Several companies in Canada’s financial services sector have introduced new names and logos recently in grand efforts to retain clients, attract new business and reflect changes within their firms, among other reasons.

This rebranding may look like superficial changes, but the energy, expense and risk that financial services firms invest in these projects reflect the massive importance these large firms place on the way they are perceived by financial advisors and clients.

Transamerica Life Canada, for example, has spent most of this month presenting its new brand name, ivari, to advisors across Canada. Triggered by the sale of the Canadian operations of Baltimore-based Transamerica Corp. to Wilton Re Ltd. in October 2014, this rebranding project was a matter of necessity.

The new logo displays what could be described as a “youthful” look, as the firm appears to be taking aim at younger segments of the market – millennials and young families, who are notably underinsured groups in Canada.

The name “ivari” is a made-up word that has no meaning, admits Suzzette Chapman, assistant vice president of marketing with the Toronto-based firm. The team just liked the sound of it.

The design – in which each “i” is topped with a single, pink quotation mark – stresses the company’s intention to be known by its target audience as a friendly, approachable insurance provider.

“It’s not about being sold insurance,” Chapman says. “It’s about having a conversation to make sure that insurance is right for you.”

The brand’s new colour scheme includes corporate blue and pink. Says Chapman: “We went with fuchsia as an accent to show we’re a bit different.”

Clients who are buying insurance products now might find the brand more approachable, she says. Also, the new logo better suits a smartphone screen than its wordy predecessor.

According to Israel Diaz, executive vice president and chief creative and design officer with brand-makeover firm Jackman Reinvents in Toronto, rebranding efforts can be triggered by various events, such as the sale of a company, a merger or research indicating that a company is missing its target audience. Another important branding issue is making a logo compatible with mobile devices.

Diaz says that developing a logo should come only as the last step of a rebranding strategy, reflecting everything gleaned from research and audience insights. A logo should reflect a company’s purpose and conviction.

A new logo, Diaz adds, can come off as being hollow if nothing substantial backs up the implied promise of the new look. He points to the much denigrated “swoosh” that McLean, Va.-based Capital One Financial Corp. added to its logo in 2008. “[The company logo] wasn’t great to begin with, and they revised it and it still wasn’t great,” Diaz says about the logo that many people in the marketing industry judged to be a meaningless and dated alteration.

Diaz says a good example of a mindful rebranding effort would be ING Bank of Canada’s makeover into Tangerine Bank last year. When Toronto-based Bank of Nova Scotia bought Netherlands-based ING Groep NV’s Canadian business in 2012, Scotiabank’s hand was forced: the bank had 18 months to come up with an entirely new brand without losing the strength of the ING Direct brand that had inspired the purchase in the first place.

“What [Scotiabank] did was great,” says Diaz, adding that the spirit of the big-bank alternative was retained, but also injected with a fresh and friendly feel in the new brand. “It’s not like something coming out of left field.”

Another recent logo change in the financial services sector comes from what was known up until this past February as Industrial Alliance Insurance and Financial Services Inc. That firm has rebranded itself as iA Financial Group, complete with a new logo that replaces the old, fluid image of an elephant outlined in pen and ink and into a more solid, “full” elephant graphic.

The reasons for the changes to the visual components of iA’s logo aren’t obvious. And a brief on the company’s website doesn’t help much: “The forward slant of the elephant and lettering conveys our dedication to innovation and always looking to the future.”

The new brand name more clearly articulates the scope of company offerings, according to Pierre Picard, spokesman for the Quebec City-based firm. Industrial Alliance may be known as a provider of health and life insurance, but it has branched out into other financial products and services, including mutual funds, segregated funds, RRSPs, securities and car loans, thanks to a number of acquisitions and partnerships made over the years.

While the iA change is warranted, too many firms take the “change for the sake of change” approach in logo redesign, according to Steve Bang, who teaches marketing at the Business School, Humber College in Toronto.

“It can be smoke and mirrors,” Bang says of some logo revisions. The success of a rebranding, he adds, requires a buy-in from all the stakeholders.

Bang recalls when Bank of Montreal (for which he worked for almost three decades) rebranded itself as BMO. He doesn’t classify that particular rebranding as an unqualified success: the bank had one of the most recognized logos in Canada at the time of the revision, while its new logo was technically more difficult to discern. But, he says, the corporation did a good job of rolling it out, ensuring that staff at all levels had a vested interest in the process. Says Bang: “People were in the know.”

Diaz says that financial services companies are notorious for making decisions by committee, which can lead to rebranding efforts that reek of compromise. The best logos are those that come from a solid understanding of the purpose and direction a brand is taking, he says, and should inspire a visceral connection.

“It’s almost like you feel it,” Diaz says. “You get a good sense for the brand because that’s what’s conveyed to you instantly. That’s the magic of good branding.”

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