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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Citi’s “Let’s get it done”—a pale imitation of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s “Make it happen” campaign*

I know I’m coming late to the party, but the new (May 2007) Citi brand campaign stinks; to me, “Let’s get it done” is a shameless copy of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s “Make it Happen” brand campaign (at the very least in message, if not in execution). Why did Citi drop the “Live richly” theme, developed by Fallon, which was doing so well? (Even if it was a bit controversial -- or because of the controversy -- see http://www.slate.com/id/2068683/#)

Creditcards.com reports that “Starting in January, Citi brought research from its rebranding effort to meetings with representatives from Fallon and Publicis, with the goal of creating a campaign that would be suitable for retail and credit card customers, major advertisers, and investment banking clients.” (http://www.creditcards.com/Citi-Launches-New-Brand-Ad-Campaign.php)

What does that mean? What research? The bank wasn’t happy with the results that its “Live richly” campaign was driving? It couldn't stand being high-level, high-concept, and idea-based?

What a waste…what a loss of a good brand.

Adpunch.org notes that the new campaign is supposed to connect with audiences’ financial aspirations: “The basic theme of the campaign is Citi’s outstanding portfolio of financial products and services drives its clients towards financial success. The advertising has been customized to appeal to different markets and cultures in a variety of languages.” (http://www.adpunch.org/entry/citi-group-lets-get-it-done/)

The Royal Bank of Scotland campaign is so much more effective than Citi’s effort: “At The Royal Bank of Scotland Group we believe actions speak louder than words.” (http://mediacentre.rbs.com/advertising/index.aspx) That’s it. Simple. The same message as Citi is trying to broadcast with the new campaign, but so much higher-level.

Publicis, which is responsible for the new campaign, shouldn't take all the blame, though. By October 2006, Fallon had already veered away from "Live Richly" with the "Very Rewarding" campaign "which features two eccentric East European-sounding characters, Roman and Victor showing the many ways they can earn Citi rewards points." (http://www.thirdwayblog.com/category/citi/)

As ThirdWay points out,

"By displacing rather than supplementing the 'Live Richly' campaign, however, Citibank is essentially swapping a branding campaign based on the type of user who might be attracted to Citibank (the consumer who understands that life is not just about money) for a 'features and benefits' brand positioning. The 'Live Richly' brand positioning was clear and defendable. By using television and huge spend levels, Citi is creating new brand positioning with these product spots whether they like it or not."

All of this points up a major problem with brands today: a lack of continuity. Instead of updating “Live richly” to incorporate the key message of “Let’s get it done,” which could have been done, the bank dumps a successful brand in favor of a very bland, commodity-like imitation of a bank positioning that has already been taken. Sad.

*Note: I have no way of knowing whether the campaign is actually an imitation or just happens to look like one. It doesn't really matter, though...because this is really a matter of perception. The RBS ads hit the streets before the Citi ads did (http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-6387518/RBS-takes-Make-it-happen.html), and that's what counts.