CoBank-Electric Distribution / Integrated Campaign

Scope of work / industry research, brand strategy, positioning, marketing campaign

CoBank, one of the leading banks serving rural America, has seven core divisions. Bianca e Nero was contacted to create a branding campaign for one of them, Electric Distribution. The few major competitors the bank has aren’t bound by the same restrictions as CoBank, being a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE), where there needs to be some tie to agriculture for the bank to do business with a company or business. Other local and commercial banks do not need to play by the same rules.

During discovery we were able to uncover some very vital insights, mainly how in recent years larger commercial banks have started moving in on CoBank’s turf and customers had lost sight of the fact CoBank has a single-minded purpose—it only serves rural America. So we created a campaign to remind them of CoBank’s reason for being. We came up with concepts that celebrates rural America.

The campaign did that in a very interesting way with the overarching line, “Life is bigger in a small town.” We brought that thought to life by telling the unique story of many small towns (over 30 ads and counting) across the country. We gave people a chance to get to know and learn little gems about each town they otherwise would not have known. We hired a photographer to fly to each town spread across the country, armed with our shot list and curiosity and a desire to showcase each town’s uniqueness.

We dedicated the majority of the ad to the town’s story and reserved just a small paragraph at the bottom of each ad for CoBank that summed up how the bank knows and serves rural America like no other bank. The power of the ad says more than anything we could ever say about the bank while showing who they are and what drives them. Kudos to the client for having the courage to run over 30 ads, each dedicated to 30 different small towns. Another bold step was their entire 50 x 50 trade booth, which they dedicated entirely to a single town. This would change depending on which part of the country the show was in. This kept the campaign fresh and shows CoBank is invested in and celebrates rural America. The collateral echoed the overall look and tone of the print ads and trade booth. We tied a small town to each of the bank’s core services to show how they are making a huge impact with those they serve in rural America.

Results: The campaign has created quite a buzz in the industry and has triggered many customers to reach out and invite the bank to discuss future projects. Also, a great number of small towns are submitting requests to be the next town featured in an ad. It didn’t hurt that the campaign took home first place in the industry marketing awards, and the campaign is still going strong.