Two Banks Merge And Become ‘StellarOne’

Virginia Financial Group and First National Bank just completed a merger. The two banks were similarly sized, and when there’s a merger of equals, one of three things happens:

  1. The two banks mashup their names, like ‘Virginia National’ or ‘Virginia First.’ This is the most common route merged banks choose.
  2. One of the two banks has such an obviously great name, or clearly has more brand equity than the other, so that name prevails. This isn’t that common though, mostly because few financial institutions have truly great names with any brand equity.
  3. They start fresh with a new name. That’s what these guys did.

The merged banks will be called ‘StellarOne.’ The bank will be based in Christiansburg, Virginia, and will be the largest independent commercial bank headquartered in Virginia, with over 60 branches and total assets of more than $3 billion.

Name Distinctiveness:
The words “One” and “First” are the most familiar — and most overused — naming conventions in the financial industry. You can slap “One” or “First” in front or in back of just about any other word and whammo…you’ve got a serious-sounding financial name.

The ‘One’ naming device used in ‘StellarOne’ isn’t as rhetorical as it is in names like ‘Community One.’ You can at least use it in common language, as in “Which bank am I going to? The ‘stellar one.’”

Name Meaning and Message:
‘StellarOne’ makes a brand promise. It may be a bit of a stretch to suggest a banking experience with them will be “stellar,” but it’s better that the name have some sort of story than no story at all (like ‘Virginia National’ or ‘Virginia First’).

There’s also a bit of an astral quality to the name. Pro? Con? You decide.

Trademark Status:
Virginia Financial Group filed for a trademark on ‘StellarOne’ back in October, 2007, so this name has clearly been in the works for some time prior to the official announcement.

There are 11 federally protected trademarks on file for the word “Stellar” in the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office’s financial services category. One is an insurance underwriter, another is a commercial lender in Ohio. None of the existing trademark holders looks to be particularly threatening to StellarOne, although you never know — someone just may decide to make a stink anyway.

New Logo: It’s a wordmark (type only), and sort of a crude one at that.

Overall Grade: B-
StellarOne is a “safe choice.” The name is a little different, which is good, but it’s not different enough to spark intrigue and really engage people. Names like WaMu and Wachovia trigger much more emotional reactions, and they are more fun to say.

Maybe ‘StellarSeven’ or ‘Stellar4’ would have been better?

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