Capital One prepares customers for end of Chevy Chase Bank name

By Danielle Douglas
Monday, August 30, 2010

More than a year after completing the acquisition of Chevy Chase Bank, Capital One is rolling out a rebranding campaign this week in advance of plans to formally change the institution's name to its own nameplate on Sept. 10.

Prepare to be bombarded by advertisements on television, billboards, buses and in newspapers.

The rebranding effort marks Capital One's third such campaign in five years. The McLean-based credit card giant went into banking in 2005 with the $5.35 billion purchase of Hibernia, a New Orleans-based bank with 293 locations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. A year later, Capital One tucked New York's North Fork Bancorp into its portfolio, a $14.6 billion acquisition that gave the company 353 branches in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Bill McDonald, chief marketing officer at Capital One, said the company has dedicated the most time and money in its latest campaign -- he declined to offer exact figures -- because Chevy Chase Bank is in its back yard.

"This is easily our biggest and most impactful marketing plan ever," he said.

Instead of the one or two commercials in rotation that heralded the prior conversions, the Washington area will be treated to rotations of four broadcast ads over the next few months. The first will debut this week. Some will feature Washington Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb, others Capital One's "Viking crew" explaining the conversion, services and community involvement.

Metro stations around the region will showcase Capital One banners with the company's mantra, "What's in Your Wallet?" prominently featured. Area residents visiting their favorite online news sites or chatrooms should also expect to see pop-up and banner advertising.

Nearly 10 creative agencies were employed by Capital One for everything from direct mailing efforts to point-of-sale materials. The team initially focused on educating Chevy Chase customers of the coming conversion via the bank's Web site, e-mails and regular mail. Setting customers at ease in the weeks following the merger, McDonald said, is crucial to keeping them from leaving the bank.

By now, Chevy Chase customers should have their fill of information. But that doesn't guarantee that they paid much attention. "I've seen the stuff on the Web site and received a letter, but honestly I don't remember reading it," admitted Rasika Krishna, 30, who has been a Chevy Chase customer for nine years. "There are no concerns, as long as the number of branches and the online banking remains the same."

Some fees will change with the conversion. For instance, customers with personal savings accounts can expect to be hit with a $3 teller withdrawal charge for more than one face-to-face visit per month or a $3 charge for more than three ATM withdrawals a month. On the flip side, minimum balance service charges will decrease by $2 and accounts for minors will now earn interest on all balances.

Mike Dobbins, executive vice president of consumer banking, described the changes as minimal. If anything, he said, the merger will offer Chevy Chase customers a suite of new products, such as mobile banking and rewards checking, which allows customers to earn points for spending that can be redeemed for merchandise, airline tickets or cash back.

Still, all of the upheaval in the banking industry in recent years has made consumers skittish, said Vanessa Gail Perry, associate professor of marketing at George Washington University's School of Business. "It's a tough time for banks to make these kinds of changes, but consumers are very reluctant to switch financial providers," she said, referencing a 2009 study conducted by Interbrand Research.

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