Time for change

Same great service, just a different
name. That’s what AmTrust Financial
., formerly Ohio Savings Financial Corp., wanted to communicate
through a marketing campaign announcing
the bank’s name change.

But getting that simple message across
took a lot of time and work, says Debbie
Martinko, AmTrust’s public relations director.

She said the most important thing to
remember is the impact the change has
across the board.

“There was not one single line of business
that we have here or one single department
or employee that wasn’t impacted by it,”
she says. “Internally and externally, know
that you have to think about every single
thing because it does impact every single
aspect of your business.”

In early 2006, the bank’s leaders decided
to go forward with the name change. The
bank has been known outside Ohio as
AmTrust for years, so the name was only
changing in Ohio.

The bank formed a name change committee consisting of representatives from
each department in the company to discuss
the process. But committee members were
to keep the news quiet until the bank sent
out a formal communication to employees,
which was done in early 2007 through letters and postings on the company’s
intranet. Once everyone had been notified,
employees received a list of answers to
anticipated questions.

“We wanted to control the message getting out to our customers so we were ready
once the word started to get out to customers,” Martinko says. “Everybody hears
something. Somebody who works here
talks about it, and somebody comes into
the branch and says, ‘I hear you are changing your name. What does that mean?’ So,
we put a list together of standard responses to that.”

Along with meetings within each department, the name change committee met
every week and communicated openly if
there was a problem in the process.

“That was the touch point for everything
so that everybody was on the same page
with the entire project,” Martinko says.

Internally, the company didn’t want to tie
itself to a specific date to announce the
change. Instead, it told people the date of the change would be in the spring.
Eventually, April 23 was set as the official
date — a goal that the company met.

Martinko says it was important to set a
specific date.

“Without a date, the team doesn’t stay
motivated to keep taking care of things,”
she says.

Customers received letters before the
marketing campaign started to alert them
that the bank’s name was changing. Once
again, the key was to reinforce that nothing
but the name was changing.

“The letters we sent to every customer
probably are what really worked the best,”
Martinko says. “We didn’t take the chance
that they would see the TV ads or the newspaper ads or hear it on the radio. Sending
them the information upfront was beneficial.”

Because the bank normally only runs
small print advertisements, it hired Marcus
Thomas LLC to help with advertising.

But even with outside help, Martinko says
AmTrust’s attention was strongly focused
on the name change marketing campaign,
forcing other projects off to the side.

“From the date of the name change going
forward, we had about an eight-week
media schedule,” she says. “Within those
eight weeks, it was strictly name change.”

And all the careful planning and attention
to detail paid off in a successful transition
to a new name.

“It’s really rewarding to see it all come
together,” Martinko says.

HOW TO REACH: AmTrust Financial Corp., (216) 736-3480 or

Out with the old

Part of the challenge of communicating a name change is defining how long
to reference the company’s old name in
marketing materials.

At AmTrust Financial Corp, formerly
Ohio Savings Financial Corp., that is
Cindy Flynn’s job. The senior vice president/chief marketing officer says that
task could have been easier, but the
bank had not done enough research
upfront to establish awareness of the
Ohio Savings name.

“You want to know where you stand
with the old name,” Flynn says. “What is
the awareness today? Then, going back
up into the marketplace a couple months
into the name change and asking consumers, ‘Do you know that Ohio Savings
is now AmTrust?’”

To find out if the marketing campaign
to raise awareness is succeeding, Flynn
says she would like to take a random
sample of people in the marketplace,
with a target of finding that 65 to 75 percent of those polled knowing that Ohio
Savings is now AmTrust Bank.

“We are thinking we will carry it
through the summer and maybe into the
September time frame,” she says. “And
get a sense from our branches and from
our customer service calls we make
every day. Getting a pulse on, ‘Are people really understanding that this change
has taken place and this is a positive