Big brand-building through strategic small touches
Advertising & Marketing
No matter their industry or stage of growth, forward-thinking companies like M&T Bank collaborate with Block Club for innovative brand-building strategies that help them achieve their business objectives. For M&T, that meant finding a novel way to grow brand awareness and brand affinity in Baltimore while supporting the bank’s small-business customers.
M&T Bank is a financial holding company with assets of $120 billion, more than 750 branches, and 17,000 employees across the North East and Mid-Atlantic United States. Despite its size, M&T prides itself on the personal relationships it forms with the people, small businesses, and communities it serves.
It’s also a company that’s poised for growth. When market disruptions rocked the banking industry in Maryland, one of M&T’s burgeoning footholds, M&T saw an opportunity to further reinforce its role and reputation as the bank of choice for small businesses in the greater Baltimore area, where it recently invested $170 million in a new regional headquarters. To help it make the most of the opportunity, M&T turned to Block Club for a big, immersive, brand-building idea inspired by the look, feel, and sentiment behind the bank’s already successful “Understanding What’s Important” marketing campaign.
M&T is committed to making a difference in the lives of people and communities, which it demonstrates through everyday customer interactions and larger initiatives like charitable giving and sponsorships. The bank also periodically challenges itself to find new ways to promote its people- and community-first message, and that includes engaging Block Club in regular brainstorming sessions to ideate new, visionary, brand-building tactics.
When M&T approached us with the challenge of growing brand awareness and affinity in Baltimore, we looked, as directed, for inspiration in M&T’s tagline—Understanding What’s Important—which speaks to the company’s commitment to providing banking solutions that help consumers enjoy more of whatever matters to them, from starting a small business to buying a home. That led to our big idea: Drop a shipping container in the middle of downtown Baltimore, convert it to a pop-up shop, and invite the public to partake in a unique, M&T-branded experience. M&T ran with the idea, choosing to fill the shop with a rotating cast of their small business customers, who, for two weeks each, would use the space to sell goods and promote their own brand among new audiences. In turn, the pop-up shop would serve as a testament to M&T’s dedication to helping small businesses—and the people who own them—thrive. Throughout the activation, the pop-up shop would give M&T an opportunity to captivate the Baltimore community, building brand awareness and affinity in the process.
Once M&T signed off on the idea, our next step was to align with M&T on a strategy—inclusive of naming, design, brand standards, and supporting content—to transform the pop-up shop into a fully branded experience.
To get people talking about the pop-up shop in a way that would serve M&T’s brand-building goals, we needed a strong name that would tie the pop-up shop back to M&T and its commitment to community. Through brainstorming and close collaboration with the bank, we landed on a concept that would reinforce the bank’s role in supporting its clients while simultaneously emphasizing the location and exposure the pop-up shop would afford the featured small businesses. In effect, the concept came to be known as the M&T Spotlight Shop.
The M&T Spotlight Shop needed M&T-branded elements to make clear the connection between the shop, the small businesses within it, and M&T. The 24’ x 20’ container would need to mold into a mutable space that could accommodate various small businesses using it in different ways. One week, it might be an ice cream shop; the next, a pet adoption center. For that reason, the container had to meet a range of operational requirements such as product display, seating, refrigeration, storage, and more. We worked closely with Fuseideas, the experiential agency that built the container, to meet these specifications.
First, we devised a visual identity for the shop. We used M&T’s signature green and dark lime colorway to create an icon grid across the interior wall. Across the top exterior, M&T branding runs the length of the container, while branding for the featured business lines the top widthwise. We also mapped out direction for fixtures and materials and devised a plan inclusive of an open layout with white oak wood, white shelving and tabletops, LED lighting, and lacquered metals.
Within a matter of months, the Spotlight Shop went live as a clean, fresh, and inviting modern space—a tangible tribute to M&T-financed small businesses.
After careful consideration, 12 M&T-supported small businesses were selected for a series of pop-ups at the Spotlight Shop. Each business brought unique services and wares to sell, from clothing and caramels, to coffee and baked goods.
To aid the spotlighted small business as they determined how they would fill the space, we developed a comprehensive toolkit with talking points and visual assets that the vendors could use to promote their tenancy at the Spotlight Shop on social media.
With the lineup in place and vendors ready to take the spotlight, Block Club developed a brand standards guide for implementing the container’s design across other forms of media (e.g., billboards, TV, digital). By ensuring consistent application of its brand standards, we equipped M&T with the tools it needed to build awareness of the shop and reinforce M&T’s role in supporting small businesses.
The Spotlight Shop launched to high acclaim among the small business participants, the people who visited the shop, and Baltimore media.
Over the course of its run, the Spotlight Shop generated a total of 78 million media impressions and 179,000 in-person engagements and interactions. What’s more, 70 percent of visitors to the Spotlight Shop report that they are now more likely to bank with M&T, while 83 percent of visitors walked away with positive feelings about the bank’s commitment to Baltimore.
Through creative visioning and careful planning, Block Club was able to transform an idea into a physical manifestation of M&T’s commitment to its Baltimore customers. The newly branded shop caught the positive attention of the community, successfully raising M&T’s profile in the process.
- Videography & Editing: Addo Productions
- Videography: Focal Point Productions
- Editing: silo
- Experiential: Fuseideas