Helping Piper Jaffray Turn Legacy into Brand Leadership

The Challenge

  • Create a brand that reflected the value and values clients found unique at Piper Jaffray.
  • Position the global investment bank with proud Midwestern roots as decidedly un-Wall Street.
  • Build an organizational brand that energizes employees by allowing them to express their individuality.

Piper Jaffray has successfully ridden the financial industry rollercoaster for more than 120 years. It survived the Great Depression. Ownership changes. Business changes. Piper Jaffray emerged from the 2008 financial crisis as one of the nation’s leading investment banks and asset management firms. With 50% revenue growth since 2009, a solid strategic plan, and one of its biggest acquisitions ever (in February 2016), Piper Jaffray is well-positioned for an exciting future.

Except for one thing: Their brand. For more than 15 years, the Piper Jaffray “Guides for the Journey” brand served the firm well as it advised individual investors on reaching their personal financial goals. But Piper Jaffray sold its Private Client Services in 2006 to focus entirely on building an institutional investment bank.

Then 2008 hit. Unlike many larger competitors, Piper Jaffray came out of the crisis with its business and reputation intact, primed for the next step of the company’s evolution. While the “Guides” brand remained popular, it no longer represented the business Piper Jaffray was and aspired to become. Piper Jaffray’s leadership recognized the need for a brand platform that would galvanize the company and drive it forward — and engaged Schermer to create it.

Discovering what mattered

Our proprietary research methodology dove deep into what sets Piper Jaffray apart from its Wall Street competitors, and why Piper Jaffray clients value that difference. We interviewed those clients, and the Piper Jaffray associates they work with. We performed in-depth analysis of the competitive field. And the Schermer team conducted workshops with key leaders to gain a thorough understanding of the Piper Jaffray culture.

That culture, we discovered, is distinctive among financials. Piper Jaffray thoroughly embraces its Midwestern ethics. Its dedication to promoting from within. Its willingness to think independently from Wall Street. The open accessibility of its leadership. And perhaps most telling: the empowerment of Piper Jaffray employees to serve their client’s interests first, even if it means advising them to hold or pass on a deal.

Grounded in the culture

As we began to develop the brand strategy, one core value distinguished Piper Jaffray more than any other: partnership. And as the Schermer team looked across the industry, we discovered that no financial institution had built its brand on partnership. Even the Piper Jaffray CEO was surprised that they had never used the word “partnership” before, even though working together is one of the firm’s core values.

The messaging inspired by the partnership brand was electrifying. Leading boldly by focusing deeply. Driving success by empowering people. Intentionally removing the layers of bureaucracy that stifle new ideas—that’s not the way financial institutions talk. But that’s the brand Piper Jaffray had been living for a long time. Schermer helped them bring it forward, and make it resonate with employees and customers alike.

All of the messaging came together in a new tagline: Realize the Power of PartnershipSM. It encourages Piper Jaffray insiders to break down silos, cross-sell and collaborate to make deals happen. At the same time, it reminds clients of the transparency, trust and results they realize when they work with Piper Jaffray.

Inspired expression

The new brand sparked a whole new design system for Piper Jaffray. Schermer created bold, oversized, concise headlines to communicate powerful statements. We designed a graphical element called the “progress bar” that’s used throughout the system to highlight words, draw attention to chart columns, and tie the Piper Jaffray wordmark and tagline together. Team members can choose different color sections for the bar as a way to show their independent style and thinking.

Schermer also modernized the photography and color palette. Gone are typical conservative blue tones, replaced with a dark gray and bright accent colors. Gone are tired visual metaphors of mountains and handshakes that typify Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch. 10,000-foot views give way to eye-level reality: Warm, candid images of trusted relationships at work—showing that Piper Jaffray is one investment bank filled with passionate experts who want their clients to succeed.

Theme, messaging, tagline, and design came together to create an exciting brand experience for Piper Jaffray and its clients. It’s a powerful way for the firm to express its story and culture in every medium: website, video, literature, ads, and the all-important pitch book—the make-or-break document that must hit exactly the right note with clients.

A brave step forward

Recognizing and embracing their brand of partnership is a brave step forward for Piper Jaffray; sharply differentiating the firm from in the industry. As teams from Schermer and Piper Jaffray collaborated, we realized that the most powerful brand was the one already deeply rooted in the firm’s culture.

Anticipation buzzed throughout Piper Jaffray in the weeks before the February 2016 launch. And there was one consistent comment from the people who know the firm’s culture best—Piper Jaffray employees: “Sure hope it says something about working together.”

Realize the Power of PartnershipSM does all that, and so much more. See it at PiperJaffray.com