As Crain’s Chicago Business reports, Banco Popular is testing a potential name change in the Chicagoland market in an effort to shift perceptions and appeal to non-Hispanic market segments. According to the report, “Manuel Chinea, senior vice-president of retail banking operations at Banco Popular North America, says the current name makes many non-Hispanics believe the bank isn’t interested in their business.” The bank will introduce the new name, Popular Community Bank, at its 14 Chicagoland branch locations in August.
While appealing to a broader audience appears to be the primary reason for the name change, the change is not without risk. The name change could drive current customers away. It may not be enough to attract a significant number of new customers. It will likely dilute the bank’s current brand position. And, in today’s marketplace – with so many name changes, mergers, and acquisitions – the change may raise questions about the overall condition of the bank. The effort begs the question: Is the move from a different and recognizable name to a more generic and unremarkable name really what’s needed here?
In some ways, it feels like Banco Popular is looking for a quick fix with this effort. A name change alone isn’t enough to completely shift perceptions. Rather than focusing on the name change, it seems that the bank would be better off focusing on messaging and outreach targeting non-Hispanic customers. With or without a name change, the bank’s marketing efforts will need to act as a driver in creating or reshaping peoples’ perceptions about the bank. The name change seems like an unnecessary (not to mention costly, with the proposition to change the name at 97 branch locations) addition to the mix.
It sounds like Banco Popular expects to make a decision about whether the new name will be rolled out across the entire network after about six months of testing. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how the bank’s campaign supports the effort, how it’s received among Hispanic and non-Hispanic consumers, and perhaps most importantly – how the bank introduces and delivers a brand position that appeals to such a broad target.