How UBS is banking on an extensive rebrand to woo customers following strategy makeover

UBS has completely overhauled its brand to showcase its three-year long business transformation and tempt wealthy consumers to its Investment Banking arm.

The 18 month-long rebrand is today (1 September) being touted in a global campaign that sees the banking brand attempt to stand out in the crowded financial services industry. UBS has scrapped all of its original branding, bar the logo, and introduced a new design, tone of voice and “acoustic identity” to connect with consumers on a more human level.

Speaking to The Drum group head communications and branding, Hubertus Kuelps, said it was the right time for UBS to launch the new branding after enjoying “10 quarters of successive growth", spurred by a change in strategy that focuses on wealth management.

“That strategy has paid dividends,” he said. “The bank is in a really good spot so the timing to come out and say, ‘look we’ve strategically transformed, we are going to keep changing and adapting and we want to push that forward’ – this campaign does both. It shows the world that the bank has transformed but it also gives us momentum internally to keep going.”

To avoid cliché banking language and imagery UBS has pared back its design and introduced slick images of real people, shot by photographer Annie Leibovitz, a lighter font and straight-forward language, which according to group CMO Johan Jervoe was a key part of the branding.

“One thing that I think is interesting for most financial service organisation is they think the more sophisticated they write and the more sophisticated they speak, the more sophisticated they come across, but actually it’s the reverse. People have the feeling that if they don’t understand what you are telling them you are probably not telling them something that is for their benefit. And so this idea of really getting to concise, straight forward simple language with a little bit of charm is a major piece of development.”

UBS is also hoping that the introduction of an “acoustic identity” – a theme tune of sorts – will make the brand instantly recognisable. The business decided to use music after delving into research by the University of Leicester which found that companies who match their brand to music are 96 per cent more likely to be remembered.

The financial business is also taking an interesting approach to its new advertising campaign by shunning video or imagery to instead use only text and music on a blank background. The creative for the campaign fits around the idea of ‘Create Together’ and runs with the tagline of ‘For some of life’s questions, our clients are not alone. Together we can find an answer’.

“Most financial advertising, marketing and brands are incredibly similar and not innovative for a business that is as creative and innovative as banking,” said Kuelps, explaining the campaign rationale.

“One of the first things that Johan and I looked at was bank advertising from across the world,” he said. [We looked at] our peers, our competitors but took off all the logos, and kept just the pictures and sometimes the font and it looked almost like one bank. It’s either cityscapes or people shaking hands, and we just said to ourselves it can’t be that, it has to be different.”

By using just questions UBS is hoping the campaign will resonate with a wide-range of people, and allow them to identify with the questions – such as ‘Am I a good father?’ – on an emotive level.

Primarily the campaign will run online (70 per cent of the spend is digital) alongside some out of home advertising in airports and print.

All advertising is linked to a brand content hub that offers campaign videos shot with Nobel Prize winners and photography by Leibovitz. UBS is also acting as sole partner for a new ‘Women’ exhibition by the famous portrait photographer, which will feature newly commissioned work and include editorial and promotional coverage.

Success of the campaign will be measured by the “classical KPIs” of awareness and will be adjusted according to what is performing best in different markets, but Jervoe is hoping it will also make would-be consumers cognisant of the fact UBS has shifted its strategy.

“I want people to look at us and say, ‘transformed, different business model and therefore a partner that I want on my side when I start needing to have a bank on my side’” he said. “[I want them to have] this idea that we are 150 years old but we’re not 150 – we are on the forefront of what we need to be… at the end of the day the job is to drive people to being motivated to seek more information, motivated to have a conversation of, ‘could you potentially help me to answer some of my questions?’ Both existing clients as well as new clients, and we want our employees to be really proud of who they work for and that is 50 per cent of what we do for a living.”

UBS worked with Publicis, Mediavest and Poke on the multimillion pound campaign. Meanwhile, branding consultancy Prophet helped the bank devise the concept.

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