In the last few years, many banks in Nigeria have embarked on rebranding exercise to further position their brands and stay ahead of competition, the latest being First City Monument Bank. In this report, Olamide Bakare asks if several attempts made by these big organisations have yielded desired results on account of their brand promises.
The word branding in Nigeria is fast becoming a cliché. In the last few years, notable companies have seized the initiative to re-position their companies with a view to achieving a desired end. Multinationals which have embarked on these rebranding efforts include players in the banking industry such as: Unity Bank, First Bank, Diamond Bank. As at the last count, no less than twelve banks have engaged the services of expertise in the brand communication business to showcase their new focus. Despite the huge investment, some pundits believe that the outcome has not been commensurate with desired expectations.
No doubt, the time to fully understand the import of the age-long aphorism that ‘Customers are kings’ is now. This follows recent development in the financial sector, where banks are coming out with consumer-centric innovations and campaigns that is targeted at winning more customers. While there are contentions as to the viability and resourcefulness of such initiative, there are feelings that such steps may have been fuelled by the need to follow the bandwagon effect which is commonplace globally.
Banks in rebranding race
For many years, Union bank ruled the banking landscape like a colossus. However, following the liberalisation of the banking sector in the early 1990s, many banks came into the fray all with a determination to challenge the established ones. It soon became a tough task as both the old and the new horse began to exercise their strength. Since then, it has been one innovation approach over the other. While the new horse seemed to have taken a great leap over the old horse particularly as regards quick adaptation to new challenges, this appears not to be in the case of old horses like Union Bank.
Despite numerous attempts to correct the age old notion that the bank was out to offer its teeming customers a new refreshed banking services that are in tune with current trends, many customers are still of the view that nothing much has changed.
In a chat with Daily independent, one of the customers who identified himself as Gbenga Samuel noted that his decision to do business with the bank till date, was informed by his belief in the integrity of the bank.
Another customer, Tajudeen Kareem, a lawyer who operates a current account in its Ikeja Branch said he decided amidst criticism from friends to retain the account because of his fervent belief that the bank still has the integrity of keeping his money; poor customer approach notwithstanding.
“I don’t know where Union Bank got it wrong but I did know that I grew up to know it as one of the three most reliable banks. In recent time, I observed that things are no more the same and there are pressures to abandon the account but something keep telling me my money is safe in the bank despite the poor approach to issues. Let me however add that the decision to rebrand will go a long way in repositioning the company if the management can make it a total overhauling that will include both the internal and external operations” Kareem said.
Barely a month after the First City Monument Bank (FCMB) concluded its merger process with Finbank, the bank rolled out a fresh campaign, with which it intended to communicate the new status to the banking audience.
Toward the end of 2008, the FCMB re-launched the phase 2 of its ‘My Bank and I, campaign, which was meant to communicate the passion of the brand to serve its patrons.
At the launch, the organisation explained that phase II of the campaign was conceptualised to disclose an unfailing determination to build a stronger relationship with the bank’s customers. It was also stated that the bank anticipated customers’ needs and would always strive to meet the needs at the right moment.
Its Group Managing Director, Mr. Ladi Balogun, had said that the bank would use the phase II platform to partner government in order to build the societal gap between the community and the citizens, thereby empowering people in different aspect of the sectors of the economy.
In spite of the rebranding exercise that had taken place before the recent change in identity, there are still growing perception that the bank owes much of its appeal to the elite class.
Speaking with a staff that preferred anonymity, he said Nigerians still see the bank as one that has its focus on a particular segment of the market considering the fact that it is scarcely seen around rural communities.
In a manner reminiscent of refreshing the brand in the minds of customers and the banking publics, the bank recently embarked on a change of new identity with a promise to veer strongly into the retail market.
The Chief Executive Officer of the bank, Mr. Ladi Balogun, said the new identity is a reflection of the new thinking which the bank is about to take as they strive to bring all class of customers on board.
He said: “Today heralds a new chapter in the evolution of FCMB, as we unveil a refreshed corporate identity. Our colours of black and gold which before now appeals to an exclusive audience have been replaced by a vibrant combination of purple and yellow, thus appealing to a broader audience. Our logo has also been modified to be slightly less formal and more contemporary, yet retaining a distinctly FCMB feel”.
