When a Bank Renames Itself

By Michelle Allen Cassel

What’s in a name? For the former Community Trust Bank, it was more than a century’s worth of community goodwill and $3.8 billion in assets on the line when we rebranded ourselves as Origin Bank in late 2015.

How Origin Bank renamed itself after a century of doing business.

When internal planning started more than a year earlier, we knew we were dealing with a huge logistical challenge. With 41 locations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, along with the emphasis we place on branding heavily throughout our markets, we faced a major task with updating our signage.

On a more fundamental level, however, we faced perhaps an even bigger challenge. We needed all of our stakeholders—employees, customers, shareholders, the communities we serve—to immediately recognize what Origin stands for while understanding that our way of doing business had not changed.

So why put ourselves through it in the first place?

In a word: oversaturation. By our calculation, more than 230 bank branches in our markets include either “community” or “trust” in their names. We were getting lost in the crowd. Things were so confusing that, just before the rebranding began, some of our customers were downloading the wrong smartphone app.

We wanted a name that reflected the originality of our bank, our corporate culture, and the places where we do business.

The process began with conversations about our company identity.

We talked about who we had been as a company, where we were at the time, and who we wanted to be in the future. We wanted a name that honored our past while symbolizing our progress forward. We also wanted it to reflect our uniqueness. When our customers walk in, we want them to notice a different style of banking and a different kind of banker.

We realized the best place to start was at the beginning. Origin is, by definition, the point or place where something begins, the source or cause of something. It represents the place where dreams begin for each of our brand’s four pillars—customers, employees, shareholders and communities.

And it exemplifies our individuality internally and externally. We trademarked the name and are now the only Origin Bank in the United States.

The next step was employee buy-in.

The rebranding began with internal announcements in early October. At pre-planned, concurrent special events in each market, our state presidents shared the news with employees and handed out merchandise with the new logo—t-shirts, coffee cups, tumblers, lapel pins, and more. In training sessions over the next two days, we explained to our staff the reasons behind the change. We also went over the kinds of questions they could expect from customers and how best to answer them.

That part of the process was crucial. It helped build excitement internally, and left employees eager and confident about sharing the news.

Then the news went public.

The Origin Bank brand was unveiled publicly on October 9. In addition to traditional media announcements, we posted the announcement on our Facebook and Twitter accounts, and launched a new Instagram account.

The announcement was especially fun to watch on social media, where our staff engaged directly with customers. We saw the conversation unfold in three different states with three different attitudes. In that sense, social media also provided a real-time indicator of customer and stakeholder perception.

Reaction from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive, especially in Mississippi and Texas. There was a bit of concern initially from some of our customers in Louisiana, the location of our headquarters and where our company began, which was expected. Thanks to our preparation, we were able to quickly assure everyone that no change in ownership had taken place.

Of course, the most important component was our capable team and its investment in the rebranding project. The process took well over a year of meticulous planning from signage to communication, from letterhead to website.

What we learned.

To businesses and organizations in our industry looking to rebrand, we find it important to underscore the fundamental elements and lessons learned from this process.

  1. Understand the meaning, the connotation and perception a rebranding endeavor will have throughout those specified four pillars: customers, employees, shareholders and the larger communities you serve.
  2. Give attention to brand uniqueness and what this means from an evolutionary standpoint of your company.
  3. Tie back to the past while embracing the future as you restructure, revise, or redesign your brand.
  4. Use technology and social media as a gauge and metric for engagement and reception.

Rebranding is a major undertaking and no simple feat, to say the least. It requires an investment of time, money, energy, manpower and general resources. But with proper implementation, your business can create a new era and an “original” identity that checks off all the right boxes. When done right, all the meaningful components come together in assuring a successful rebrand.

Michelle Allen Cassel is the senior vice president, marketing director of Origin Bank, a more than century old, Louisiana-chartered bank which provides a wide range of traditional banking services with more than 40 banking centers throughout Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi. In her role, Michelle oversees all efforts and initiatives related to the bank’s marketing strategy, plans and programs. She joined the bank in 2004 and maintains an office at Origin Bank’s headquarters location in Ruston, Louisiana. Email: [email protected].