“The launch of this refreshed identity signals a new phase in Union Bank’s transformation as we set our sights on attracting a new base of customers while remaining focused on providing simple and smart banking solutions to all our customers.”
With these words, Emeka EMuwa, managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Union Bank of Nigeria summed the raison d’etre for the change of brand identity this financial services company underwent recently.
“Big, Strong, Reliable” has, for many decades been the payoff of this bank that was destination for Nigerians that wanted a safe place for their monies as well as other financial services solutions.
Time came and passed and with it, changes in the way people wanted their financial services. Technology and came and with it, style. But it seemed Union Bank was not keeping up with the banking Jones in terms of speed, service, product development and even look-and-feel.
The invasion of the Nigerian financial services landscape in the middle-to-late 1980s by a set of young entrepreneurs brought in a set of banks that were to be known and identified as “New Generation Banks” brought new ideas, technology and different approaches to banking.
Aggressive deposit mobilisation, fast, personalised banking services and cutting edge product development and marketing presented challenges to the old order of banking. Years passed and, as frequently happens in marketing, the so-called “old generation banks” lost touch with those who then constituted the future banking customers who demanded a lot more in speed, service and solutions.
It was not strange. Marketing is all about freshness. Yesterday’s glory does not win here. Those who wish to remain “omni-relevant” are those who develop the DNA to continually reinvent and connect with generations as they grew and matured. Just like wine, banking and all other products and services in the market are expected to get better with age. They are also expected to get younger even in their old age.
Those days, people knew which banks was the top gun when names like Union Bank, First Bank, United Bank for Africa and to a great extent, the then Afribank were mentioned.
But as generations matured and gave way, the calibrations changed. Although Union Bank slipped down the pecking order in the Nigerian financial services food chain, it no doubt retained a vast majority of the old generation, who still saw the bank as one of the safest.
What this meant was that the tagline of Big, Strong and Reliable actually delivered loyalty for the brand. The only challenge was that these loyal generations, some of whom were deep-pockets were ageing and dying while new generations are not seeing the loop through which to connect and as the saying goes, “follow in their fathers’ footsteps.”
The change began a little over three years ago. Having gone through stability challenges, some core investors bought heavily into the bank, then under the care of the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) and what looks like a rebirth thus began.
Without appearing to be bullish about its intention to refresh, Union Bank began a slow but methodical self-reinvention. First, it began to hire young and well experienced bankers who have traded in and with technology and who understands the science and art of financial services competition.
Driven by the restless vision and intellect of these guys, technology began its walk into Union Bank’s banking halls. It is interesting to note here that Union bank was the first Nigerian bank to implement a self-service account opening mechanism.
This, it has been able to do in two strategic locations in Lagos and Abuja and looks to replicate across the country. In these branches, customers are enabled to open bank accounts via interactive machine interface. No forms, no frills.
In these two branches are also built a customer service video-conferencing interface where customers can connect with officers via video conferencing and have problems solved. No forms. No frills.
Those who have noticed these fancy footsteps of the “resistant” Stallion have been impressed and were sure that a lot more would follow.
What eventually followed was a vigorous remake of the Stallion logo to one galloping forward in aggressive pursuit.
ENTER THE PURPOSE-DRIVEN STALLION
You see, horses communicate a lot of things. When they are quiet, the communicate royalty, strength, peace, service and companionship. But when you see a horse standing on its hind limbs with its two legs up, it presents resistance, aggression. Sometimes, this can communicate disloyalty because in such poses, the horse would most likely be telling the rider that “you aint gonna sit on that saddle strapped on my back.”
But with a new logo, Union Bank is saying it is in for the race into the future. The new Stallion that is serving as the bank’s logo is in full speed. Still in its royal whiteness, Union on a light blue background, Union Bank presents itself through the horse as a bank that is fast, and in determined pursuit of its goals to be ahead of the future.
The beauty of the brand refresher as implemented by this bank lies in its strong connection with the past while at the same time making a strong statement about its direction to a new future of speed, service and relevance.
The tragedies most brands get into is the total overhaul of its logo. Many do not understand that a total logo change has capacity to disconnect people from the brand. But Union was able to retain the horse, retain its colours that people have associated it with over the years while at the same time changing the message the Stallion is sending to the market.
In the words of the Head, Corporate Affairs & Corporate Communications of the bank, Ogochukwu Ekezie-Ekaidem, “Our new identity pays homage to our past and carries with it our proposition for the future. Our iconic white stallion, which represents strength and passion, is now in motion, cantering forward with energy and dynamism. We have introduced a modern typeface and updated our colour to a fresher and more vibrant blue.”
Summing up the three year journey o self-reinvention as undertaken by the bank under his stewardship, Emuwa believes that the critical milestones of the past three years have laid a solid foundation for future successes.
“Union Bank has been a trusted name for Nigerians for nearly a century and we will continue to leverage our heritage as we embrace a rapidly changing world,” the Managing Director concluded.
Emuwa is right. The world has changed. It is still changing and very rapidly too. Any business that does not factor these changes will remain in the past and businesses are not done in the past tense. They are cultivated and consummated in the present and future. It was therefore not surprising to hear the Chairman of Union Bank’s board, Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma, say that he feels very proud of the “strides the bank has made during my time as Chairman and I commend the Board, Management and Staff on their hard work over the years and I am sure the Bank will continue succeed as it embarks on a new phase with a refreshed brand identity.”