Commenting on the need for the new identity, Ladi explained further that the idea behind the new corporate identity was informed by the company’s resolve to extend its business frontiers to retail banking as this would reinforce the message as espoused in its slogan.
He said” We have set ourselves a long term vision to be the premier financial services group of African origin. At the heart of the group is emerging a vibrant retail bank that seeks to rewrite the rules of the game. We have reached a tipping point in our evolution, and we feel we are now ready to wear a new look that is reflective of not only where we are, but also where we are going.
For us it is not just about numbers, but more importantly it is about quality. We have been investing in building a unique FCMB customer experience, defined by simple helpful reliable products and services, and professional and friendly bankers willing to go the extra mile for you”.
Commenting further on the future, Balogun stated that they were out to promote professionalism and financial inclusion hence the need for readiness to play big in the retail bank.
He said: “We have taken the best of our traditional values of professionalism and excellence. We have complemented this with the sustainability and customer focus that a more inclusive bank demands. We also believe that a strong retail franchise strengthens the corporate and investment banking aspects of the group, providing a more robust balance sheet and better distribution of opportunities. Our new look, whilst unexpected to many in its vibrancy, is reassuringly familiar.
This not so quiet a revolution, it is about much more than a look. It is an honest reflection of where we are, and a signalling of where we are going, together”.
Analysing FCMB’s new identity
Even though the bank had made it clear that it wanted to be vibrant, many brand critics believe that it was in complete contrast to what the new look represents, as it is generally known, purple signifies calmness. To a considerable number of these critics, what remains unclear is how does calmness relates to vibrancy.
Besides, many brand analysts believed that the choice of purple being a logo of opportunity cannot be said to true knowing well that a competing brand shares the same colour, a development which analysts see more like an imitation.
The said brand, according to many observers is perceived to be lukewarm not only in the look but also in the way it conducts business activities. While some have argued that the decision to change its logo from black to purple was a right step in the right direction as it would help win more loyalty to the brand having stated that it was extending its service full scale to retail banking, others feel that the choice of purple being a logo that signifies royalty could not have depicted a new sense of direction for the brand. To them, royalty is likened to luxury, class which to a large extent creates barriers for less privileged Nigerians who may be interested to do business with the bank.
As part of overall strategy to sustain its growth momentum, Diamond Bank had few years ago refreshed its corporate identity from a silver colour to a more appealing colour as if to say; “we are closer to you than before” in recognition of the ever dynamic public. Not a few people have commended the wisdom in the refreshed logo which has retained its type face. The initiative received a lot of commendations from industry analysts.
Diamond Bank, perhaps with deep consumer insights, is strongly strategising to consolidate on its achievements in the retail market with a new identity and promotional campaign.
The new corporate identity, which has four colours – green, blue, red and orange – but retains the same shape with the old logo, is, according to the bank’s management, a plan to be more visible in the marketplace.
“Our new identity would equally help us consolidate on our current market leadership in the retail banking segment. Going by the nature of this market segment, there is need to remain visible both in the local and global marketplace,” the former bank’s CEO, Alex Otti, had said while unveiling the logo in Lagos.
He further stated that the new logo reflects the bright and optimistic colours of the Diamond spectrum representing vibrancy, prosperity and growth.
The objective of the rebranding exercise notwithstanding, many of its customers still believe that the bank is still a reincarnation of its old self.
Speaking on the perception of the bank after the rebranding exercise which took place few years ago, a customer who identified himself as Chukwudi Okoroafor said having witnessed the previous era, there is considerable improvement which in turn has reflected in the new change of identity.
Ganiyu Olowu , a brand consultant who spoke on the effort of players in the industry to give a new impression about their brands said some of them have succeeded in changing perception of Nigerians which have earned them more loyalty through the initiative.
He said: “Branding or brand process is a holistic thing. Every brand policy or identity change requires that the owner of the brand or the managers of such brand fulfil or respond to the brand promises of their products or services. If a brand is saying that they are moving to a greater level or they want to actualise the essence of their products or services, they must be able to do this to the last letter. Observation, over time, has shown that there is instability within organisations which has affected the staying power when each of these brands says they are embarking on branding.
“If a brand manager or a team planning a branding process, there might be a need to follow through. There is stability in brand management in realisation of the brand objectives to be able to achieve this. Every branding or brand process must fulfil the essence of why a brand is changing from one colour to the other, philosophy, statement to another”.
Source : Independent