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GTBank Food & Drink. You can’t go wrong with food, can you?

So, on May 1, my household downed tools. The missus would have me know that being a wife and a mother was work. Hard work, as a matter of fact. So in observance of Workers’ Day, she was taking the day off from most wifely duties. She pointed me in the direction of GTBank Food & Drink for the day’s feeding.

Outwardly, I made a fuss about the denial of my spousal culinary benefit. But the truth is, I am an epicure. A foodie. I’m the sort of guy you’ll find following MasterChef Australia and Anthony Bourdain: Paths Unknown. I consider cooking an art, a creative expression. Much like painting. But the good thing about cooking, quite unlike a Rembrandt, is that you can actually eat it.

I was also interested in the event as a brand marketeer. There’d been so much noise about it. It seemed you couldn’t get an email without it being a GTBank invite to the event. And I am a proponent of brands developing and investing in owned brand assets. Much like MTN Project Fame, Glo Laffta Fest and Gulder Ultimate Search. With owned assets, you don’t pay expensive royalty costs and can tinker with the format of the asset to suit your purpose. The GTBank Food & Drink sounded like it could be a proper owned asset. But I had to see for myself. So off I went.

What Didn’t Work.

Traffic. It seemed like the whole of Lagos turned out for the event. Which was a tad annoying because I had thought I was the only one invited to the event. It took me about forty minutes to get to the venue from Ligali Ayorinde Street. That was a distance less than one kilometre to the venue. Truly vexing. I was close to turning back, but the promise of gastronomic delights was too strong.

What Worked.

Oh, plenty. From a consumer point of view, it was a great experience. The event was about food and boy, there was food! From healthy options to the calories-be-damned. There were local dishes, foreign treats, pastries, grills, fruit cocktails, baby food, snacks; you name it. Everything was there. It was eye and mouth candy.

There were a decent amount of sitting spaces, music, free Wi-Fi, free bottles of water, cooking master classes with food sampling, a mobile ATM and a general bonhomie. You could also drop your kids off at the large play zone while you went to sate your appetite. That was really great.

From a brand merchandising point of view, you couldn’t miss that it was a GTBank event. There were lamp posts on major routes to the venue. In and around the venue, the ‘branding’ was plenteous yet did not assault the senses. It was tastefully and thoughtfully done. Great job by the brand team. I can imagine the decibels of yelling at suppliers and event organisers that must have happened to pull those off. You yell, you placate, you threaten, you beg, you yell again. It can be quite stressful. Especially when you also know your EDs and MD would turn up. I hear Mr Agbaje has an eye for excellence and is impatient with mediocrity. Hear the man also has a sense of humour. Here is an example a friend shared with me:

So there was this internal presentation that Mr Agbaje sat in on. Some new Turk was making a business case and presenting plans. During the presentation, she happened to have called the MD by his first name, Segun. Now, in the Nigerian banking industry, you do no such foolish thing. It’s like calling Kim Jong-un ‘Kim.’ Some of the lady’s superiors were said to have reprimanded her, but Mr Agbaje rose to her defence:

“Now hold on, ladies and gentlemen. She can call me whatever she likes. I like those numbers!”

But I digress.

So, the consumer in me enjoyed the event. From a brand building point of view, a lot is still not clear on the brand strategy for Food & Drink.

The bank seems to be making all the right noise about supporting SMEs. It says that’s why it hosts Food & Drink, FSHN WKND and launched The SMEMarketHub. Yet, to many SMEs, the bank doesn’t seem to genuinely care about SMEs. That its support for SMEs is skin deep and political. Many folks say you couldn’t even approach the bank for a car loan. It’s a bank focused on big bucks via big corporate businesses.

I particularly don’t have a problem with opting to serve a specific market segment. A business ought to deploy its resources and time to the segment it can best serve profitably and without a headache. I’d also put my buck where I’d get the most bang for it.

However, if the bank claims to ‘support’ SMEs, it’s got to do more than hosting Food & Drink and FSHN WKND for them. Those platforms are great but SMEs need more. They need business advisory and facilities (loans), stuff the bank is well able to provide.

If you make a brand claim, you product must do what it says on the tin. You must have the product truth to back up the claim. It’s the basis for consumer trust and repeat purchase. GTBank perhaps needs to deepen its SME offering.

So what would I change about GTBank Food & Drink? Pretty little. But I’d consider making it a 4-day event and tie it to the Easter holidays. The event is becoming so big that two days doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. Start on Good Friday and wrap on Easter Monday. Obviously, that’s added costs, but the increased footfall should more than compensate for the extra costs. Makes for a mother of all events.

PS: This is not a sponsored post. I just happen to love an event where no one was superintending my calorie intake!

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