TD Bank’s U.S. Promise: No Ropes, No Pens – Just Humans Helping Humans


Banking has become more consumer-friendly, particularly through sophisticated ATMs and mobile banking applications, but banks are still hampered by the stereotype that they are largely impersonal. TD Bank’s new branding campaign, “Bank Human Again,” makes the most of that deficiency.

New TV and web spots, supported by newspaper and digital media including a microsite, show a variety of consumers in what appears to be a cold, gray unwelcoming bank. Each consumer attempts a simple action only to be thwarted by a robotic-sounding voice that spouts bank policy.

In one spot, for example, a customer finds that the chain on the bank’s pen is too short for him to write. When he asks about it, a disembodie voice says, “Here’s the thing, Martin, banks can’t have people taking their pens.” TD Bank’s answer: plenty of pens with no chains. Not to mention no rope lines, free coin-counting, and a focus on the little things that add up to the big things in customer service.

While a chained pen may seem insignificant, it’s a remnant of banks’ traditional (inflexible, impersonal) way of doing business. “The new marketing campaign viscerally communicates TD’s attributes of unparalleled service and convenience, and our customer-first culture,” stated the bank’s Chief Marketing Officer Vinoo Vijay.[more]

TD Bank, which originated in Canada (as Toronto Dominion bank), is still using “America’s Most Convenient Bank” as its U.S. tagline. The new campaign is a creative expression of its conveniences, which TD says are not typical for banking brands: longer hours than other banks, branches open on Saturdays and Sundays, and a welcoming environment with no walk-through-rope-line mazes.

The new branding campaign is a significant departure for TD Bank, which in the past has relied on celebrity endorsements by former TV talk show duo Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa. Vijay acknowledged that Philbin and Ripa “have done an incredible job for us,” but as he told the New York Times, “It became a good time for us to look at how do we present our narrative in a way that our employees and our customers can visually feel.”

It appears, however, that “Bank Human Again” will pale in comparison to previous ad spending. The campaign is costing TD about $20 million, according to the Times, while it spent around $83 million on advertising in 2011, according to Kantar Media. TD Bank certainly isn’t the first (witness Ally Bank’s campaigns) to address the downsides of large, impersonal banks in this age of digital and virtual finance.

TD, which stands for Toronto-Dominion, is the second largest bank in Canada. When we profiled TD Bank in late 2008, it already had a significant U.S. presence, largely through acquiring such banks as Commerce Bank and Banknorth, both on the East Coast. The brand is also recognized through its co-ownership of stock brokerage firm TD Ameritrade.

In addition to launching its new marketing campaign, TD is looking to continue its U.S. expansion. This month, the bank announced it would buy U.S. asset management firm Epoch Investments for $668 million. In October, the bank said it would pay $5.9 billion for Target’s U.S. credit card portfolio. As TD CEO Ed Clark told Reuters, “We are seeing improvement in the U.S. economy that make larger deals more feasible.” Now it’s looking to its new positioning to spur that growth.