CIBC pushes new brand position with Percy the penguin

Financial institution introduces "Banking that fits your life" tagline and updated logo

CIBC PercyCIBC is putting Percy the penguin front and centre to give the brand a more human touch for the modern era.

The bank has updated its business strategy to better meet the needs of the modern consumer and is promoting the shift through a new brand positioning and ad campaign starring Percy, which launched Monday. Percy will be familiar to many Canadians as the protagonist in advertising for CIBC’s Aventura travel points program since October 2013.

“The genesis for the repositioning of the brand is rooted in a new strategy for CIBC that is all around where banking is going in the next 10 years plus,” said Stephen Forbes, CIBC’s executive vice-president, brand, corporate and client relationships. Customers today want banking to be easier, more flexible and more personal, said Forbes. That consumer insight led to a new tagline for CIBC, “Banking that fits your life,” replacing “For what matters.” CIBC has also tweaked its logo to give it a slightly more modern, 3D appearance

The larger business and brand strategy emerged from two years of research that revealed a desire for a better customer experience and reflecting larger changes driven by emerging technology.

The research asked clients what they most wanted from their bank, said Forbes. “It was for the bank to work around them versus them work around the bank.”

In many ways, online banking has already made banking more flexible and easier for consumers, he said. “But they want us to keep investing and pushing in that direction. They want more innovation, they want more flexibility, they want more ease.”

CIBC has invested to be on the leading edge of technology and last year Forrester Research named CIBC tops for mobile offerings among Canada’s banks. CIBC recently announced its partnerships with MaRS to create a new corporate innovation hub, allowing teams to work on developing new banking innovations, from mobile and digital to process improvements and future concepts.

Last month, CIBC was also one of the first to offer mobile banking via the just-released Apple Watch and the first TV spot from the campaign touts CIBC’s e-deposit service, which lets consumers deposit cheques by taking a picture from their smartphone.

“I think with emergence of technology you have to keep pushing harder in that direction. Because it is all about speed and convenience, speed is everything,” said Forbes.

If a customer is trying to sign up for a new product or service, they want to be able to do it from their phone, but they don’t want to spend 45 minutes filling in forms to do so, he said.

CIBC does very well in terms of personalized service when clients are sitting in a branch across from a bank employee, said Forbes. But with online and mobile options that degree of familiarity and personalization drops away and the consumers feel less valued by the bank. “We have to invest and do better to make clients feel valued across all of our touchpoints,” he said. “If you are applying for a product online or on one of our emerging channels, they don’t want to have to be starting from scratch, like we don’t know who you are.”

As for expanding the use of Percy, Forbes said the penguin was generating a very strong, very positive reaction with consumers helping CIBC rise above a “sea of sameness” in bank advertising identified in the research.

“If you lined up all the ads together, if you block out the logo, [consumers] really couldn’t tell one from the other,” said Forbes. “We want a bit of a breakthrough from the other banks in terms of recognition, and Percy has definitely given us that.”

“The funny thing about advertising and bank advertising in particular, is when you look at the people [in the ads] it is so easy to say that is not me. It is easier to find the differences between the people in the ad and yourself,” said Terry Drummond, partner and executive creative director at CIBC’s creative agency Juniper Park. “But when you see a penguin, you go to the things that connect you and that is what makes it so powerful.”

The advertising will also have simpler language to remove some of the complexity of personal banking while relying on some gentle humour to generate stronger connections with consumers.

“We are not aiming for laughs, if people laugh that is great,” said Drummond. “But what we are aiming for is that human connection and signalling that we understand some of the traditional frustrations [with banking]. We are just aiming for moments, human moments.”

Aside from the creative, Juniper Park worked with CIBC on research and social strategy; MediaCom handled the media buy, while Fuse is working on collateral strategy and activation including a transition to paperless in-branch solutions.

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