Yesterday Fifth Third Bank announced that it would be acquiring MB Financial Bank. The move gives Cincinnati-based Fifth Third an opportunity to do something it should have done a long time ago – drop its ridiculous brand name. The combined institution should become MB Financial Bank or adopt a completely new name.
Every once in a while organizations make marketing moves that seem logical on paper, but in practice simply don’t work. The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, for example, at one point created a new logo that was full of wonderful references and imagery. Unfortunately, it was also unattractive and the school eventually abandoned it.
The Fifth Third brand is the result of one of these logical but poorly conceived decisions. In 1908, the Fifth National Bank merged with the Third National Bank, and in a truly creative and inspired move, the team decided to call the bank Fifth Third.
Fifth Third makes no sense. Fifth Third? Really? What does that even mean? Is there some significance to the Fifth Third? What happened to the other four thirds? As school children, we are taught to reduce fractions. Shouldn’t we reduce that one and call it One and Two Thirds?
The leadership team at Fifth Third knows it is a most unfortunate name. They just haven’t been brave enough to change it – the name has stood for over a century. The bank’s latest marketing campaign plays off the goofy name, with the absurd statement that the name Fifth Third indicates that they try 66% harder.
Acquisitions often require big branding decisions. When you combine brands – especially redundant brands – it is important to simplify the portfolio. Fifth Third will have to make a big brand transition one way or the other; there is no reason to keep both Fifth Third and MB. On first thought, the logical move is to keep the larger brand, Fifth Third. Only in this case, the larger brand is also a problem.
It is time to phase out one of the most awkward brands on the market and end the Fifth Third disaster.