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Customers to have say in new name for Wauwatosa Bank

[UPDATE HERE]

Wauwatosa Bank is inviting its customers to visit branches and vote for their favorite name from three options: ‘Granite Bank,’ ‘WaterStone Bank’ or ‘Security First Bank.’ People also can submit other names by writing suggestions on their ballots.

Each ballot cast is an entry into a drawing with prizes worth a total of $3,000. Four separate winners will be awarded a 46” flat screen TV, a laptop, an interactive video game system package, and a $500 gift card.

On its website, the bank said, “We want you to be a part of our history. We invite you to share your opinion on a new name for the bank. To choose your favorite name, all you need to do is visit any of our branch locations and fill out a ballot.”

Customers can vote at any one of the bank’s eight branches before February 29.

“‘Wauwatosa’ does not define us, nor does it help us gain acceptance in a new community.”

Two years ago, Wauwatosa Savings was a traditional savings and loan institution, focused primarily on acquiring CDs and providing mortgages. Today, the bank is a full service financial provider. In addition, the bank added three branch locations since 2006.

The bank may expand further in its home state of Wisconsin and beyond.

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Doug Gordon, president and CEO, said, “A name change is necessary to better reflect what we are now and what we plan to be in the future.”

This article says Wauwatosa Savings will join a trend among Wisconsin community banks eliminating geographic references from their names as they grow outside their original markets. They join Wauwatosa Credit Union who changed names just a few weeks ago to ‘Focus.’

All three options proposed by Wauwatosa Bank involve some degree of trademark risk. ‘Granite Bank’ and ‘Waterstone’ are both registered trademarks on file with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Specifically, they are granted federal protection within International Class 036 which covers financial services.

The biggest problem with ‘Security First’ is the name’s ubiquity. There are literally dozens of ‘Security First’ banks.

According to this press release from the bank, Wauwatosa Savings acquired the ‘Waterstone’ name when it bought a local mortage company about a year ago.

Key Questions:

  • How is the customer vote being audited for fairness? What if a customer objects to the vote’s outcome (because they don’t approve of the winning name)?
  • Will the vote actually determine the winning name? Or will customer votes be used to gauge “customer preference?”
  • Depending on which name prevails, will it be challenged legally.

Bottom Line: From a trademark perspective, ‘Waterstone’ seems to have the least risk. And the bank already has an existing relationship with the ‘WaterStone’ name. Nevertheless, the familiar sound of ‘Security First’ could prevail in a vote among customers. The trademark for ‘Granite Bank’ is locked up, so that would be a very risky move.

Tip of the Hat: To the PR firm, who got threedifferentstories about the naming contest perfectly timed for release on the same day.

Update: Here.

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