ING Groep N.V.

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ING Groep N.V.

ING House
Amstelveenseweg 500
Amsterdam, 1081 KL
Telephone: 31 20 5415411
Fax: 31 20 5415412
Web site:



In 2000 ING Groep N.V. (spelled ING Group in the United States) was a financial powerhouse in Europe, offering a diverse range of insurance, banking, and asset-management services through offices in 60 countries, but the company had not made its way into the U.S. financial arena. That changed in late 2000, when ING finalized the acquisition of three American insurance companies: ReliaStar, Aetna Financial Services, and Aetna International. With the acquisitions complete ING was positioned to pursue a position in the U.S. financial marketplace.

To boost its identity and attract customers in the United States, ING partnered with New York advertising agency Jordan McGrath Case & Partners (JMCP) to create an integrated branding and marketing campaign. The campaign, estimated at $20 to $30 million, began in May 2001 and took a humorous approach to introducing the ING name to consumers. It included television spots and print ads that featured the ING name and company logo—a stylized orange lion—on the back of a park bench. The name appeared to be the suffix of a verb, the first part of which was obscured by someone sitting on the bench. The tagline was "It's not an ending, it's a beginning." In 2002 the campaign evolved to include Internet ads on specific financial websites.

Although the campaign increased awareness of the ING name among American consumers, the financial climate in the United States at the time prevented the company's business from increasing. Further, in June 2001, just one month after the campaign began, ING ended its relationship with JMCP; it awarded the account to DDB Worldwide in August. That October JMCP's parent, Havas Advertising, combined the agency with another of its companies, Arnold Worldwide, to create Arnold McGrath New York. ING reported that the follow-up Internet advertising effort resonated with consumers, with 35 percent who viewed the ads saying that they would use ING's services.


ING Group, based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, was established following the 1991 merger of two financial institutions in the Netherlands: the insurance company Nationale-Nederlanden and the bank NMB Postbank Group, both of which had roots stretching back to the nineteenth century. The combined companies, known as Internationale Nederlanden Group, formed the first ban-cassurer (a bank with a subsidiary insurance company) in the Netherlands. Also in 1991 its name was shortened to its initials: ING. The company soon emerged as an international financial force through acquisitions of related companies, including Brussels Lambert Bank of Belgium and BHF-Bank of Frankfurt, Germany.

In 2000 ING acquired three U.S. insurance companies: Minneapolis-based ReliaStar Financial Corp. for $5 billion in September and Aetna Financial Services and Aetna International, both divisions of Aetna, Inc., of Hartford, Connecticut, for $7.7 billion in December. With the American companies added to its business holdings, by 2001 ING Group boasted more than 100,000 employees in 65 countries, including 11,000 employees in the United States. Following integration of its U.S. acquisitions into its group, ING's stated goals included spending up to $50 million to build brand identity with its existing U.S. customers as well as to attract new American customers. As part of the effort ING announced plans to begin a national marketing campaign in early 2001. The company hired Jordan McGrath Case & Partners of New York to develop a campaign that would both present the company's name and its correct pronunciation—"eye-en-gee"—and let consumers know that it was now a player in the American financial industry.


Although people in all income demographics needed a variety of financial services, when ING launched its business in the United States it had its corporate eye on what industry officials described as the "sweet spot." This consisted of consumers in the middle-income markets and "evolving-affluent" markets (the latter category referred to people who were in the process of advancing beyond the middle-class market into the upper-income market). Specifically, ING's campaign was designed to resonate with men and women aged 35 to 54 with annual household incomes of $75,000 or more. This group of consumers was believed to be the most likely to need the financial products and services offered by ING both for the protection of their wealth and for access to methods that would help their accumulated money grow.


