Branding Citigroup: reconnecting with customers

As Citigroup reached its 200th anniversary this year, it had a lot of work to do on a brand that had just recovered from the global financial crisis. When chief brand officer Dermot Boden joined in 2011, he faced many challenges.


“We need to reconnect the brand with our clients and consumers in an environment that has been very challenging,” he says.

“From the basics, if you look at our logo, it’s been inconsistent in the past few years; we’ve allowed people to develop what they wanted to. We’re trying to get back to consistency. It’s just a logo, but it represents the brand and what we want the brand to stand for.”

Citi conducted an extensive programme of market research to determine what these things should be, canvassing staff, customers, regulators and the press. A brand strategy was devised that sought to deliver consistent messages and reinforce its key attributes. “It became clear that what is very important in a financial services brand are resilience, stability, trust, and when you explain that Citi has been around for 200 years, a lot of those become more apparent,” says Boden.

In the west, the negative brand perceptions created by the financial crisis were mainly caused by the investment banking side. But it’s the retail side, which has everyday contact with consumers, that bears the brunt of their anger. Michelle Peluso, the departing chief marketing and digital officer for Citi’s consumer bank, says it is also a “developed market problem” and one that is shared industry-wide, such that “if something bad happens to Barclays, that tarnishes our brand too”.

Nonetheless, Citi decided to “build a one-brand business” across all its divisions. Boden argues that the benefits outweigh any drawbacks of having the retail and investment arms yoked together.

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