They couldn't call it Orange.
The name was already in use, in a number of industries. As executives at ING Direct scanned hundreds of possible names to re-brand their bank, they knew that whatever they picked would need to stand out.
When Bank of Nova Scotia announced its $3.1-billion deal to acquire the Canadian arm of Dutch bank ING Groep NV in August, 2012, it created a major branding challenge. Because of intellectual property concerns, ING Direct was faced with upending a brand it had been building successfully since 1997, when its Dutch spokesman first took to the Canadian airwaves to urge consumers to "save your money."
"It wasn't a situation where we were renaming a brand that was failing or obsolete," said Andrew Zimakas, vice-president and chief marketing officer of the bank formerly known as ING Direct. "We were having to rename a brand that people generally really liked."
The marketing team was also challenged with reassuring the company's 1.9 million customers that while everything appeared to be changing, nothing would change. That message will kick into full gear on April 22, when the newly christened Tangerine launches an aggressive advertising campaign – its biggest ever in Canada, and more than double what it spent last year.
The bank has already had a television commercial in heavy rotation preparing consumers for the name change, which officially took effect this week. But the bulk of the work is still to come, as Tangerine grapples with maintaining a brand that was built on being different from other banks, while coming under ownership of Canada's third-largest financial institution. While Tangerine customers now get access to Scotiabank ATMs, the marketing team will be tasked with keeping "daylight" between Tangerine and its parent company, Mr. Zimakas said.
That means very little presence of the Tangerine brand in Scotiabank branches; no red or other Scotiabank references in its new campaign; and later this month, a series of ads seeking to maintain the image of the bank as small, simple, and different.
It started with the name. Orange was on the list because of the company's desire to reference the colour of the ING brand, for continuity. Executives pored over hundreds of names provided by the agency Lexicon Branding, before deciding on Tangerine. The list included words in Sanskrit and Latin, more than one portmanteau, and a few made-up names, before they were whittled down.
Now that the name change is done, the advertising strategy will kick into high gear. The new ads will feature the same man holding an orange mug that appeared in the "transition" ads. He will walk viewers through a word problem – one of those classics from grade school textbooks about two trains moving at different speeds toward a destination. Two people who need to deposit a cheque by 5 p.m. are travelling on commuter trains. The calculation: "If Cindy's train is travelling at 89 kilometres an hour and Roger's train is travelling at 92 kilometres an hour, how happy is Sarah that she banks with Tangerine?" It's a scenario meant to showcase the simplicity of depositing a cheque by taking a picture of it with the bank's mobile application.
This kind of word problem with a simple answer will be a running theme in Tangerine's new ads in the coming months.
"Tangerine is the simple answer to what seems to be a complicated scenario," Chris Hirsch, creative director at the bank's ad agency, John St., said.
"People don't really like to think about their finances that much. It's intimidating. It's a bit of wading through the murk," John St. partner and executive creative director Angus Tucker said. "With the simplicity of this campaign … hopefully we can get them to think about it for five seconds."
That theme will continue in billboards and online ads that pose banking decisions as A/B choice questions.
John St. will also film "contextual ads" to play before online videos. It will shoot at least 20 spots that touch on various subjects commonly searched online – everything from home improvements, to car shopping, and yes, even cats. It will then serve up ads based on what viewers have been looking at, with a wink at the financial impact of pet ownership, for example. It's a way to talk about the brand with ads that have a more relevant starting point for viewers.
Tangerine's new branding will point to its ING Direct heritage in other ways. The unnamed spokesman carries an orange mug wherever he goes (even, as in the new commercial, when hanging off the side of a train going 90 kilometres per hour). The mug's colour is important, and coffee is meant to symbolize energy, conversation and approachability. Finally, the logo design includes a modified arrow icon, a nod to the orange arrow in the old ING Direct logo. The "forward banking" slogan will stay.
Tangerine is not the only smaller bank emphasizing simplicity. Last month, PC Financial – a joint venture between the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Loblaw Cos. Ltd. – launched a new campaign urging Canadians to "debankify." It emphasizes the same elements that Tangerine does: making banking uncomplicated, and eliminating fees.
"Our whole banking offering is a simplification message," president Barry Columb said.
In general, Canadian banking customers dislike change. Bank marketers are constantly battling inertia: It is hard to convince consumers to switch financial institutions. By the same token, changes in existing services are unwelcome. Tangerine's current bump in advertising spending will have to reassure current customers, while also using the fresh image to convince prospective customers to consider a change.
"We saw it as an opportunity to step back and look at what the brand had become over 16 years," Mr. Zimakas said. "We're trying to root this in where we've been, back to the starting point and the DNA of the brand not changing."