Republic Bank Group

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Practicum:“The Re-branding and Repositioning of the Republic Bank Group: The Case of Republic Bank DR S.A.”

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A brand is the sum of the customer’s experiences with the products or company – how the customer thinks and feels about what the business does. The brand is transmitted in every interaction with the customer over the lifetime of the relationship and is therefore built from the customer’s entire experience with the company, not just through the company’s communicated identity. It therefore plays a critical role in building trust and loyalty.

According to the 4-D Branding model devised by Thomas Gad (refer Appendix 1) the brand operates at four different levels in the mind of the customer. These four levels include the functional (the perception of benefit of the product or service associated with the brand), the social (the ability to create identification with a group), the spiritual (the perception of global or local responsibility) and the mental (the ability to support the individual mentally). These four dimensions are derived from the customer’s experiences at the brand touch-points and combine to form the customer’s overall perception of the brand.

The challenges facing brands today however are numerous, and in financial services the challenges are even more acute because of the intangibility of the facilities being provided. In the case of banks that operate in diverse territories, the major challenge lies in the ability to balance global or regional brand integrity with local cultural authenticity. These brands must be viable on a global or regional scale, but remain relevant at the local level.

The Republic Bank Group faced this dilemma as it expanded its operations to embrace several Caribbean territories with different cultures, preferences, languages and modes of behaviour. The branding challenge in such an environment can become quite complex, with the level of complexity multiplying across subsidiaries and divisions of the bank, product lines, markets and even advertising agencies. Controlling brand identity in such an environment can be exigent.

The case of Banco Mercantil, Republic Bank’s subsidiary in the Dominican Republic, however posed a different challenge. The viability of that brand was undermined by a combination of internal (mismanagement) and environmental (economic decline and near crash of the financial system) factors that led to the complete erosion of its brand equity in a relatively short space of time. The brand ceased to engender trust and confidence among its customers and while it still existed at the functional level from the point of view of providing banking services, it was devoid of credibility at the social, spiritual and mental levels.

Following qualitative research involving a population of 1200 households spanning the bank’s three major market segments (mass, private and corporate/commercial), the bank faced the decision of rebuilding the existing brand;

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