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Big Steps for First Independent’s Brand

First Independent had been family-owned for nearly 100 years, during which time the bank’s solid track record helped it forge deep roots in its southwest Washington communities.

That was the good news for the bank’s ad agency, Grady Britton.

The bad news? First Independent was a nearly 100-year old family-owned bank, perceived as “my grandfather’s bank” with a “dusty” image easily ignored by a younger, fast-paced audience.

Recognizing its image problem, First Independent turned to Grady Britton to help “re-invent and re-introduce the bank’s brand.”

Andy Askren, the agency’s Partner and Creative Director, described the underlying rationale for the bank’s rebranding strategy. “The bank’s heritage, it’s renewed energy, it’s commitment to leading each individual’s financial well-being — no matter what stage of life they were in –helped shape First Independent’s renewed promise to their audience,” Askren said.

That led to development of the bank’s catchphrase, “Ready When You Are,” something Askren described as “part invitation, part challenge.”

“A statement this bold needed a mark — an icon — as solid and contemporary to match it,” Askren explained. “We developed a badge of sorts that incorporated a 3D ‘stair-step,’ reflecting the bank’s commitment to helping people ‘up.’”

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Three red steps up are a metaphor for the bank’s onward-and-upward perspective.

Askren said the bank wanted to make sure it could “live the brand” before it was rolled out to the market. “Education, process changes, even rethinking many of the bank’s products were part of a nearly year-long internal campaign of ensuring the bank was ready to actually demonstrate being ‘Ready When You Are,’” Askren said.

For the launch, Grady Britton developed a teaser campaign. Various installations of “Big Red Steps” began appearing in public venues around the bank’s area — at malls, city parks, outdoor markets. These 10 foot tall sculptures were surrounded with “police tape” with a URL: BigRedSteps.com. This microsite featured a countdown clock to an unnamed event.



People could upload photos of their own sightings of the Big Red Steps at the microsite.


Targeted ads in the Vancouver Business Journal featured a painter painting a set of Big Red Steps, signed off with only the headline of, “It’s coming. BigRedSteps.com.”

Askren said research showed that First Independent went from eighth bank people would consider to #3 in the first year following the rollout of the new brand.

In 2008, Grady Britton helped First Independent respond to the financial crisis with a new series of messages within the “Ready When You Are” brand theme.

“We retooled our message with a new ‘survivor’ angle,” Askren explained. “We introduced the ‘Welcome to Life in the New Economy’ ads that reflected the reality everyone was now living.”

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Yes, indeed, this ad was intended to run sideways.


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