Say hello to the new Absa. The much hyped rebranding of the banking giant has officially been launched, changing the look and feel of the company.
At an exclusive preview event, held on 29 June at The Capital On The Park hotel in Sandton, Absa revealed its brand’s new logo, new vision, and new look and feel.
Dressed in the bank’s new corporate uniform for employees, Bobby Malabie, group executive of brand and corporate relations at Absa, explained the complex history behind the rebranding, going back to March 2016.
“A lot of thought went into what is it we want to do going forward… We had to deal with the divorce between us and Barclays Africa… For us as a business, for the first time in 15 years or so, we can chart our own story,” he explained.
A thoroughly inclusive process
For two and a half years, Absa revisited all aspects of the business. Firstly, the bank made the decision to make the rebranding an inclusive process, consulting with over 130 000 employees, clients, customers, consumers and stakeholders and asking them to share their ideas, rather than simply having a small team of top executives deciding on the direction and strategy.
The second decision was making the brand integral to the business; making sure that the brand’s work informed part of the strategy, structure and how people felt about the business.
All mention of and branding related to Barclays Africa has been removed from the Absa business, a process that had to be completed by 5 June 2018 in South Africa, and by 5 June 2020 in other African markets (as the Barclays Africa name is entrenched deeper in those territories, so the removal process takes longer). At the time of the event, this unbundling process was still ongoing as it is was very complicated and expensive.
Funding the rebranding
Absa was given R12 billion to facilitate the changes that were a vital part of the unbundling from Barclays Africa.
“We have corralled all of our marketing resources behind this for the next few years, so we are using current spend plus the money we got from Barclays Africa, so focusing on this and taking the new Absa to market and to our people,” added David Wingfield, group marketing head of Absa.
He went deeper into the logistics of the rebranding, explaining firstly that an assessment was done of where the banking brand was starting from. The inclusive consultation process then started.
The decision was made to retain the Absa brand, rather than launch a brand new one, as consumer recognition of the name and its associated qualities (a financial institution, the colour red etc.) is quite high across the continent.
Seven strategic imperatives will guide everything that Absa does. These are:
- Be bold
- Be a brand with heart
- Be a brand with purpose
- Put people back at the centre of everything we do (both employees and customers)
- Provide accountability and autonomy
- Be agile
- The strength of the stuff that we have
Out of the engagements with employees, a brand purpose emerged: Brave, Passionate, Ready.
“Absa feels like an old brand, but it was only launched in 1998, 20 years ago. It’s not that old, but it feels a bit tired,” Wingfield commented.
Reinventing an established acronym
Four further priorities were explored.
Firstly, adding stretch and meaning with the brand was a priority.
Secondly, for those who don’t know, Absa is an acronym standing for Amalgamated Banks of South Africa. With the rebranding this had to change as it no longer really stands for that. The name was switched from upper case to lower case to solve this.
A review of the colour red was the third focus area, as apart from the name the bank is associated with red. “The problem with Absa, is that everyone knows it as red, but no one knows what it means anymore, as we haven’t given it meaning,” Wingfield explained.
Finally, a look at how the brand fits into the digital world was assessed. Creating a logo that fits into the app logo space was the direction the brand went in.
The rebranding campaign included two newly-created, unique features, a brand new word font and a new term, ‘Africanacity’, described as “the distinctly African ability to always find ways to get things done”. This is what the new Absa brand ascribes to. “Africanacity is an idea of how we pitch up and how the people around us pitch up, and how we do things,” Wingfield explained.
This new term ties in with Absa’s new brand positioning, which is ‘Bringing your possibilities to life’.
All talk, but action as well
While all the rebranding elements were very impressive, all the Absa representatives at the preview event were cognisant of the fact that the new image of the group needs to be backed up by quality, efficient customer service. There’s no point in making a brand look good, if consumers flock in droves away from it because they experience poor or non-existent service, which leaves them frustrated.
Going big, instead of going home, Absa has rebranded everything during this process, from employee uniforms (which will be on sale to the public as well) and corporate stationary to employee cards, and branch and ATM design.
“Hopefully the Absa that we knew then, and the Absa that we are going to be are very different. We made sure to take all the good things that came with the old Absa and infuse that with the new Absa and new things we are going to do,” Malabie added.
A drone light show will take place tonight, 19:30 in the skies over the Johannesburg CBD to officially introduce the new Absa brand. Business Insider SA yesterday posted this video of a sneak peek of the rehearsal for tonight’s drone event.
Michael Bratt is a multimedia journalist at Wag the Dog, publishers of The Media Online and The Media. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelBratt8