Citigroup was created when Citibank and Travelers merged in 1998 and became the largest integrated financial services group in the world. With operations in more than 100 countries with 300,000+ employees, it provided a full range of retail banking, wealth management, corporate and investment banking, and alternative investment services. In 2005, the financial service sector was highly competitive in every category.
Citi: Developing a global brand promise
Citigroup had been growing globally, mostly through acquisitions, but the branding across its vast range of businesses was inconsistent. The company invested significantly in marketing but failed to leverage the power of its business and geographic footprint to help customers tap into its far-reaching financial expertise. To stay competitive, Citigroup decided on a comprehensive rebranding. Landor Associates was engaged to develop a new corporate brand strategy and architecture for its wide range of audiences.
Landor's research uncovered key consumer, client, and employee perceptions about the company and indicated that "Citi" was the core name by which the company was known. The findings helped Citi define its brand positioning: to help clients across the globe succeed in all aspects of financial life. A fast-track program was undertaken to reflect the new positioning for Citi's visual identity, advertising, and internal employee engagement. Research showed that the red umbrella icon, a legacy of the merger with Travelers and used with numerous Citigroup logos, was still primarily associated with Travelers insurance, even though the insurance business had spun off.
After recommending that Citi retain its existing "arch" identity and apply it across the organization, Landor created a master brand strategy around the idea of one unified Citi. The new branding system affixed "Citi" to the names of the majority of its offers and used different-colored text to distinguish retail from institutional businesses. The umbrella was replaced with the red arc universally, which was imbued with a true brand purpose as a clean, modern symbol connecting clients' desires and aspirations to the financial solutions that best address their needs.
Citi's brand purpose became a core part of its vision, values, and business practices, providing the foundation for all Citi's marketing and advertising activities. The implementation program was initiated in 2007—the new Citi-centric logos were unveiled, and the umbrella icon was sold back to Travelers (a sale that helped finance the rebranding). Accompanied with the launch was an internal brand engagement program to help employees understand the refined brand promise and deliver it confidently. The changeover to the new brand system was completed by early 2008. Recent brand-tracking studies indicate that Citi's brand strength has held up remarkably well, despite the global economic upheaval, reflecting the company's leadership position across its banking businesses and providing it with an essential asset in the turbulent markets of 2008.