Breathing New Life into First Bank

At a time the banking public thought handlers of First Bank had done all that were necessary to keep it on top as the nation’s number one financial service brand, a new chapter was recently opened to help the bank extend its horizon, writes Raheem Akingbolu
Beyond any reason that may be given by brand owners, who breathe new life into their brands, one thing that is sacrosanct is the need to keep abreast of changing needs in the market place. This happened last week when First Bank Holdings rolled out the drum to usher in a new identity.
In less than 24 hours after the official unveiling, customers who visited a few branches of the bank and other subsidiaries of the group had started noticing the change. According to THISDAY findings, the conceptualisation and implementation of the new identity took the creative egg heads within and outside the group some 18 months before they arrived at the final output.
In the new look, its iconic African elephant, which has remained a symbol of strength and growth for FirstBank, FBN Holdings and all its subsidiaries, is though retained, but not without some amendments, which were done to communicate the new status of the brand.
What the bank has done is a response to global trend if one considers how some of the greatest brands in the world often rejuvenate to remain fresh. Brands like Guinness, Coca-Cola and Kellogg’s are iconic, global in their status. Yet, when one looks at their market leadership over the decades, they have all changed even if it has been in a more evolutionary sense over time, rather than radical overhauls.
One slight difference in the first bank’s approach is that it is an extensive change in order for the business to achieve the required regeneration for growth and profitable returns. This is necessary as the group is already making inroads into some other countries, where the erstwhile logo may clash with that of some other organisations. To pundits, this has singled out the handlers of the brand as people with foresights.
Of course, the management stated clearly that the refreshed identity embodies the group’s internal values and the direction they were heading to henceforth.
A quick look at the new elephant shows activeness and pragmatism. According to the Head, Marketing and Corporate Communications, Folake Ani-Mumuney, the raised head of the elephant in the refreshed version is the bank’s promise to all customers that with First Bank in their corner, every financial challenge they face can easily be surmounted.
She said; “The deep blue colour represents momentum, innovation and evolution. These principles ensure that we continue to develop solutions that are at the heart of all their challenges. The raised foot of the elephant is a promise that we will always put our best foot forward for each and every one of our customers,”
For the colour, she explained that the adoption of complimentary colours; platinum and gold in the logo serves as a reminder of the inherent value and durability of the brand, while the precious metals identified with value. In all, she pointed out that the brand refreshment marks a renewed promise to all stakeholders – a promise to continue to set the gold standard of value and excellence in financial solutions across Sub Saharan Africa.
Speaking at the event, the CEO, FBN Holdings, Bello Maccido, said with the new identity, FBN Group was committed to building a financial institution that consistently supports growth. He also said the new identity celebrates and showcases the unique characteristics of the diverse nations on the group’s continent.
He said: “We believe that our continued success will be built on the principle that we will add value nationally, regionally and at continental level. Our customers have always come first and each and every change that we implement as a group is designed to ensure that continues,”
Brand at a glance
In the next two months, it will be exactly 120 years since first bank has been operating in the Nigerian market. Like other leading brands of the world, it has over the years witnessed series of rebranding and restructuring.
However, if there is any lesson worth taking from the managers of the brand, it’s the fact that they have not for a day allowed complacency to affect the growth of the brand.
As a market leader, First Bank has consistently maintained its position and continues to bond strongly with customers. It has also sustained a profile of integrity and reliability, which has made it easy for its spin doctors to position it for new customers.
A few years ago, a drastic change in the financial sector encouraged new entrants and this led to unbridled rush for ‘branding and globalisation.’ Before then, the new comers had played a fast game and used the phrase ‘new generation for differentiation. The target was to use this to advocate a generational shift and appeal to the youth segment of the market. At the end of the day, it became a strong tool as most consumers began to associate the new banks with efficiency, modernisation and creativity, while the old generation banks were regarded as the banks of the olds.
With the consolidation in the sector, which sent most of the so called ‘new generation’ banks parking from the market, the old ones were vindicated. It soon became clear that core banking ethics and not jamboree marketing, mattered in the industry.
Having established a credible name and a strong niche in the market, First Bank was quick to adjust and redefined its essence as a bank for all segments and all generations. Expectedly, there must be a way of expressing this; hence its recent diversion into youth based brand activation programmes and royal treatment for some existing customers. The recent refreshment is another plus for the bank and it will take competitors years to beat the record.

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