Citigroup Inc. entered the financial marketplace with the founding of City Bank of New York, which was opened in 1812 with the goal of serving a group of New York's business owners. In 1864 the bank's name was changed to National City Bank of New York. By 1894 it had grown to become the largest bank in the United States, and three years later it was the first to establish a foreign department and begin foreign exchange trading. In 1914 the bank opened a branch in Buenos Aries, Argentina, becoming the first U.S. national bank with a foreign office. The stock market crashed in 1929, the same year that National City Bank became the world's largest commercial bank. The bank holding company First National City Corporation became the parent of the bank in 1968. The parent corporation's name was changed to Citicorp in 1974, and two years later National City Bank became Citibank. In 1998 the company's Citicorp and Travelers Group divisions were merged to create Citigroup Inc. To help reach consumers with the message that Citigroup could be their partner in managing all aspects of their finances, it launched an advertising campaign in 2001 with the theme and tagline "Live Richly." Advertising was created by Fallon Worldwide and appeared on television, in print, and in outdoor executions. The campaign ran through 2003 in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, and Washington, D.C.


Through its philanthropic foundation ING U.S. Financial Services, a division of ING's U.S. operations, the company supported educators in all 50 states with the Unsung Heroes Awards. The awards recognized 100 outstanding teachers each year, with at least one teacher (and his or her school) from each state selected to win a $2,000 monetary prize. The 100 teachers were selected by Scholarship America, a nonprofit education-support and student-aid organization. From the 100 finalists, 3 were chosen by ING's Educators Advisory Board, composed of six top educators from across the United States, to receive an additional financial award—$25,000 for first place, $10,000 for second place, and $5,000 for third place—for an exceptional educational project.

AXA Financial was a U.S. division of the Paris-based company AXA. The latter was formed in the early 1980s when Mutuelles Unies, a group of insurance companies, acquired the Drouot Group, France's leading private insurance company. By 1982 Mutuelles Unies-Drouot was France's largest non-state-owned insurance company and was expanding internationally with services that included life insurance, financial management, and real-estate investment. In 1985 the company was becoming better known as the "Bebear Group" for its chairman and chief executive officer, Claude Bebear. To reverse the growing trend of using the incorrect name, company officials began searching for a new one. After compiling a list of suggested names, three settled at the top: Argos, AXA, and Elan. The top choices were presented to company employees, who voted for their favorite. "Elan" was the preferred name, but executives in the company's Canada offices complained that the name meant "moose" in French, and according to Canadian myth the moose was considered to be unintelligent. "Argos" was eliminated when it was learned that another company had already claimed the name. By default, in 1985 "AXA" became the new company name of Mutuelles Unies-Drouot. To increase brand awareness and inform U.S. consumers of the variety of financial services that AXA Financial offered, in 2002 the company announced a new advertising campaign created by the Martin Agency of Richmond, Virginia. Its television spots had the tagline "Your Future. Your Way," and included the music and words from the song My Way by Frank Sinatra.


Although ING was a well-known integrated financial services company throughout Europe, when it decided to enter the U.S. market, it was faced with building brand identity and name recognition. The challenge for the company's agency, Havas Advertising's Jordan McGrath Case & Partners of New York (JMCP), was to create a marketing campaign that would launch the company in the United States while clearly sending the message that ING was a name and not a suffix. JMCP signed on with ING in November 2000 and developed a campaign that took a humorous, tongue-in-cheek approach to the ING brand. Included in the effort were television spots and print ads. In an interview with Adweek, Rochelle Klein, chief creative officer for JMCP, explained that the campaign was designed to introduce ING to American consumers as "a new player in the financial industry and [to] get [its] name across."

Television spots for the branding and marketing effort, which had an estimated budget of $20-$30 million, began airing in May 2001. The kick-off spot opened with a man and his dog walking in a park. When the man got near a park bench where some people were sitting, he noticed the large letters "ING" on the back of the bench. Curious about the word that appeared to be partially hidden, the man asked a woman, "You have any idea what that says?" She answered, "ING." Not satisfied with her answer, he asked, "Do you know what's before it?" When the woman did not answer, the man looked at the bench and shouted, "What's that say?" The tagline for the spot was "It's not an ending, it's a beginning." Other spots featured various characters clearly pronouncing the company's name as three letters: "I-N-G." The spots also stressed that ING was an integrated financial services company. Spots aired during network and cable programs, including the popular Friends and The West Wing.

