Nnamdi Okonkwo, MD, Fidelity Bank.

UCHE AKOLISA  |

New Fidelity Bank logoFidelity Bank Plc is wearing a new logo and colours in a rebranding exercise which seems to have caught the fancy of money deposit banks in recent times. Most times, consumers rarely notice the look of the logo of their preferred brand as long as they get the value they expect from the brand. Yet many brand owners on advice of their brand communication managers, are tempted to look the way of logo redesign whenever they want to revamp the brand image.  Sometimes they are justified, at other times, they are not.

According to brand experts, among other things, logo redesign is recommended following a merger, to reflect an expansionist plan, or to do away with an outdated design. The last two reasons may have informed the recent Fidelity Bank makeover.

Coming at a time when, in response to the labour pains of a constricting economy, many banks in Fidelity Bank class such as FCMB, Skye, Sterling, Wema and Heritage Banks have re-jigged their identity, as part of efforts geared towards expanding their retail portfolio, the rebranding was most expected if the 27 year old bank were to stay relevant in the industry. This became particularly necessary following Fidelity Bank’s lost bids to acquire Enterprise and Mainstreet banks, a union which if it had been consummated, would have taken the bank to Tier 1 or Too –Strategic-to -fail category in the sector.

Where it was coming from

Fidelity Bank Plc opened shop as a merchant bank in 1988 and later transformed to a commercial bank in 1999. It went into a merger with former FSB International Bank Plc and Manny Bank Plc (under the Fidelity brand name) in December 2005. With presence in major cities and all the 36 States, Fidelity is one of the most capitalized banks with $1 billion.

However, at 27, the bank is like a lake, a mass of water bordered on all sides by aging customers. Fidelity Bank is a prude, too comfortable and well accustomed to its tradition and slow to adapt to the emergent aggressive trend in the industry. Perhaps, it awoke too late to the ‘bigger the better’ policy of the regulatory authorities, which may have cost it the bids for the nationalized banks.

Its’ very conservative personality is not really much of a surprise, its first MD/CEO, Mr. Nebolisa Arah, is a Catholic. His successor, Mr. Regnald Ihejiahi, is also a Catholic. Its’ former chairman and former governor of Anambra state, Mr. Peter Obi is also a Catholic. All this may have conditioned the stoic and risk averseness of the bank until now. So, most people would understand where the orthodoxy flows from.

However, the current helmsman, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, has shown promise by bringing creative disruptions to bear on the brand personality of the bank, which has become necessary if it were to respond to contemporary times. He did it successfully with another financial institution where he worked before this time out.

According to Mr. Okonkwo in a recent interview with Business Hallmark, the Fidelity rebranding exercise is meant to target the youth population via renewed commitment to IT-driven customer service while retaining its old generation customers with an eye on expanding its market share.

“In Nigeria today about 42 million or so of our population is made up of youths. What appeals to those people is not what appeals to those in their fifties and above. So your brand has to correspond with preferences and the times to appeal to this generation. But in doing that, we also chose not to forget where we are coming from. So our new brand’s external manifestation is a mixture of both the old and the new, he said.”

Industry experts have lauded the rebranding exercise, particularly, the logo redesign, which they noted was a welcome development given the bland look of the old Fidelity Bank logo.

An advertising expert and MD, Verdant Zeal, an advertising agency, Mr. Tunji Olugbodi, who noted, that “the refresh was in order,’ explained that it was a response to the changing times.

“The old had survived two long-serving MDs. The management is faced with fiercer and more contemporary challenge. Today, the customer is spoilt for choice, the clutter is higher, social activism is on the rise. Technology causes more to be done, he said.”

Another brand expert and COO of Bluebird Communications, Mr. Kayode Ebatamehi, described the logo as ‘trendy.’  “The new logo is trendy,” he submitted.  He added that the media vehicle through which the bank is deploying its rebranding campaign indicates they are targeting the youths as envisioned in the new campaign.

However, the young people/prospects who the bank is trying to charm with the new brand makeover are kicking at the new logo.  On the social media where youths congregate, the new logo has been receiving unkind cuts from reviewers.

On Nairaland, one of the commentators who identified himself as Ourdele compared the new logo to Fidson’s.  Part of his comment read, “I was thinking it was just me, though I already discussed with a colleague who feels the same way. Reminds me of Fidson, a pharmaceutical company.”  Another Nairaland commentator, said he found the new logo, a ‘turn-off.’

One graphic artist and  blogger on the Medium.com, a social media platform, who identified himself as Leslie Williams faulted the logo design on font and colour.

“… Juice up the blue slightly and remember to remind the people that they’re dealing with a BANK,” Williams stated in his post titled, “Fixing Fidelity Bank Cosmetic Mayhem.”

However another online commentator identified as Snidgo has positive words:  “As for me I like the new Fidelity bank logo, at least, better than the previous.”   Snidgo counseled other commentators to wait for a month to ascertain the effect of the new brand mark.

The harsh reviews of the Fidelity Bank logo redesign are no strange thing in the marketing communication space. There are precedents.  Google, Pepsi and Tropicana’s change of brand mark were greeted with protests from consumers forcing the brand owners to beat a retreat.  For instance, Tropicana Juice had to revert to their old logo – a straw stuck in an orange juice after their sales slumped by 20% following a logo redesign.

 

Will new Fidelity Bank live its new vision?

Changing a logo may not change anything about a business except there is a corresponding change in the internal philosophy of the business or brand.    Investors have not responded to the brand refresh as the price of Fidelity bank has been hovering between N1.40 and N1.50 since the rebranding, early September.

Business Hallmark visited some branches of Fidelity Bank in Lagos and noted that apart from the fresh look in the colours and logo, front-desk officials responded to customers with courtesy and dispatch. Some young customers of the bank told Business Hallmark they have observed some transformation.

‘Their services have improved in all my transactions with them,” volunteered a customer at Ogba branch of the bank who simply identified himself as Clem.

Another customer at Oba Akran, Ikeja branch, Mr. Daniel Uche was more specific. He said: “There have been a lot of improvement, especially with online banking; you can send money to any part of the world from your doorstep.”

It is not very clear how far the new rebranding can go to shake off the Fidelity Bank brand’s ‘uptightness.’  Experts believed it is too early in the day to call.

Ebatamehi continued, “Specifically, it is difficult to say if it would appeal to the youth market. I am not privy to the brief given to the agency and what the issues are.  But looking at the media vehicle chosen thus far, I think they are really targeting the youths.”

Olugbodi concurred. “It is too early to judge,” he said.

However, cynics like one analyst, who would not want to be named,  have got one conclusion:  “The new logo does not reflect a financial institution that has eyes for a top-five industry position.”

“They said the new colours represent growth and fertility. For a bank that has been around for years, should that be what they stand for?” said the financial analyst who argued  that losing out in the race to acquire Enterprise Bank might have permanently reduced Fidelity’s chances of attaining the level of a first tier bank.

Efforts to get reaction from Fidelity Bank proved abortive. When contacted, the bank’s spokesman, Mr Henry Ndiulo, promised to get back to Business Hallmark but did not as at the time of filling this report.