Confession: it has been a while since I stopped paying attention to brand re-launches. Cynicism or experience? A bit of both, probably.
But UBS, which was reviled as the United Bandits of Switzerland after the 2008 crash in which obscure financial instruments knocked a huge hole in the world economy, has gone through a change – and reflected its transformation in a rebranding campaign that I find fascinating.
In 2015, its slogan went from a hollow line that protested too much ("We will not rest") to an intriguing customer manifesto. Now UBS says "For some of life's questions, you are not alone. Together, we can find an answer."
It was CCO Hubertus Kuelps, whose remit includes branding and projecting the bank's brand into the customer space, who drove the new campaign. At www.ubs.com/together you can see how the campaign is structured.
All UBS marketing online links back to a microsite that expands on the campaign theme.
The theme derives added credibility from its sheer usefulness. Let's follow one of the stories in the campaign, look at the questions it raises – and the responses from UBS as a service provider:
Next to a portrait of a chef in his restaurant, his questions are "have I gone as far as I can?" "Can I still grow my business?" "Or should I invest in other areas?"
The restaurateur in the picture, Marcus Wareing, says "I never give up. I never want to slow down. I have ambition. I have certain things to do."
Clicking on a button "see how UBS can help" those who are in the chef's situation, and it takes you to wealth planning, and also to a network of young CEOs "because we believe sharing ideas brings a new perspective." A powerful trust builder, to connect customers with "people like us".
Together with the brand campaign, UBS introduced a new mobile and digital-friendly brand design, a simpler and clearer tone of voice, and a new sonic logo.
"We were going for a uniquely recognizable and emotional campaign and a brighter, more modern UBS brand. Really doing our homework with exhaustive research and testing helped get us there," said Kuelps.
He says that to reach out effectively to the bank's client base, over 70% of the campaign's media investment is focused on digital channels including social media.
"Our clients stand at the center of this campaign and the majority of them are extremely digitally savvy," said Johan Jervoe, Chief Marketing Officer. "They appreciate a bank that has an effective and efficient 21st-century approach to everything it does – including marketing."
What I find especially intriguing is how the bank hooks up with activities tied to current events and key issues in order to project the breadth and depth of its brand. Let me take a current example.
On the home page of the microsite https://www.ubs.com/microsites/together/en/home.html the headline is "Inspiration From Women Driving Change" – and the stories are around International Women's Day and its hash tag #BeBoldForChange.
The first story says
"#BeBoldForChange is the theme for International Women's Day 2017. It's also the way we should be living every day. Women are transforming the world we live in and becoming a force for economic change.
But gender equality still hasn't come far enough. At UBS, we recognize how women are challenging, reinventing and innovating - inspiring the next generation to do the same. Women are part of our agenda - in our business, our workplace and our communities. Together we can #BeBoldForChange.
UBS uses female icons like the photographer Anne Leibovitz, the founder and CEO of the social enterprise Womensphere, Analisa Balares, and Nobel economy laureate Elinor Ostrom to deepen its narrative about the role of women in society.
I always thought banks were shallow and reluctant to immerse themselves in real issues. UBS is neither.
No wonder then, that the CCO, the CMO and the CEO look at the branding campaign in a similar fashion – as a key strategic pillar for the enterprise, and an active catalyst for change.
"The brand campaign is an expression of the successful strategic transformation UBS has undergone over the past four years," said UBS CEO Sergio P. Ermotti. Reflecting the strategic transformation through our branding gives us additional momentum."