Local Firm Maintains 53 Signage

February 23, 2007
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COMSTOCK PARK — Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bancorp is sticking with locally based Valley City Sign for all the new exterior signage related to its re-branding campaign.

Larry Magnesen, Fifth Third's chief marketing officer, said Valley City Sign is Fifth Third's signage company of record and has installed the exterior signage for all its branches.

The re-branding effort will apply only to signage for new, remodeled or relocated banking centers, Magnesen said. The company has made no decision about retrofitting existing branch locations, he said. He estimates the bank will build a total of about 70 new banking centers this year in locations throughout its 10-state footprint.

"When a new branch opens or is relocated, that usually provides an opportunity to make those changes," Magnesen explained. "The timing of changes to any existing banking centers is still to be determined. It's a very expensive proposition to change all the signs throughout our system."

Valley City is a 100 percent employee-owned company that has been in business for nearly 60 years. Its first customer was Old Kent Bank, said President Randy Czubko. The company did the signage conversion when Fifth Third purchased Ameribank in 2000 and Old Kent Bank in 2001. The Old Kent job involved changing signs at 450 locations, which included more than 7,000 signs across three states within a nine-month timeframe, recalled Czubko. After the Old Kent purchase, Fifth Third hired Valley City to create a unified sign standards program that specified every detail of every sign the company would use throughout its operation.

"Eventually, that evolved into us becoming a national sign vendor for Fifth Third," Czubko said. "They went from dealing with local sign companies in their markets to a national sign company doing everything. Part of that was based on the need to keep the branding consistent with all its affiliates. We were the one selected based on our performance and quality and track record."

Valley City's involvement with Fifth Third extends to project management, as well. When the bank decides to establish a new branch location, Czubko's firm immediately checks out the signage ordinances in regard to size, height, placement and so forth, and works directly with the local jurisdiction.

"I think that kind of sets Valley City Sign apart. We don't just build a sign and install it; we actually do the project management for all of Fifth Third's signage programs," he said. "At any one point, in time we may have more than 150 projects active."

Magnesen said one item Valley City is "terrific" about helping Fifth Third figure out is the best combination of signs, materials and sizes for each site. Czubko estimates that over the years, his company has produced more than 25,000 main "pilon" signs, exterior building signs and directional signs on Fifth Third banking center sites.

The current re-branding campaign presented a challenge because of the logo's color palette, he said. The new logo incorporates new colors — blue and green — and a "horizon" design. The familiar "5/3" shield remains central to the logo. Czubko said some things might look good on paper but don't always translate well to a sign on a street corner or on a building, and blue and green are two of the most difficult colors in terms of a sign's visibility and readability. For the re-branding initiative, his company tweaked the color concept a bit, built a prototype sign and tested it out on Plainfield Avenue, conducting drive-bys both day and night to assure its punch and visibility.

According to Fifth Third, along with the new identity comes the promise of increased focus on retail and commercial customer service. The company is changing a lot of processes with respect to how it handles problems when they arise and how it interacts with customers, Magnesen noted.

"It's a complete top-to-bottom re-engineering of our customer interfacing processes. It really fundamentally reflects internal, cultural and attitudinal changes in terms of being a much more valuable provider to the customer." 

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