By Garland Pollard
We got our Wall Street Journal this morning and noticed how in an ad for Wachovia’s merger with Wells Fargo, the A.G. Edwards logo is prominently displayed as an equal to Wachovia. The ad is called “The Wisdom of Age. The Strength of Experience.” It cites Wachovia and A.G. Edwards’ combined 120 years of experience, looking forward to the day that both brokerages are merged into Wells Fargo. However, when you go to the website, the A.G. Edwards logo has disappeared, and it is all Wachovia.
Please go back and read our post on keeping the A.G. Edwards brand. It was written before the Wall Street blowup that tarnished Wachovia’s storied brand name, but it still makes sense. Here’s why.
The Wall Street crisis has proven to be a black mark for the practice of uber-branding, of ripping off all the regional brokerage and bank names, and coming up with a master brand. Renaming Wheat First and making it Wachovia, and eliminating the A.G. Edward brand in favor of Wachovia created a problem for the customers of Wachovia Securities. Because when the health of Wachovia came into question, it tarnished all the subsidiaries that bore the Wachovia brand.
Good investment professionals say diversify. And that goes for brand names too. For instance, BB&T has kept the Scott & Stringfellow brand as a sub-brand in the Southeast. Everyone is aware that Scott & String is a subsidiary of the bank (they call it an affiliate) but the public has a different expectation of the two brands. Ditto with Bank of America and U.S. Trust.
Diversify. Use brands like Wheat First and A.G. Edwards. They mean something to customers. Wells Fargo is one of the great American brand names, among the greatest, but it doesn’t speak to me as a Southerner looking for brokerage services. Wheat does speak to me. Wheat stands for James Clifton Wheat, a giant of a good man who happened to run his Southern brokerage house like a gentleman. His former staff in Richmond at Wachovia adores his legacy, as do his customers, who are rich.
Butcher & Singer, which was a Philadelphia brokerage that merged with Wheat, apparently now is a restaurant brand, Butcher & Singer, as it is opening up in an old bank building where a Butcher & Singer office was located.
In an era when the Wall Street creeps got greedy, we learned the Old School investment men from outside Wall Street had a proper understanding of investments, stocks and the like.
Great old brand names mean something, especially in financial services.
Perhaps it is time to pull some old brands out of the attic, like Wheat? Or dust some off, like A.G. Edwards.