Crap marketing campaign of the day, Merrill Lynch edition

By Felix Salmon
June 19, 2009

This is the new branding campaign for Merrill Lynch, and it’s stunningly crap. First an old-fashioned fountain pen flies in from the right, to be met by a mirroring BofA logo (the Merrill logo seems to have been ditched) coming in from the left. The fountain pen then does a weird auto-rotate thing, only to start writing in a bold, modern, san-serif font! (I think it might be Benton Sans.)

What does the pen write? The new slogan: “Signed, sealed and delivering”. I’m a fan of the Oxford comma, so I hate this slogan on grammatical grounds alone. But that to one side, the slogan not only means nothing, it also signifies nothing, beyond vague allusions to a Stevie Wonder hit and the even vaguer concept that a brokerage should, er, be delivering something.

Actually, that’s not entirely fair. If you click through to the full PDF, it’ll tell you what they’re delivering on:

Our aim is clear: To continue delivering on the great potential of our union by helping to grow businesses like yours.

Yeah, they used grow as a transitive verb, which is really ugly. But not as ugly as their new logo:


This takes lazy to a whole new level. The location of the logo is particularly odd: it looks as though Bank of America gets to keep its old logo, while Merrill Lynch, having lost its bull, is left with nothing at all.

Finally, to the right of the logo is a bunch of dense all-caps jargon in which the word “global” appears three times and the word “banking” twice, just in case we were unsure what exactly a bank does.

Maybe it’s a good thing that Bank of America is telling me it does banking, because otherwise I might suspect it does little more than put together clichéd and unimaginative marketing campaigns. It seems to be very good at that.


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I think that the signed and sealed refer to the merger. “Merger’s all done. We’re delivering the benefits now.”

Posted by Phil | Report as abusive

“Yeah, they used grow as a transitive verb, which is really ugly”

But is it?

If they’d said “To continue delivering on the great potential of our union by helping to grow carrots”, I think it would have worked fine.

Posted by Bergamot | Report as abusive

A bull wrapping itself in the flag would have been nice.

Posted by bdbd | Report as abusive

And can you “deliver on potential?” You can deliver on a promise, and you can realize potential, but I don’t think you can deliver on potential. That would be like delivering more potential.

You’re not kidding…total crap! I hope they did this “in house”, because I’d be one mad shareholder if I found out they actually paid to “create” such a mediocre excuse for a campaign.

BdBd…nice idea with the bull in the flag..but I think it could be taken the wrong way…if you know what I mean…

Posted by LCM | Report as abusive

Dropping the bull is only the first step in dropping the “Merrill Lynch” name. This whole thing has been a pain in Ken Lewis’s eyes and this signals to every Merrill employee that they work for the bank.

The quicker that “Merrill Lynch” gets out of the news, the better.

The ad campaign is much more than a comma or a font choice, it’s a clear signal that Merrill Lynch is dead and Bank of America is washing their hands of the transaction.

Posted by Luke | Report as abusive

After all these years, I thought I was the only fan of the Oxford comma. I continually get corrected for using it.

Posted by Curmudgeon | Report as abusive

To quote david sedaris, the new logo has “all the style and panache of a UPS truck.”

but, you don’t give a suggestion for improvement. there is the obvious bank of lynch america. My personal favorite is “B.O.A. Baracus”, then they could have Mr. T in the ad campaign saying something like “signed, sealed, and delivered..FOOL”. Then they could pay back the tarp in gold necklaces.

I am just saying that b.o.a should think about it.

Posted by Matthew K | Report as abusive

Not that it really matters, but it ISN’T an old fashioned fountain pen. In facts its an absolutely modern, very expensive S.T. Dupont fountain pen. Not enough to tell the model, but we’re probably talking a pen with a price well above $500.

The type of present an overpaid investment exec buys for them self out of their bonus.

Posted by markh | Report as abusive

The Morgan Stanley Smith Barney logo is equally creative.

I believe BofA will retain the Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. name and bull logo for its wealth-management and brokerage divisions.

Posted by farfromws | Report as abusive

I totally agree with Luke. Dropping the bull is the first step in eliminating Merrill Lynch. I can almost guarantee that the Merril name will be around for probably another year or two. B of A wants to forget and want the public to forget this horrible marriage that happened and all the bad publicity, grief, and pain that was a result of it. The sooner the drop the name, the quicker people will forget. Just an FYI, they already changed the Countrywide Mortgage Company name to Bank of America with no Countrywide name or logo to be found anywhere. And regards the financial world of investments and companies, it’s all changed forever. Wall Street is dead as we knew it.

Posted by Irma | Report as abusive

I love people who are easy amused by themselves. Aside from your “expert” comments on the logo and accompanying message, your lack of depth and myopic view of the BOA/MER combination is laughable (exceeded only by a few of your readers). As for the logo issue, I guess the best perspective is that you are writing a blog vs. developing ad campaigns and logos for multi-national companies:-) Best of luck.

Posted by Mike Cress | Report as abusive