GCB: Ghana Commercial Bank or Ghana’s Confused Brand?

GCB 2 GCB

I came home yesterday to find my 75 year old grandpa dressed in oversized jeans, big fluffy ice-hockey jersey, lace-less timberland boots, bright red do-rag and break-dancing to Kanye West’s “Black SkinnHead”. Needless to say, it was a drunken Noah stunt, inappropriate for my hereafter memory and made me wonder in shameful disdain, “what the hell is he on!” Of course, my grandpa will never do that! God bless his soul; the old man exited the world just as I came into it. However, there is one grandpa who is doing exactly that: Ghana’s grandpa bank, GCB, in their attempt at “rebranding” is being an inappropriate grandpa, and somebody’s got to call his goof!

When you think of GCB, what comes to mind? Long queues, slow and rude old tellers and how annoyed you were when you walked out of the bank. Seriously, I would rather be in a Spintex traffic on a hot, dry December afternoon than a GCB banking hall. Being state affiliated, GCB was born with a diamond spoon in its mouth and is the envy of all banks, because by default (I daresay) all state workers (and there are millions of them) have their monies passing through the bank. Consequently, it is easily the largest bank by revenue, staff size and national coverage. Somehow, they asked, and someone, some people probably told them that they are as old and boring as a monkey on a rock! But that’s not a difficult discovery; everyone knows that, except, newsflash, GCB, until now! However, what they have done to seemingly address their unpleasant image is the worst child’s play in the history of brand management.

You might have recently come across a billboard or a newspaper ad with a different GCB logo, with the old eagle (probably over-worked to death) and the dimmed black star, replaced by a flattened animated eagle that is not sure whether its head is black or white. Oh wait, perhaps, they are fraternal twin eagles. Whatever! You might have also seen images of four young people accompanying the new logo. The bank’s website referred to this self-mockery as the “new brand”, quoting the bank’s MD as saying the “new logo consists of an eagle symbol and a logotype with colour pallets that combine beautifully to give expression to the new image of dynamism and freshness as well as the enduring relevance of its Ghanaian and African heritage”. Really? Somewhere in GCB’s head office is a Head of Marketing who clearly cannot decipher between rebranding and repositioning, because he is clueless of what, why, when and how you ignite and manage these branding strategies.

When you realise your brand image is a used tampon, you don’t just change your logo and call it rebranding; that’s simply lazy (I am pretending it’s not sheer ignorance)! If GCB wants to truly rebrand, it will be an admission that the brand is fading (which will be a far cry) and it definitely involves more than playing around with your logo. It means probably changing the brand name, firing all those slow and rude tellers, using queue management technologies to efficiently control banking hall traffic, re-touching their banking halls, new products, changing their target market (like they ever had one), bigger and louder ads to ring the new changes etc. etc. You cannot rebrand with the same old service delivery people and processes. You get the idea! It’s a bigger deal! It’s a brand re-birth, not simply by baptism, but by re-conception!

What indeed GCB is probably attempting to do, and I think they should do, is repositioning; they want to be seen in a different way, thought of differently by consumers. To highlight this they changed their motto from “We serve you better”, because they know that’s so not true to “Your bank for life”, which is far more accurate considering banking with them is usually a bad, forced, arranged marriage you decide is better to endure than cede from and pay alimony. My point is, conceptually, they have misfired, and that confusion is apparent in their spoof of “rebranding”. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!

Moving forward, to properly reposition, somebody has to tell GCB that first, “young” is not necessarily the same as “cool” and there is nothing wrong with being “old”; actually, you can be old and cool, in your own way. After all, though a lot of young people think their parents are “old and boring”, they ironically think their grandparents are “old and cool”. GCB should stop putting those twenty-something people on their billboards because those people actually hate them. Instead own the “old folks” like you do your tellers, and just be sweet and kind to us in the banking hall. That way, we will still be mad that you are slow but we will forget it and love you the moment we encounter your fresh customer service. True repositioning for GCB is customer service, nothing else, not the chameleon eagle or the ridiculous mottos.

Perhaps, and I mean perhaps, GCB can be the cool grandpa who is less fixated on efficiency, and more on symbolic experience. People spend long periods in GCB banking halls; let’s make those periods fun, relaxed and painless. Cable networked TVs showing local movies (Africa Magic will do the trick) in local languages (or even Nigerian movies), comfortable seats, coffee or soft drink machines, local magazines and free Wi-Fi in the banking hall will make any trip to a GCB banking hall a pleasant visit for customers of all ages and interests. Don’t worry about free riders. Have your staff in there sell or cross-sell your bank products to anyone who appears waiting to be served, and offer them, say, a bank-branded pen for their attention. While at it, throw in a sound-proof section where people can sit if they want to make phone calls, and officially be the only bank that allows phone calls in the banking hall. You get the idea! You see, what we love about grandparents is that mostly, they let us do stuff our parents won’t let us do!

What’s my point? By Jove, I am not the smartest guy around, but even average intelligence people like me know that GCB sucks the way it is now. Nobody is going to really hurt them because they are well protected and lubricated by the state. However, if the bank wants to earn its own respect and shed off its “state spoilt brat” image, and I think the bank wants to, then they have a choice at rebranding or repositioning. I advocate the latter, and propose that rather than try to become something it’s not, and probably could never really be, GCB can address its existing “old and boring” brand image and become the “old and fun” brand, not by necessarily delivering efficient service (its staff are too old and slow) but by delivering experiential service. It is a brand position currently vacant in the banking industry. Young and cool is over-subscribed and too plastic. Old and cool? Now, that’s sexy!

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