WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (November 4, 2019) - Truliant Federal Credit Union expressed continued concerns over digital marketplace confusion despite a push from BB&T Corp. and SunTrust Bank entities to extend their time to answer Truliant’s claims.
In June, Truliant filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court challenging Truist bank, the intended new name of the merged BB&T/SunTrust. BB&T/SunTrust asked the court for more time to respond to the suit until early December.
While BB&T/SunTrust said in congressional hearings in July that visual branding elements of Truist will be “significantly different” from Truliant’s brand, the credit union foresees overlap in how the brands are applied throughout the expanding digital marketplace.
Because the vast majority of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar research begins online, Truliant believes a high likelihood for confusion exists when no other brand elements are present, especially as technology continues to provide more convenience for consumer research and services.
“When a consumer searches online for a Truliant location or information about a Truliant product or service, while typing in “Truliant” a search engine may automatically populate results including “Truist” and redirect consumers to that entity, especially given the direct geographic overlap in the respective markets,” said Truliant President Todd Hall. “And bigger problems with brand confusion exist as financial institutions’ digital ecosystems incorporate the next wave of retail-tech game changers.”
“We see difficulty for consumers who can’t distinguish between our names being led down the wrong path as they increasingly interact with elements like voice tech, digital assistants, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, which may not necessarily incorporate visual brand elements.”
The Truliant brand name has been in use since 1999 and is the subject of a federally registered trademark.
Truliant, founded in 1952, and BB&T, are each currently headquartered in Winston-Salem, N.C. They have significant branch overlap in both the Triad and Charlotte-Metro regions served by BB&T/SunTrust. Truliant believes the Truist name is a clear infringement, and that the merged banks’ proximity to its main business region will confuse consumers and undermine the trust built in the member-owned cooperative.
“The similarity between how our names are presented online will guide digital users toward a banking institution they could mistake for the Truliant brand,” Hall said. “It is imperative that we resolve this issue before digital users are inadvertently struck with a misconception through online search channels.”
The merged Truist bank will be more than 200 times larger than the $2.6 billion Truliant Federal Credit Union. Truliant’s branches, marketing, products and services are branded with this name, in addition to other names and taglines that include the “Tru” prefix. Truliant has considerable brand equity in its Truliant® and “Tru” family of trademarks.
“Trademark enforcement is important to protect any business. It’s particularly disappointing that this is coming from our soon-to-be former neighbor less than six miles down the road who is intimately familiar with our brand and yet chose such a similar name,” Hall said. “It speaks volumes that they are wholly unconcerned with trading on the brand equity that we’ve built over the last two decades.”