Like the television spots, print ads featured the ING name and stylized lion logo on a partially obstructed billboard. The full billboard was eventually revealed, showing the person reading the sign that he or she was seeing the company's entire name and not the end of a word. Also as in the TV spots, the tagline was "It's not an ending, it's a beginning." Print ads appeared in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today as well as in other national business and consumer magazines and trade publications read by financial-services professionals.

In the following year, 2002, the campaign was expanded to include advertising on the Internet. The ads appeared on financial news sites such as,, and In one ad every ing that appeared in the news text turned orange to match ING's corporate color. Another Internet ad was an extension of the television spots and print ads and featured the man and his dog looking up at an ING billboard. When the man asked, "What is ING?" another man responded, "It's a financial services company." His reply, however, was drowned out by a passing herd of sheep. Still another Internet ad displayed a number with the headline "People in the U.S. who don't know what ING does." Each time someone viewed the ad, the number decreased by one. The New York office of Tribal DDB (the interactive and online division of the agency DDB Worldwide) created the Internet advertising.


Although the campaign succeeded in familiarizing American consumers with the ING name and helped create brand identity, the company reported in a press release that "the reality of today's depressed and volatile U.S. equity markets has kicked the industry and put an unwelcome dent in our nine-month performance." Following the start of the campaign ING reported that its 2002 pretax results for its U.S. financial-services division were $462.6 million, down from $717.7 million for the same period in 2001. The 2002 Internet effort that followed the television and print launch, however, did help drive business and further increased the company's name and brand recognition among consumers. According to an ING survey, 35 percent of consumers who saw the online ads stated that they planned to use ING's services.

Shortly after the start of its branding campaign in June 2001, ING ended its relationship with the agency Jordan McGrath Case & Partners (JMCP). The account was awarded to Omnicom's DDB Worldwide New York in August 2001. Further, in October 2001 JMCP's parent company, Havas Advertising, folded JMCP into another of its agencies, Arnold Worldwide, to create Arnold McGrath New York. That agency was ultimately folded into Arnold Worldwide.


"Breaking: ING Americas; ING Lets the Dogs Out." Advertising Age, May 21, 2001.

"A Brush with Greatness, Financial Services—Citigroup Ads." Brandweek, April 30, 2001.

Bryan, Scott. "European Financial Firm Land-ING in America." Brandweek, May 21, 2001.

――――――. "ING Breaks U.S. Ads." Adweek, May 21, 2001.

"A European Scope: ING Group." Global Finance, July 1, 2001.

Green, Heather, and Pallavi Gogoi. "Online Ads Take Off—Again." BusinessWeek Online, May 5, 2003. Available from 〈〉

"Hotline (The ING Group Goes into Review)." Adweek, June 18, 2001.

Howard, Theresa. "Discover Goes for Funny Bone." USA Today, March 12, 2001.

"ING Americas Announces Integrated Management and Organizational Structure." Business Wire, December 14, 2000.

"ING Group Banks $50 M on Boosting Identity in the U.S." Brandweek, November 6, 2000.

"ING Launches First Major U.S. Ad Campaign; Campaign Marks the Next Phase in ING's U.S. Strategy—Building Name Awareness." PR Newswire, May 21, 2001.

Mack, Ann M. "ING Uses Web to Build Awareness." Adweek, October 22, 2002.

Stephens, Erica. "ING Ad Campaign Focuses on Products and Name." Atlanta Business Chronicle, May 25, 2001.

"The Washington Times Advertising and Media Column." Washington (D.C.) Times, September 30, 2002.

                                           Rayna Bailey