Financial services firms started rather late to build and manage their brands. Strategic finance branding was practically non-existent until well into the 1990ies. In banking circles, “brand” was associated with the noisy promotion of lowly consumer goods but not with the discreet atmosphere of sophisticated financial services.
This has changed completely. Today, all relevant players in the financial industry manage their brands actively and usually to very high standards. They learned to build their brands strategically and to employ design as the sharpest tool for the job. UBS can claim a pioneering role in this development. During the merger the bank’s marketing specialists realized that its future brand would need to offer more than long tradition and a well-known name. UBS started to think about its brand promise and brand personality, about key messages and brand recognition through language, design, and sound.
Single brand strategy and global corporate design
The development and implementation of a globally unified corporate design was an important milestone. Its strong consistency and high degree of detail were unmatched by any other bank at that time. This was leveraged by a single-brand strategy that greatly increased UBS’s global brand awareness. The bank gave up several well-known Wall-Street names such as Warburg, Dillon Read, or Paine Webber. In return, UBS was recognized worldwide as a relevant global player. This greatly accelerated expansion in Asia, especially in China and Singspore.
The UBS brand design has been revised and evolved in regular intervals carefully building on existing assets. The advanced visual identity was soon complemented with a verbal and an acoustic identity – once again ahead of the industry. Over time, the brand’s visual expression grew clearer and simpler while its communication became ever more pointed and lively.
Finance branding has to deal with greater restrictions than branding in most other industries. UBS overcame these restrictions by striving for highest standards of excellence over a long time. Thus, UBS became the benchmark for brand management in the financial industry.
Corporate typefaces increase brand recognition
Financial business is essentially verbal, not visual. Legal issues are important and put even more emphasis on the written word. This makes corporate typeface a potential differentiating factor. A typeface gives text a visual expression. The unique and customized expression of UBS’s corporate typefaces UBS Headline and Frutiger became a main constituent of the UBS visual identity – like the logo with the famous key symbol and the brand color red.
We developed the corporate typeface families and extended their language coverage in close cooperation with Akira Kobayashi of Monotype. First, we enhanced legibility on screen and added italics and bold weights. Then we added complete Cyrillic and Greek character sets. For Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Arabic writing we defined equivalent typefaces. The brand’s characteristic typography further increases UBS’s brand recognition and improves language support and technical compatibility at the same time.