Tangerine repositions for growth


Market success, even one based on disruptive innovation, is often fleeting. Many new businesses burn bright but quickly fade away due to competitive moves, changing consumer tastes, or ill-fated acquisitions. This need not happen, as the story of web-based bank ING DIRECT, now rebranded as Tangerine, illustrates.

Dutch bank ING Group introduced ING DIRECT into Canada in 1997 as a phone and web-based retail bank with a unique brand proposition – no fees, higher savings rates, simplicity and approachability. The business was instantly popular, especially among educated and tech-friendly consumers. By 2010, ING had attracted 1.5 million customers and over $20B in deposits, primarily owing to its innovative high interest savings account, no-haggle mortgage, and low-fee mutual funds. The firm was also an early adopter of social media and mobile banking. Despite the success, storms clouds were appearing on the horizon.

ING began to lose market differentiation and was close to its market potential in its core segments. The Big 5 Canadian banks had taken notice and were picking up their game in terms of market competitiveness. Importantly, ING’s savings rate advantage was evaporating in a falling interest rate environment. Finally, ING’s consumers were evolving, looking for a greater variety of products and services. Clearly, the firm was at a strategic crossroads: continue to focus on its core market with a niche, largely “savings” offering, or evolve towards more of an everyday bank that was capable of truly meeting the needs of the emerging “direct” banking consumer.

In 2010, the Company decided to go for growth and reposition ING as a more full-service ‘everyday’ direct bank for individuals, families and small businesses. To do this properly, however, ING needed capital. Their Dutch parent was in no position to deliver, but Scotiabank was, and in 2012, they agreed to acquire ING DIRECT’s Canadian business. As part of the deal, the firm had to undergo a rebranding and name change – which culminated in the launch of the Tangerine brand in April 2014.

“Changing the name of a beloved Canadian brand that always delivered on its promises needed to be approached delicately. Our challenge was in how to leverage the equity of an iconic brand, while forging new ground and establishing leadership in everyday direct banking in Canada,” said Andrew Zimakas, Chief Marketing Officer at Tangerine. “We knew this change would be highly scrutinized by our employees, customers and the market overall.”

Research shows that upwards of 80% of all M&A deals fail to generate incremental shareholder value. Quite often, the acquired brands end up being scuttled. Yet, this did not happen with Tangerine. Management of both companies prudently followed four key principles:

Establish brand primacy
The repositioning has always been a Tangerine marketing-led initiative. This ensured equal attention was paid to crafting and communicating the right narrative and message to the overall market – as well as to each Tangerine employee or brand ambassador. Unlike many acquisitions, this was a growth-focused, value enhancing story, not one of cuts.

All parties understood the value of Tangerine’s unique brand, growth imperative and value proposition – and the importance of not compromising it for short term gain. Safeguarding Tangerine’s brand heritage, authenticity and differentiation were paramount before and after the deal was completed. Going forward, both Scotiabank and Tangerine’s management have remained true to this mission.

Enhance customer value
To remain relevant and ensure message clarity, Tangerine conducted extensive customer and employee research immediately after the deal was consummated. The Company learned that they had to enhance their value proposition to maintain loyalty and to improve their odds of successfully growing the number of customers and the number of products they purchased. To this end, a number of service enhancements were introduced concurrent with the rebranding, including new ATM distribution and a fully responsive web site.

Execute with excellence
Many acquisitions and strategic pivots give short shrift to execution, significantly increasing risk. From the outset, senior leaders understood it would take 12-18 months and sufficient resources to effectively re-brand the operations – which impacted over 3000 consumer touch points across digital properties, call centers, marketing materials etc.

Get the governance right
Having good governance is vital to making deals work. This acquisition featured clear roles & responsibilities around who was leading the Tangerine rebranding and how this effort was plugged into the Scotiabank governance structure. Even though the Tangerine team maintained autonomy, Scotiabank was part of the transformation team from the outset and provided important support for the rebranding strategy and execution.

The Tangerine story is a best practice for strategically repositioning a brand into new markets as well as how to prudently integrate a successful company without compromising its brand values. Many of the lessons include: getting the right people committed to the same goals; understanding and delivering on consumer & employee needs and; executing the transformation with excellence.

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc., web site.

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