From local commodity to
national media superstar
- Citizens Bank received its first deposit from the daughter of a vice
president at the bank on April 19, 1871, and grew slowly in its home state
of Rhode Island over the next 100+ years.
- Purchased in 1988 by the Royal Bank of Scotland, Citizens management
was charged with the mission of rapidly growing the bank organically and
- Research told them consumer and business customers perceived little
difference between banks and suffered from massive inertia when it came
- Banking is now a two tiered industry—two levels of commodity service:
large vs. local banks.
- Banking customers were generally dissatisfied with service at super
regional banks, but thought is was easier to suffer than switch.
- While customers appreciated the higher level of service at local banks,
they also recognized their limitations (fewer ATMs, products and services,
- All agreed that there wasn’t a bank that made them feel special.
- Citizens launched a brand strategy study in the New England markets
where it already had a presence and where it hoped to expand.
- The attitudes, behaviors, needs, problems and motivations of key groups
of banks customers, both retail and businesses, were studied.
- Customers were exposed to different positioning concepts and asked
about their perceptions of different banks.
- Importantly, research and analysis went beyond a rank order of what
retail/business customers said was important to determine what truly
“motivates” them. The answer was not lower prices.
Consumer Segmentation for a Regional Bank
- Leverage its position as the local favorite in its home state where it was
already well-known and look for merger opportunities to expand into new
- Offer the lowest fees and best interest rates in the market, restructuring
the organization to become the low cost competitor.
- Position the company as a bank that makes its customers feel special,
that offers exceptional levels of personal service, in order to generate
significant organic growth.
- Larry Fish, Chairman, President, and CEO of Citizens Bank, and Theresa
McLaughlin, Executive Vice President and Director of Marketing, decided
on the third option, to become the bank that makes customers feel
special, and moved ahead with the development of an array of services to
deliver on the brand’s promise of exceptional service.
- Among other things, Citizens extended branch hours and opened on
Sundays, launched a switch concierge service, expanded into grocery
stores, and empowered and rewarded staff for going to great lengths to
- It also launched an advertising campaign which, under the tagline “Not
Your Typical Bank,” demonstrated how the bank makes customers feel
An example of a billboard seen throughout New
- Penetration of the Citizens positioning has hit record levels for the bank
and the industry.
- Citizens commands the highest level of customer satisfaction in the
- Citizens is now the #2 bank in the nation in terms of the number of instore
- The bank’s assets have grown from $3 billion to $160 billion.
- Citizens is one of the 10 largest banks in America.
- CEO Larry Fish is heralded as a banking genius by the business media.