Implementing Your Brand Strategy: FCMB Case Study

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Once upon a time, there lived a charming prince; Edward Tudor, son of King Henry VIII, heir to the throne of England. One day, while at play in the serene atmosphere of the palace garden

he sees a boy, Tom Canty, who was loitering around the place gate being rough-handled by the royal guards. The Prince rebuked the guards and as he came closer, both were fascinated by each other's uncanny resemblance, feature by feature.

The Prince invites the Pauper to the palace to get to know one another; they shared stories of life experiences and find that they were born on the same day. They agreed to switch clothes to fool the guards, temporarily. Before attempting their trick of logic, the prince goes outside, quickly hiding an article of national importance (The Great Seal of England). Dressed as Tom, he is not recognized by the guards, who drive him out of the palace and eventually lands on the streets. He wanders around, not knowing where to go until he is finally collard by John Canty, Tom’s abusive Father, and dragged off to the life of a commoner.

In the meantime, Tom enjoys the luxury of princely life in the palace but he became increasingly apprehensive about what would be happen to him if his real identity is discovered. The nobles, court staff and guards become very confused of his behavior, word quickly spread that the Prince is mad. The more Tom tried to dispel the idea, the more those around him were convinced that the prince has indeed gone mad. Afterwards, Tom finds a book on the etiquette of the English Court and begins the process of learning to cope with his newfound role.

Edward, who is now in the clutches of John Canty, is brought to the filthy room where the Canty’s live, and is put on display to show the neighborhood his mad delusion that he is the Prince of Wales, heir to the throne; he is summarily beaten for it. His experience is a brutish reality of the dregs of society. One night, he managed to escape and slipped into the dead of the night. He falls asleep on a pile of straw, and when he awakens, he hears many tales of injustices in the hands of the law. Outraged, he declared such laws to be abolished. This, as well as his assertion that he’s the Prince of Wales, earns him mockery of the gang of thieves around, who put together a mock coronation for him. He then wanders alone across the countryside and becomes aware of the stark class inequality in England, there he meets a noble soldier, Miles Hendon, who was returning from the warfront; though didn’t believe Edward’s story, promised to protect him and planned their way to the palace.

One fateful night, while Tom was dining with the nobles, who were overlooking his unusual behavior because he sat in commonsense judgment on court matters, a messenger brings the sad news that Henry VIII, King of England, is dead. Tom is then suddenly elevated from Prince to King, however, yet to be officially crowned. To cut the long story shorter, Edward and Miles, after bouts of intense struggle with the palace guards, managed to disrupt coronation day as Tom is about to be celebrated as King Edward VI. Tom is eager to give up the throne, the nobles, who were startled by their mysterious similarity, refused to believe that Edward, the beggarly child in tattered clothes, is the rightful King until he produces the Great Seal of England that they’ve been looking for. Tom, owing to his innate intelligence and kindheartedness, declared that if anyone had bothered to describe the seal he could have produced it at once, since he found it in the decorative suit armor - where Edward had hidden it - and he has been using it to crack nuts!

Resuming his rightful royal position, in gratitude for supporting his claims to the throne, Edward named Tom King’s ward, a privileged position he held for the rest of his life; and rewarded Miles with Earl and right to sit in presence of the King. And they lived happily ever after.  

The narrative is an adaptation of Mark Twain’s ‘The Prince and the Pauper’ which aired on the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, in the late 80s and early 90s. The story is a thespian metaphor which captures, only in the abstract, the recent rebranding efforts of First City Monument Bank, FCMB, ‘my bank and I’. The bank has just unveiled a redesigned corporate identity to reflect an expansionist strategy. Its traditional colours of black and gold on white background, which depicts the exclusive preserve of the privileged class, has been substituted with a vibrant combination of purple and yellow to reflect its repositioning as a retail bank- for the mass market.

Its refreshed identity indicates the future of the bank, a movement from exclusivity to retail banking. It wants to play the dual roles of the prince and the pauper; this dualism on the surface level would bring about temporary consequences and long-term effects, positively or otherwise.  One method of appreciating the branding process is to observe what established local and global brands are doing on the market, so much so branding is a science and an art; science in the knowing and an art in the doing, and where the two become one in the life of a brand; we have a learning curve.

