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Lucas Compan - puts brand in the bank

Lucas Compan
puts brand in the bank
by Lucas Compan
November 4, 2002

In the early 1990s, Banco do Brasil was like an elephant: large and strong but immovable like a mountain. Research showed that clients had some good perceptions of the brand – traditional, safe – but the brand suffered from negative images where the client expectation was not met. Twelve years later, the scenario has improved tremendously. The BB Branding Program, among other important decisions, was the element responsible for increasing new business. Lucas Compan describes his experience with Banco do Brasil.

"In 1991, I began the most definitive experience of my career, as Assessor of Presidency in marketing communications for Banco do Brasil. Banco do Brasil, founded in 1808, is the largest bank in South America, with 81,000 employees, almost 8,000 branches, international partnerships with Visa, MasterCard, and Western Union, and 13.4 million clients. At the time I joined, the company was strong but suffered from a poor brand image.

The definitive tool that gave power to the Banco do Brasil [BB] brand began in January 1991 with an enterprise called ‘MCC- Marketing Communication Contributors.’

In three months, MCC united more than 5,000 professionals (including myself) from all over the country, interested in working on Banco do Brasil's brand at headquarters in the capital city Brasilia. At this time, I was working part-time at BB in São Paulo, and as a freelancer for advertising agencies the rest of the time.

The Presidency selected its BB employees well, choosing carefully based on ability, capacity and good creative skills to work on different areas involving tactics and operational services.

The 5,000 professionals were arranged in several groups of five or seven-member teams. We all participated in real jobs, day-to-day situations for 10 or 15 days under observation. After our visit, we returned to our offices to see who would be picked for the final team.

After seven months, the Presidency invited only nine of us from the group of 5000 to continue with the strategic program. So, I began a terrific adventure on branding that impressed on me how a good branding program can effectively launch a brand to capture the target's mind. And, how terrific and profitable results could be. In fact, a branding program based on a central strategic position helped bring together all of the employees. And conversely the brand activity became more credible when brand management was in a central strategic position.

I learned then that branding must effectively involve the whole company.

The second step of the program involved investing heavily in sports marketing actions. BB sponsored Brazilian National Team of Volleyball and the Banco do Brasil Beach Volley Circuit. This turned out to be a fortuitous sponsorship as in the next Olympics (US 1996) the National Team achieved the gold medal and Beach Volley became a strong success.

Brand awareness for Banco do Brasil is among the highest of all financial institutions in South America. Creative advertising gives support to this good brand perception.

Another important action taken was the Visual Identity Manual, which is the best identity manual I'd ever seen before. We hired a corporate identity company in Brazil to create a consistent ‘face’ to Banco do Brasil.

Before this, all of the 8,000 agencies of Banco do Brasil had a different visual identity. For instance, at Paulista Avenue, the financial center of South America, in São Paulo, SP, there were three BB agencies. In 1991, these three agencies seemed like three different banks: colors, external identification, furniture, internal layout, business stationery, business cards – all were different from each other.

It was an expensive and difficult experience, but within three years, all of the BB agencies adopted exactly the same visual identity. Recent researches show us that brand perception has completely improved since the beginning of the 90s – both for the employees and the clients.

Achieving consistency at the environmental-design level was complemented with creating new products and giving strength to existing and traditional ones. Cheque-Ouro (Golden-Check) became the strongest check of the competing financial institutions. In the Northeast of Brazil, several commercial establishments have a notice upon entering, which reads 'We only work with Cheque-Ouro from Banco do Brasil.' This reflects the brand credibility.

The most important technology investment BB made was a strategic partnership with Microsoft. To launch this, Bill Gates conducted a seminar in the Presidency Auditorium on the day that we signed the partnership.

Since signing the partnership in 1998, BB has a complex, advanced technology center – one of the best in the world. As a result, BB gains high ratings in credit analyses.

Is all this working? In 2001, BB had almost US$ 450 million in profits.

After almost 12 years, BB became top of mind. What's more, brand awareness rates strongly among young people. Not just in talking about banking but also interest in BB products. To leverage this, BB created special products aimed at the teen market such as BB Campus – agencies with tailor-made products inside universities – and BB Teen – agencies inside shopping centers featuring fun and special products for young people.

Among clients there is a popular belief that: 'If Banco do Brasil breaks down, the country breaks down first…'

In the summer of 1997, I left BB to begin a personal experience as an entrepreneur. But one important thing that I can testify to is the importance of a well-done branding program conducted by a central strategic area inside the company."

Lucas Compan was Assessor of Presidency in Banco do Brasil's marketing communication area. He is now CEO and Creative Director of Gol Marketing, a marketing communication agency based in São Paulo City, SP, Brazil and Nin9 Branding, based in New York City.
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