for a long time and it’s been there for a lot of people .... always,” she said.

President John Heaps said this is the first time the bank has undertaken a rebranding effort in his two decades at the helm, but the changes do not signal problems at the bank.

“We’re getting questions about why, and we know that there are people wondering what’s going on up there,” Heaps said. “Our mutual ownership model isn’t changing and we aren’t changing who we are or what we do.”

Other changes that have taken place recently in the local banking market include a merger of the Greenfield Co-operative Bank and Northampton Cooperative Bank, announced in June.

Florence Bank officials thought it was time to come up with a more modern and “fresher” look, one both aesthetically pleasing but with practical implications that helps the bank easily identify itself in online ads, in mobile apps, on Twitter and other digital platforms. The old format made it difficult to advertise in such arenas because there were simply too many words.

Among the tangible changes customers are now seeing as part of the campaign is a new logo that says “Always,” in italics atop the words Florence Bank. That replaces the bank’s longtime logo that included an FSB monogram next to Florence Savings Bank and the tagline, “Partners in Our Hometown.”

Market Street Research tested the bank’s former slogan during its surveys and found the phrase had “low levels” of awareness and did not differentiate the bank from its competitors.

“That is not surprising because there are very few slogans that are well known,” Pokela said.

Curhan said the bank will still officially be called Florence Savings Bank, but will use the trade name Florence Bank, just like other companies do for marketing and other purposes. A trade name is often the name the general public sees on signs, the Internet and advertisements.

“I think some people thing we are changing the name of the bank, but we’re not,” Curhan said. “We’ve adopted a trade name for marketing purposes. That’s all. It’s cleaner. It’s more modern. It’s fresher and it’s easier for us to use.”

Pokela, who conducts research for banks and credit unions, hospitals and independent schools, said many banks are dropping “savings” from their bank names because they offer many more services now than in the past.

The campaign began in June and will continue into October. During that period, the bank’s new message will include 109 newspaper advertisements, 2,000 radio spots, signs on Pioneer Valley Transit Authority buses and three free-standing billboards in Northampton, Hadley and off Interstate 91 south near the Hatfield-Northampton border. The campaign also includes a website redesign to match the rebrand concept.

The billboards, for example, have pictures of people with simple messages highlighting things that are with people “always,” like family. One features a pair of sisters taking a selfie, another is a picture of a mother and child, and a third is of a man fishing.

Heaps said the rebranding campaign has been overwhelmingly popular among customers and others, particularly the television ads.

“Everywhere I go lately, people are telling me they love the ad,” Heaps said.

Curhan said the ads have been viewed on YouTube more than 5,000 times since debuting a few weeks ago. Their success will likely lead to more ads in the future, she said.

While the bank declines to disclose how much it is spending on the rebranding campaign, Heaps said the marketing budget has not increased in the last two years. The bank instead reallocated existing funds away from direct mail and funneled that money into the new campaign. The bank has also not reduced the amount of money it gives away in community donations and sponsorships, Curhan said.

Chad Cain can be reached at ccain@gazettenet.com.