Citigroups taking on a new brand name

Updated: Jan 20 2007, 06:32am hrs
Citigroup, the global banking giant, is shrinking -- but only its name. Executives are prepared to rebrand the company Citi and to fold up its familiar red umbrella, instead using a logo with a stylized arc above the name. The new name and look, which follows a 14-month review of the bank's brand, will be presented to the Citigroup board this week, according to several executives close to the process. No final decision has been made, and it could still undergo some minor changes.

If adopted, the revised Citi brand and logo will be used at nearly all the vast financial services company's businesses, including retail branches and its investment bank concentrated in the New York area, and showcased around the world. The design is similar to the Citi logo that now appears on much of its consumer advertising, office buildings and credit cards.

The plan to unify Citigroup's businesses under a new, single brand is part of an ambitious campaign by the chairman and chief executive, Charles O. Prince III, to better integrate the bank's sprawling parts after years of acquisitions -- a strategy investors are still waiting to see pay off.

Symbolically, it also marks the end of an era. a more coherent brand strategy signals Prince's plans to shift the focus of a company sometimes seen as a deal machine to one largely powered by internal and international growth. The brand makeover comes out of the playbook of other big companies. Apple Computer, for example, last week shortened its name to Apple to emphasize its broader ambitions for other technologies, like the new iPhone.

By shedding the suffix "group" as well as the red umbrella, Prince is severing the bank's most tangible ties to Weill, Citigroup's patriarch, who made the old Travelers Group logo a key term of that company's landmark 1998 merger with Citicorp Over two decades under Weill, many of its operating businesses like the retail operations, Citibank, and the brokerage arm, Smith Barney, adopted their own looks and retained their old names. The result, in the eyes of some, was a mishmash of logos and titles that appeared disconnected. Now Prince hopes to unify the company under one global name at a time when he is urging more cooperation between the businesses. He also hopes to achieve some small cost savings on media spending, which totaled $623 million in 2005, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

NY Times / Eric Dash