Fifth Third Bank

By Mark Skoultchi

September 14, 2004

When a bad name does good …

Ever walk past a business and ask, “why’d they name it that?”

I was in Cincinnati last week and couldn’t help but notice the omnipresent Fifth Third Bank. I spent most of the weekend trying to figure out how to approach the company to suggest that they needed to change their name.

As brand names go, this one takes the cake. It makes no sense: One third or two thirds, I can understand – but what the heck is the fifth third? Furthermore, it is extremely awkward to pronounce: Back to back th sounds wreak havoc on the tongue.

On the other hand, for a bank, it is a remarkably memorable identity. Maybe it’s because I spent so much time thinking about how bad the name was, but I couldn’t get the name out of my head. Not the scripted approach to branding, but effective nonetheless.

The retail banking space is crowded with examples of First Soandso, National Pickabenefit, and Bank of AnytownUSA. I have to tip my hat, reluctantly, to a bank that can stand out from the crowd without putting people off.

Oh, and by the way, I was told that the name comes from a merger of a bank on Fifth street and a bank on Third street. Guess they lose a point for lack of creativity.

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