A brand new name
So how did Belfius go about this process? “The first thing we determined we needed to do was to quickly divorce ourselves from the Dexia name and the various legacies that the group had left us with. In order to give ourselves some room and time for manoeuvre we decided to develop and launch a completely new brand in a very short space of time,” says Smet. They employed some traditional – but also some less conventional – methods in this process; and they used it to begin developing one of the elements that would be crucial to the company moving forward – internal communications and engagement.
Smet explains, “We engaged the usual communication agencies to help us develop a name, brand and corporate logo and livery. But we also enlisted assistance from the employees and used Vlerick as a sounding board for what we were doing. The final name was actually suggested by an employee and not by the branding agency - but the process we went through was pretty exhaustive and we considered 4,000 options before deciding on the name: Belfius.”
The name was kept under close wraps while the strategy for evolving the brand, logo and other corporate elements, and launching them to the public, was considered. Vlerick also assisted in this process, providing additional analysis and input into various scenarios in order to get to an optimum position. “We were very happy with this unusual three-pronged approach using staff, agencies and an academic establishment. It gave us different sorts of perspective and inputs and we could use the more professional communication elements to refine the raw contributions from the less initiated. We knew that whatever emerged from the discussion would need to offer a solution that wasn’t dependent on huge sums of money being invested in advertising and other forms of paid marketing – we needed to get the message across by less expensive and more viral channels,” he goes on.
The professional agencies developed the brand properties and a logo and corporate design that promoted Belfius as a more customer-oriented, inclusive brand – the ‘us’ in the name actually references the English collective pronoun. “Someone, we don’t who or how, leaked the new brand name to the press the night before the launch,” Smet told us, “and by morning there had been 40,000 mentions in social media. In the space of a few weeks the name had a 70% recognition factor.” That was only the first, very small, step in installing and re-establishing the company in the marketplace with a new face and ‘set of clothes’ as Dirk Smet puts it. “That by itself didn’t fix the reputational issues either of the previous business or the financial sector in general nor move us on to a place where the business was viable again. These were the real challenges we faced as a company and as individual managers within the company.”