ING Direct rebrand will work if Scotiabank leaves it alone (Column)

Bruce Philp wonders if we should be reassured by so much reassurance?

Should we be reassured by so much reassurance?

To say I’ve been paying close attention to the rebranding of ING Direct after its 2012 acquisition by Scotiabank would be a comical understatement. I was there at its birth in 1997, wrote most of those “save your money” commercials with the Dutch guy, watched it grow up through four CEOs, and then wrote a book about it. You can call that a disclosure; I’d call it an obsession.

Now, finally, the bank’s new brand is officially facing its customers, and I have to say they’ve done a pretty good job of it. The new name, as obvious a reference to ING Direct’s iconic colour as it may be, is note-perfect for its modernistic whimsy. The slogan, “Forward banking”, which I found arid and flat alongside ING Direct, now seems more at home. Along with the little arrow icon they created to go with it a while back, it provides some reassuring continuity. They were clearly patient and deliberate about this. Admirable—and all too rare these days.

I only wish I were as impressed with the accompanying narrative. Visit Tangerine’s new web site, and the first thing you’ll see is a promise not to change. And then another. And then a video that’s long on reassurance, and short of, well, much else:

It’s understandable that they’d want to keep their current customers calm, but I wonder if they listened too literally to their focus groups. Sure, customers will say they don’t want anything to change; what they really want, though, is to know what’s in this for them. Instead, I cringed a little when Scotia’s Anatol von Hahn said they would “let” ING Direct continue to do what it had always done, while Tangerine’s marketing people delivered their lines with the sincerity and confidence of hostages. This much reassurance is the kind of thing you usually hear right before the tanks roll in.

For all this, the best news here is that Scotia is going to run Tangerine as a separate business at all. It’s fun to think that it could do for them what Saturn was supposed to have done for GM: be a laboratory for innovation, free from the weight of history and scale, channeling what it learns back to the mother ship. Tangerine could still keep Canadian banking back on its heels and goad it into being better. And what a second act that would be.

This story originally appeared in Canadian Business

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