Brands in the News

Drop the Fifth Third Brand!

23 May 2018  

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.


6 Responses

  1. Raymond Cathode says:

    At the time of the merger of third national bank and fifth national bank in Cincinnati, they thought it best not to call it 3/5th’s bank. Liquor reference and all that (and LESS than 100%). Besides, there’s nothing wrong with being “A Fifth Third Better.” And everyone remembers the name… a good thing!

  2. Thyra Obuobi says:

    Was just wondering what “fifth third” is all about especially for somebody who is not resident in North America. Sounded ridiculous and this acquisition is the right time to get a new name that will drive the brand. Couldn’t agree with you more on this article.

  3. harry kane says:


  4. Jim Stawicki says:

    Couldn’t agree more! I always wondered what was behind this abomination. Now we know. Thanks for putting some legitimate clothes on the emperor, Tim.

  5. Jill Orum says:

    Totally agree!! For as long as I recall, I ask myself every time I drive past one of those banks “why would they stick with that brand??” Definitely hope the acquisition prompts them to finally move to a more meaningful brand name.

  6. Kathy Kraas says:

    Interesting. I hadn’t considered the silliness in the name until you pointed it out but was very interested to see the merger.

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