AN essential component of organizational brand building is the visual presentation, articulated in part, through its identity-logo, colour, signages, building, and liveries. A brand is also activated using the five senses – smell, sight, sound, feel, and touch. The aftermath of differentiation is what has been described as the brand wars amongst competing brands across industries – Coke and Pepsi; Nike and Addidas; Canon and Xerox; Komatsu and Caterpillar, among others.
One of the fall-outs of post-consolidation in the nation’s banking sector is the brand war by banks to stand out through above and below the line communication.
At present, the colour war is the new frontier of the competition. Just take a look. But beyond the ceaseless quest to own a colour or colour combinations in the minds of the public is the seeming outright replication of the creative outputs by banks of its competitors.
Remember the advertising pay-off war amongst Wema Bank, FCMB and Unity – My Bank and I; Together to greater heights; and Succeeding Together; the war for ownership of colour red between UBA and Zenith, etc.
Enter Bank PHB and Intercontinental Bank. When Bank PHB made a dramatic and game-changing entry into the Nigerian banking industry in March 2006, the business of brand building was never to be the same again as the bank became the pacesetter in how a financial institution engages its publics. Today, the branding landscape in the industry has become more vibrant.
Following the Bank’s successful hosting of Intern Business TV reality TV show in January 2007, the industry is now awash with reality TV sponsorships – Celebrity Takes 2 by Skye; Deal or no deal by FCMB; Dragons Den by UBA; Fash Football by Oceanic; Ambassadors by Unity; and another to come from First Bank. The list is endless. But the truth is that Bank PHB set the pace.
But not one of these competitive activities has captured the attention of the discerning public than the unveiled attempt to clone Bank PHB, making observers wonder if there is no limit between competition and outright cloning.
Take a look at the re-launch of Intercontinental logo in November 2007, one can discern what can be described as an adaptation of bank PHB’s blue and yellow, and subtle cloning of HSBC’s logo!
As if that wasn’t enough, the Bank has changed its branch fa?ade. And what has it opted for? An outright replication of Bank PHB’s uniform branch fa?ade with minor modification.
The pay-off: Bank PHB is Good, Better…Bank PHB, was launched in 2006. In 2008, Intercontinental is claiming, wait for it “Good to Great” What is happening? What has happened to creativity? One wonders if indeed any thought went into the whole idea of re-branding the intercontinental brand. What was wrong with their initial sky blue and white colours with the juxtaposition of the letters I and C in a hexagon. One would think that was distinctly intercontinental.
The whole idea of brand identity with colours and logos is to establish a striking top-of-mind resonance with respective publics of the given brand.
For example MTN has virtually claimed the colour yellow in Nigeria’s telecommunications sector. Any telecoms company that launches its brand in Nigeria with yellow no matter the variant would automatically confine itself to the shadows of MTN.
For banking brands, Zenith claim ownership of red but UBA cannot be fairly said to have coned Zenith because for UBA, red emerged naturally from the merger of Standard Trust Bank and UBA. Besides the colours, their corporate identities are remarkably different whether in the form of logos or the exterior facades of their respective branches.
But for Intercontinental the strategy seems to be to clone Bank PHB all the way. How else do you explain the adoption of the Bank PHB fa?ade in the new branches of intercontinental?
Any first time observer of the new Intercontinental branch on Airport Road, Ajao Estate, especially when it was under construction, would wonder what the wisdom was for Bank PHB to site two branches within a few metres apart on the same road. It wasn’t until the construction was completed and the signpost of the Intercontinental was stationed in front that one realized that this was not another Bank PHB, but actually Intercontinental Bank.
But it is glaring that the branch is a Bank PHB clone pure and simple. Perhaps a bit more creativity would have made the replication less obvious. For now, only the signage offers any form of differentiation.
Expressing dismay about the development, an official of Bank PHB decried a situation whereby “many Bank PHB customers would walk into the particular branch in error. Now thinking about it again, this may well be the strategy of Intercontinental Bank – attract Bank PHB customers to their premises and convert them to theirs. That is what competition in today’s banking industry has become – a dog-eat-dog game…and branding is no exception.”
* Source: The Guardian