Merrill Lynch is feeling bullish.
Bank of America today announced the re-launch of the Merrill Lynch Wealth Management brand with a familiar face, Dollar the bull. After 10 years out to pasture, Dollar's reintroduction comes as part of the "help2" campaign, an effort to assuage customer trepidation amidst the economic downturn.
The $20 million campaign, across television, radio, online and print features taglines “help2achieve,” “help2cherish,” “help2discover” and “help2begin.” According to BrandWeek, the 2 is displayed in superscript to illustrate the firm's "one-to-one relationship between financial advisers and clients" and sell the "exponentially better" services and relationships now available from Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. The ads feature bucolic scenery, children playing and a bull overlooking a city from a hillside.
While intended for an affluent market, the creative strikes a decidedly juvenile mood, suggesting some confusion by Merrill about what product it offers. The imagery better fits the sale of portable mp3 players than sound financial advice.
Built around a central idea of "customer advocacy," Merrill Lynch is joining other banks in an emerging trend of campaigns to reclaim customer trust. Interbrand's Best Global Brands 2009 identified consumer trust as a cornerstone for any brand looking to rebuild in the new economy, noting the "massive opportunity for brands that embrace values like trust, permission, clarity and consistency; and a huge threat to those who fail to live by those standards." Merrill's "help2" campaign echoes a recent Forrester Research survey that concluded consumers hold higher opinions of brands that exhibit concern for their best interest.
Merrill's branding efforts may be undermined by parent company Bank of America, which continues to attract a slew of negative publicity with CEO Ken Lewis' announced departure and subsequent exit bonus, federal intrigue into the acquisition of Merrill, and the outstanding debt BofA owes the federal government in bailout funds.
But recent history has proven the Merrill Lynch brand too big to fail -- or for BofA to rename. Though the "help2" campaign shows signs of latent trendjacking, Merrill is likely to retain its brand sovereignty.