Merged banks’ new Truist moniker draws criticism online

BB&T and SunTrust joined forces intending to create a top-flight institution, but to avoid favoring either partner, they chose a neutral name that has left many scratching their heads.

What’s in a name? PR pros know that your organization’s calling card is an important signal for the value of your brand.

Naming a new or overhauled business is a tricky process, usually left to outside agencies who can find something that feels fresh, yet timeless. However, the team behind SunTrust and BB&T’s new name for their merged bank might have taken a wrong turn.

The company announced its new name would be “Truist,” an homage to both institutions’ history of service and professionalism.

It wrote in a press release:

“Truist is a brand name representative of two mission- and purpose-driven companies coming together to serve our clients as a true financial partner,” said SunTrust Chief Executive Officer Bill Rogers, who will be President and Chief Operating Officer of the combined company until he succeeds King as Chief Executive Officer in September 2021. “As part of our relentless pursuit to create a better experience, we’re making a commitment to always look forward, pursue what’s next and strive to do more to further financial well-being for everyone.”

…Additional brand elements, such as the logo, typography and visual identity will be revealed at a later date. The combined holding company will be named Truist Financial Corporation and the combined bank will be named Truist Bank. While the new names will be effective upon completion of the merger, clients will continue to be served post-closing under the BB&T and SunTrust brands for the near future. Over time following the closing, both the BB&T and SunTrust brands will be seamlessly transitioned to the full Truist client experience, products and services.

However, the new name is going over like a ton of bricks among some naysayers online.

Some reporters picked apart the press release, parsing it for hyperbole and exaggeration.

Some users were quick to draw comparisons to Tronc, an incarnation of Tribune Publishing that many ridiculed. (The Tronc brand was retired after two years of derision.)

Some pointed out that the company doesn’t own a Truist.com website, an important piece of virtual real estate for any company.

The name seems to be a misstep for an organization that wanted to project trustworthiness and accountability.

American Banker wrote:

“Truist conveys that we will be true to our legacies,” Susan Somersille Johnson, SunTrust’s chief marketing officer, said in an interview in advance of the official announcement. “We will have honesty and transparency. … We stand for a better future for clients, employees and the community. It will convey an exceptional client experience.”

Some have asked why BB&T and SunTrust didn’t just keep one of their names, preserving decades of built-up brand loyalty and name recognition. The decision seems to have stemmed from an attempt to deal with both companies equally.

American Banker continued:

The process of picking and implementing a new brand is tricky, especially in this case. Since the combination has been billed as a merger of equals, the regional banks had no choice but to develop a new identity, several industry experts have said.

“To keep one name over the other doesn’t really scream ‘merger of equals,’ and it just amplifies the opportunity for employee dissonance,” Steven Reider, president of Bancography, said in an interview in March. “This is a transformative merger. … A new name backs that up, to say this is a different entity.”

BB&T and SunTrust hired Interbrand, a New York unit of Omnicom Group, to provide research, brand positioning and naming services. Employees from each company’s marketing, digital and client experience divisions participated in the process. Customers were also consulted.

Branding pros are slamming the move, but banking insiders are withholding judgment.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote:

Mark Speece, a founder of the Atlanta-based branding firm StokeSignals, said the name presents challenges. The combined bank is “likely to fight auto-correct and the assumption that the name is spelled with an ‘e’ like the real word ‘truest,” he said.

But perhaps more importantly, Speece said, “Strategically, the name falls flat.”

“‘Trust’ is a baseline attribute for a bank. It is the absolute minimal requirement,” Speece said. “A brand’s story should be more aspirational – providing an opportunity to tell a differentiating, interesting and compelling story.”

But Chris Marinac, a bank consultant with Janney Montgomery Scott in Atlanta, said while the branding is important, other details that will determine how the bank interacts with customers are more so. Those decisions are still being made.

“I think slow-playing this makes a lot of sense,” he said. “Going too fast is where mistakes happen.”

Will the name stick or will the new moniker end up on the cutting room floor, with Tronc? If the Twitterati get their way, the name won’t be the last change the financial company makes.

COMMENT

2 Responses to “Merged banks’ new Truist moniker draws criticism online”

    Anonymous says:

    I don’t get it. It just doesn’t roll off the tongue. I don’t see this being synonymous with trust and banking

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