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December 11, 2018

Banks and promises

The National Bank of Kenya along Harambee avenue
The National Bank of Kenya along Harambee avenue

Over the holidays I researched our banking sector. Proof positive that the devil makes work for idle hands. We now have 104 businesses licensed to bank in East Africa, barring any recent failures.

I’m sure that the directors of these banks consider them to be brands, but they would be flying in the face of public opinion. Globally, the banking sector remains one of the most poorly differentiated. (That’s marketing speak for ‘you can’t really tell one from another’). East Africa doesn’t break the paradigm.

The promises that banks make to the market are encapsulated in their slogans. Bank slogans in East Africa divide thematically into five groups:

What we do : A new way of Banking (unspecified). Making sense of money. Looking after your interest. It’s our business to know your business (from the 1946 Musical?)

How we do it: Growing with you. For you. We are you. Getting closer to you. Putting you first. With you for life. One Life one bank (oh dear). Where you come first. Putting women first. The relationship bank. Relationship beyond banking. Your listening, caring partner. Serving Kenyans with style and smile. To us you are family, driven by ethics. Banking on women. Future focused. With pleasure.

Customer impact

Time for more. Inspiring you to do more. Helping you get where you want to be. Enabling you to reach your peak. Your bridge to success. Achieve the extraordinary. Better community, better life. Making the difference (again unspecified). Discover banking pleasure. Own tomorrow.

Barely coherent: Move to now. Innovation is life. Elevating relationships. Excellence, trust, together.

Boardroom Hubris: India's international bank. The Pan-African bank. Africa united by one bank. Proudly African, truly international. Your preferred bank. The bank where you belong. The people’s choice. As strong as a group, as close as a partner; Your solid development partner. Setting the benchmark. The enterprising bank for enterprising people. A bank with integrity (nice shot at differentiation). Here for good. Together on the right path. People you can bank on. Let’s improve life.

Nowadays I’m less interested in how a business advertises than whether it is structured to keep its promises, with staff who understand what to deliver, backed by relevant products and glitch-free technology.

So, I would applaud those banks whose slogans focus on How We Do It or Customer Impact. Not for the copywriting; for the intent.

As a customer, you’ll know whether your bank is keeping its promise…. and you may be disappointed. If you’re a bank director, you should remember that actions speak louder than words. And all the above words demand deliberate action.

Chris Harrison leads The Brand Inside




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