Social Media War: Banks fight dirty

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By Kayode Tokede

In a battle of supremacy to attract more customers, Nigerian banks have shifted the battle of branding to attract more customers through crafted images to the Social Media. This war is considered as a creative strategy adopted by banks to draw attention of the general public to their formal  financial products and services to ensure that no fewer than 40 million individuals from all around the states are included in the nation’s financial sector in the next two years.

It will be recalled that the Central Bank of Nigeria ( CBN) had set a target of increasing the number of Nigerians with access to payment services from 21.6 per cent in 2010 to 70 per cent in 2020 while those with access to savings should increase from 24 per cent to 60 per cent; and credit from 2 to 40 per cent, Insurance from  1 to 40 per cent and pensions from 5 to 40 per cent within the same period. Currently, about 58 million Nigerians are having access to financial services.

Sterling Bank in a show of creativity started the social media war with leading tier-one banks, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Access Bank Plc and First Bank.

Another bank involved in a subliminal crafted picture advert which has brought global attention is Union Bank of Nigeria Plc.

The advert created by Sterling Bank is trending on Nigeria Twitter’s trend and on the global social media space that includes Instagram and Facebook.

The advert captured a picture of a man on a rocket aiming for the moon (depicted by Sterling Bank’s circular crested red logo) invites customers to join in the ride to the moon and become stars.

The message on the advert obtained by Nigerian NewsDirect on Sterling bank verified twitter account said, “In shooting for the moon men become stars.” It then adds: “Choose a partner that takes you higher.”

The picture advert contains onlookers depicted as well known banks in the form of a man on a big royal blue elephant, a typical logo identified with First Bank of Nigeria Limited; man on a white and sky blue horse, which depicts Union Bank of Nigeria; a man in  a  charge, Guaranty Trust Bank and another man on a striped arrow, Access Bank.

The picture advert also has a skyline with fading images of other banks such as UBA, among others located on the popular Marina on Lagos Island.

The like of Access Bank, Union Bank of Nigeria and First Bank reacted hours when the advert goes viral on twitter.

Access Bank’s reply said, “We will travel on an imaginary rocket too, if we were a one-customer Microfinance Bank; but with ten million customers and counting, we rather bring the galaxy to you!#YouAreWorthIt #TakeTomorrow #KnowYourElders”

First Bank had quite a number of responses to the advert. In one tweet, they said: “What an elder sees while sitting, a child cannot see even if he travels to the moon #RespectYourElders #YouFirst”

In another tweet with gif image showing that the rocket crash landed, FirstBank wrote: “ … And straight into the trash can”

Union Bank’s response, was more a show of concern for the Sterling Bank’s one customer who was on the rocket with no space suit.

The response says, “Heading to the moon without a spacesuit…journey mercies.”

Guaranty Trust Bank has refused to be drawn into the battle.

While Nigerians on Twitter are referring to these exchanges as “bank wars”, Sterling Bank feels it’s simply corporate banter.

Industry analysts said:”In whatever way the messages are perceived, the aim of the bank appears to have been achieved. With improved followers and avowed responses from tweets who now see the bank as creative, the much needed awareness given to the bank through the ad would, however, only become clearer, if after the weekend, business goes its way”.

However, a financial expert argued that the social media war will only be productive to customers and the industry in the attainment of financial inclusion target, if banks can make funds available to individuals and businesses profitably and judiciously. He suggested that further investment should be directed at developing  products and services that would be accessible to the banked and unbanked population.

Recently, CBN Director, Banking and Payment Services Department Mr Dipo Fatokun disclosed that the CBN under the Payments System Vision2020, and in collaboration with other key stakeholders has implemented several key initiatives aimed at modernizing the National Payments System (NPS). This includes the licensing of 25 Mobile Money Operators, introduction of agent banking and Bank Verification Number (BVN) to provide bank customers with unique identification against their accounts.

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