GTCO: When smooth rebranding happens, there are always lessons to learn

Few brands can confidently execute a rebranding campaign without great apprehension about the outcome. It is understandable, as brand managers can be worried that such an exercise could quickly go south even for well-experienced marketers. As previously shown by Pepsi, a rebranding exercise worth a million dollars and four months of back-breaking ‘work’ can culminate in a rebranding fail many consumers will feel is unnecessary. Yet, the brand stuck with it, and years later, we look at the new logo, and few remember that it is supposed to capture the image of a smile – seen sideways – on people’s faces.

Therein lies a failure of rebranding

Any rebranding, good or bad, requires selling to the target audience. Yet, one of the marks of a good one is how smooth the transition from the old to the new turns out, as seen in the reorganisation of Guaranty Trust Bank PLC to Guaranty Trust Holding Company. You may not have heard or read about it before seeing the new brand logo begin to pop up at your local branches, but chances are, when you did see it, the reaction it evoked in you was not repulsion.

The new logo looks hardly much different from the old, as this slogan from the brand emphasises, “Same orange,” but it promises, as the second part of the slogan assures, to give its customers “more range.” This is an honest admission that this is not about a need for a facelift but about new beginnings, a new era that augurs well for the future of banking with GT. If any brand can achieve this, GT is that brand, with its history of shaping the industry to become increasingly about more than savings and investments.

The gift of retail

A huge chunk of Nigeria’s recent banking history has GT at its centre, if not leading the pack of the 24 banks that emerged from the Nigerian banking consolidation reform of 2004. From redefining personal banking through its marketplace – which offers customers access to goods and services they may desire to spend the monies they save with GTBank, to helping popularise unstructured supplementary service data USSD money transfers, the brand’s history of charting new waters and arriving victoriously ashore can explain why rebranding can come easy to it. But there is more to what makes for a successful rebranding beyond a history of getting it right, breeding customer trust.

The reason for a rebrand is a critical element of success, and in GT Bank’s case, the reason is perhaps one of the best because, by its very nature, its communication is a herald of great things to come – brand expansion.

With a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) survey of Nigeria’s FinTech predicting in 2017 that Nigeria’s retail banking and payments sectors would be disrupted by emerging companies building financial technology solutions, GT Bank, like other banks, has clearly outgrown its makeup. The same report also suggested that by 2025 – 2030, a market economy could exist without banks of the traditional kind. For GT Bank, the departing CEO has explained that the new structure will allow the company to take advantage of new business opportunities in the emerging competitive landscape and strengthen its earnings base.

With its rebranding, GT Bank is looking to a near future by diversifying into payment service banking (PSB), asset management business and pension fund administration (PFA), while maintaining its core banking business. A holding company allows this.

It is the gift of retail – which the bank pursued following its consolidation post-reform in 2004 – that helped it achieve the organic growth that gave it its over 20 million retail customers. The rebranding promises more growth into new market segments while GTBank maintains its integrity as a leading bank in Nigeria.

Lessons in the smooth transition

GT Bank might have benefited from years of trust-building, but perhaps the more important elements are the right reason – in this case, growth – and making just enough change not to rock the boat too much. That ‘if it is not broken, there is no need to fix it,’ is a truth all brand managers understand.

With its far-reaching interests making its signature orange colour synonymous to the bank whether seen enwrapped in the fashion or food industry, it is evident that its existing image works. Reliable data back the decision to keep.

According to Lucidpress, consistent brand presentation – using images that have grown familiar to consumers – has been shown to increase revenue by 33%.

If you are looking to rebrand and it is not because your brand has outgrown its current image, other reasons to consider rebranding include:

1.     Your brand has lost all the uniqueness that makes it stand out. This could happen as, over the years, competitors joining the market either intentionally or not develop a look and feel with their image

that mimics what could soon become an industry palette for brand image. Rebranding to stand out, in this case, could be to your benefit and highly likely to be smooth.

2.     You target a customer demographic with a unique collective identity – say Gen Z and their irreverence to erring authority.

3.     Your brand is outdated because your image for decades is not working in a new age. It is essential to let the conviction that the brand is not working anymore lead the decision in this case. Remember that, ‘if it isn’t broken, there is no need to fix it.’

4.     Your brand has new values, and its old image doesn’t reflect them.

5.     You have merged with or acquired a formidable brand from whose history your brand stands to benefit.

Ultimately, it is vital to get a feel of what your existing customers feel about your decision and let that guide you to avoid making a similar costly error to renowned financial accounting and tax services firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, which in 2002  decided to change its name and logo to ”Monday”, to ‘resemble new and fresh starts.’

Unfortunately, PwC had to change its logo back to what it was as the new logo neither communicated its image as a firm of long tradition and loyal customer base nor conveyed anything about the firm it is supposed to represent.

Nobody wants a failed rebrand. But if it must, it should fail on the right principles.


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