The refreshed identity, according to Ladi Balogun, CEO, "is not a repudiation of the bank's core values but a marriage of its traditional values of professionalism, excellence and a strong retail franchise". He added, "we have reached the height of our evolution, and we feel we are now ready to wear a new look that is reflective of not where we are, but also where we are going. Our long-term goal to be a premier financial services group of African origin remains. At the heart of the group is emerging a vibrant retail bank that seeks to write the rules of the game... every month we welcome 50,000 new customers and we disburse 20, 000 new loans with over 2, 000 monthly to women owned micro-enterprises. 60, 000 customers are registering on mobile banking solutions that offer reliable and convenient ways to bank... this is not so a quiet revolution is becoming evident in our financial statement. 50% of our deposits are now retail deposits. 30% of our loans are retail loans, the vast majority of which are individuals. The diversity of our business is bringing greater reliance and strength. Steadily this strength is reveling itself in our financial performance..."

I have done one or two financial transactions on the banking floor of FCMB, I haven't formed a definite opinion about the utility, or inutility as the case might be, of the quality and speed of its service delivery. The CEO, brand owner, armed with financial records is in a better position to know the bank's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; he's in the position of authority to chart a course of action to take advantage of opportunities and mitigate risks in the banking sector. Before it repositioned, the air of nobility which greets customers on the banking floor and its magisterial building which differentiates it from other banks created a unique 'brand territory' in the minds of the banked and unbanked population; it does not necessarily follow that only the high-end of the market that the bank is built to serve, all kinds of people on the income and social ladder bank with FCMB, and for different reasons. Its previous exclusivity status is how it was consciously designed to behave on the market.

If we pass to review the socioeconomic realities, the CEO's expansionist agenda is in line with the policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The Apex bank is committed to the reduction of the unbanked population by 20% before year 2020. Its strategy of financial inclusion is aimed at ensuring more participation in the financial sector in a country where only 21 million have bank accounts; 5, 797 bank branches and 9, 958 ATMs nationwide, which suggests that for every 28, 808 Nigerians there is one bank and for every 16, 770, there is one ATM; 79% of Nigerians are excluded from formal financial services; 85% of the unbanked population are females; 86% of the rural population are unbanked; Many in these categories lack information about banks; most cannot read or write, and prefer dealing with cash; 55% use bank for savings purposes, while 19% use it to prevent theft; 3% use Microfinance banks.

That whether or not FCMB made the right strategic move to rebrand/reposition is not the purpose of this piece; it, however, begs the questions: What is, and will be, the reaction of the privileged class to the 'one size fits all' strategic direction? In towns and rural areas, how close will branches and ATMs of FCMB be to a cross section of the unbanked population? What are the 'new opportunities' that it has made available to the banking population? The cashless economy proposed by the CBN, what tactics will FCMB execute to make it easier and cheaper for rural customers to key into the process? How quickly can this be achieved?

In theory and practice, there are critical junctures when a brand has to reposition, namely:

1. The brand has a bad image, confusing or nonexistent

2. The main benefit associated with the brand has ceased to be a distinctive advantage over the competition.

3. The organization is significantly altering the strategic direction

4. The organization is betting on new business and the current position of the brand is no longer appropriate

5. A new competitor with superior value proposition had entered the market.

6. Competition has usurped the position of the brand in the market or had ceased to be effective.

7. The organization has become powerful and wants to turn that power into brand personality.

8. Renewal of the company's corporate culture requires a review of the brand personality.

9. The organization wants to expand the spectrum of the brand to make it accessible to new audience segments.

10. I have no idea.

With regard to FCMB, I leave it to the reader to decide whether the CEO .. is m.a.d (made a difference).

Change is in Progress
Progress is in Change.

Read 2914 times Last modified on Thursday, 09 February 2017 19:00
Abdulwaheed Bashar

A brand strategist, who's passionately driven by the entrepreneurial spirit of medium and small-scale enterprises, and a keen observer of the Nigerian market economy.

3 comments

  • Comment Link Claudio Dec 18 2015 posted by Claudio

    The Blackberry Torch in red along with the Torch in white provides just social network convenience.

    Ancient philosopher Aristotle outlined a single of his discussions on friendship featured inside "Book of Virtues" published by William J.
    Unfortunately this strategy can result in frustration and deficiency of
    results.

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  • Comment Link Author Jul 26 2015 posted by Author

    The refreshed brand identity is not a\the strategy but an instrument, among other instruments, of its strategy to penetrate the mass market; we're likely to witness market activations, promotions, community social responsibility projects and suchlike.

    The difficulty in getting it right lay in the form of execution and ultimately, the reaction of the critical mass of Nigerians, as no amount of magic can sell a bad product.

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  • Comment Link Ogunmekan Opeyemi Jul 23 2015 posted by Ogunmekan Opeyemi

    I really appreciate this write-up, I had a thought about FCMB's case which I felt the rebranding has not changed my perception of the bank but like you said the CEO is backed by financial statement, thus he could prove his case. But from my little experience in branding, changing the identity could not have made much impact.

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