New: Logo, visual system and retail
Launched: January 2008 on Web;
at retail, pending
Story in brief:
Capital One is preparing to
rebrand these North Fork branches with its own brand. But does it
have a swoosh, or not? One branch does, another apparently
February 2008: North Fork branches on
Long Island and (below) on Park Avenue
The story, in any case: In 1988, a consultant named Rich
Fairbanks sold Signet Bank on an "Information Based Strategy" to
grow its credit card business. This worked so well that in 1994,
Signet Bank spun it out as Capital One, with Fairbanks as CEO.
With the help of intrusive advertising featuring obnoxious
characters ("What's in your wallet?"), it prospered in credit
cards, and added car loans and mortgages and savings products.
So what's next? Buy some regional banks, of course; become... like
the old Signet Bank! So Fairbank acquired Hibernia in Louisiana and
Texas, and North Fork in New York, giving him some 742 branch
locations -- and set about rebranding them all as Capital One.
But the existing Capital One wordmark, a quiet and confident
presence that teamed well on credit cards with a Visa or MasterCard
symbol, was seen as too passive, not sufficiently assertive, for
retail banking. The 'swoosh' addition was designed internally
sometime in 2007, and enjoyed a soft, rolling launch to employees,
and to the public (via
www.capitalone.com) with the message "Hope you like our new
look." There was no news release... unusual, for a rebranding
of this scale and significance. But speaking for Capital One, Pam
Girardo now [27 February] tells us that...
"Over the years, we’ve been diligently working to transform
Capital One from a monoline credit card issuer into a
diversified financial services company. We’re now one of the
largest banks in the country, and it’s important that we
transform our identity to be more aligned with a retail
environment. We believe this identity better represents a
progressive and dynamic company within an established category.
The logo was designed internally, although we engaged several
agencies to assist us with the visual expression / house style
From other sources, we can confirm that Landor is among the
"several agencies" retained for house style work.
C.E.O. - Richard D. Fairbank
Logo modification design - Internal
Visual system & applications design - Landor (NY)
Strategy: No problems. Rebranding the acquired
branch systems, and strengthening the Capital One logo for that
purpose, is a no-brainer.
Execution: There's no nice way to say it. Adding a
red swoosh, to Capital One's admittedly boring but functional,
dignified wordmark, shrinks the brand to the level of... a candy
bar, or a comic strip. Then executing it poorly, running the
swoosh under the letterforms while failing to resolve the
overlap (which turns the O into a blue-rimmed frisbee) adds to
the injury. The result is a mark that indeed succeeds in calling
attention to itself, but at the cost of degrading its visual
Landor will, I am sure, make the best they can
of it -- but was given a pig's ear to work with.
As a leadership story, frankly this one is
difficult to understand. We await the branch unveiling, and
associated launch communications, with interest.
New Yorkers will miss the fresh, truly lively green-yellow
street presence of Roger van den Bergh's North Fork Bank design. In
its place, we have another blue & red bank to keep Chase and Citi
(2002, by Onoma Design)
CEO Rich Fairbank