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Before and After

By: Amanda Karfakis

Federal savings accounts were the foundation of Hamilton Bank when it began in 1915 with a single branch. Today, the bank provides a wide range of services at multiple locations across Greater Baltimore, offering lines of credit, mortgages, home equity loans, online banking and business banking services. Even so, it has been difficult for the $318 million asset bank to be recognized as more than just a small savings bank. Growth has been steady — now with five branches and more than 50 employees — but the current management recognized that there was an even bigger regional audience they could be serving.

Within its five-year strategic plan, Hamilton Bank placed marketing as one of its top priorities. The bank brought in the branding and public relations firm Vitamin to offer expertise and objectivity, which began with group interviews in June 2011. The firm spoke with tellers, operations and platform teams, executives and the bank’s board to identify Hamilton Bank’s core differences versus the competition, its strengths and weaknesses, and its opportunities in the market. Next, Vitamin dug deep into the challenges the bank faced, which would be met through a solid marketing strategy.

The Challenges

The public saw Hamilton Bank as a savings and loan lender, as it had been for decades. The current customer base was loyal, but it did not necessarily know that Hamilton offered more than CDs and savings and checking accounts. For those in Greater Baltimore who did not grow up near a branch, they likely did not know the bank at all.

Hamilton Bank had built a successful business banking division and was ready to expand. How could it attract new customers and promote these services to existing customers? How could it build credibility and differentiate from competitors?

Furthermore, Hamilton Bank will celebrate its centennial in 2015. How could it create visibility and name recognition prior to the 100th anniversary, with the goal of making the anniversary an even more notable event in the press and to the general public?

The Results

On April 2, Hamilton Bank launched its new marketing strategy with a name change, evolving from Hamilton Federal Bank to Hamilton Bank to better represent its full range of services. The launch included the introduction of a new logo, tagline, website, advertising campaign, media relations strategy and an HTML email series. A social media strategy will launch later this fall. The new marketing strategy was guided by the series of interviews Vitamin facilitated, and the resulting core marketing messaging that was developed with Hamilton Bank’s executive team.

This messaging, called the value proposition, defines Hamilton Bank, its customers, its differences and the benefits it provides:

Hamilton Bank is a community bank dedicated to building lasting relationships with small businesses, homeowners, individuals and entire families in Greater Baltimore. We put the customer at the center of every transaction, taking the time to understand the customer’s goals and always putting their needs first. While maintaining excellent financial stability and a superior reputation, Hamilton Bank has transformed right along with its customers, adding new services to meet their complete banking needs: business loans, home equity loans, mortgages, online banking and 30,000 no-fee ATMs throughout the region. With nearly a century of experience, Hamilton Bank has proven its stability, its reputation and its dedication to the customer. Build your future with Hamilton Bank — we’re the only bank you need.

The value proposition is the basis for all of Hamilton Bank’s rebranding efforts. It was leveraged to help overcome the bank’s marketing challenges, including misperceptions about its service offerings. This included incorporating the brand messaging throughout the new website (www.Hamilton-Bank.com) which is the central resource for people seeking details about the bank and community banking options.

The website offers a collection of financial calculators and current interest rates, as well as information on the bank’s services, leadership and latest news. The site was built on the WordPress platform and it features a custom template that allows website administrators at Hamilton Bank to update the content as needed.

The value proposition also serves as the foundation for a multi-channel advertising campaign designed to generate awareness of the bank’s new name and to actively market key products. The campaign targets outlets across the region, with a particular focus on business media to generate awareness for the business banking group. It was tested to determine which media and content would drive the best results. This testing is enabling Hamilton Bank to refine and improve its targeting and media spending year over year.

The bank’s business banking group is gaining more visibility and credibility through regional press coverage, as well as a new HTML email series, “Bank On It,” which features 12 months of business banking tips from the bank’s president.

During the next two and a half years, as Hamilton Bank heads toward the 100th anniversary, it will continue to build its brand awareness and exposure. The core marketing message will remain consistent across traditional advertising channels, social media, the website, and interactions with the press and public. Hamilton Bank is building relationships with regional media outlets to keep it top-of-mind among journalists leading up to the centennial in 2015.

Rebranding Hamilton Bank was an 11-month process, and the most demanding part of it is complete. Through the overarching strategic plan and the marketing plan developed with Vitamin, the bank is committed to its goals and has put into words who they are and what they promise to the customer.

“Our strategic rebranding initiative was certainly worth it, yet we’ve only just begun to build our new brand after launching in April,” says Bob DeAlmeida, president of Hamilton Bank. “We have buy-in from our team, attention from the media and a receptive audience that will help us continue to grow. People tell us that they love the new website and that Hamilton has been making great strides in the marketplace. It is through this channel, along with innovative advertising, that incoming inquiries and excitement has grown for the bank. Now, as we look to the future, we plan to continuously feed our brand with fresh, creative and smart ideas that not only complement our foundation, but add value to our growing customer base.”
 
Get more details on Hamilton Bank’s rebranding program at: www.vitaminisgood.com/work/client.aspx?id=73.

Amanda Kanfakis is president and CEO of Vitamin PR. Contact her at 410-732-6542 or amanda(at)vitaminisgood.com.

Copyright (c) September 2012 by BankNews Media


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