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The power of words: Absa’s latest rebranding takes queue from Nike

Absa new's #YourStoryMatters brand reimagining, which takes queue from Nike's iconic Just Do It slogan, leaves no stone unturned as it looks to inspire hope by reminding customers that their individual stories matter.

In the world of brand marketing, not many campaigns has been as impactful as Nike’s iconic ‘Just Do It’. 

Other than reminding us of some of the world greatest athletes pushing the boundaries of their capabilities and achieving greatness, whenever the phrase “Just Do It” is mentioned, images of courage, conviction and unwavering sense of determination spring to mind. 

On Friday, at the launch of Absa’s Your Story Matters brand reimagining, we were once again reminded of not only the power of words in the fiercely competitive world of marketing, but how Nike, a go-to-brand for athletes, sports enthusiasts and dreamers alike continues to leverage the pioneering creativity and excellence of its most enduring advertising campaigns more than three decades later.

In fact, so powerful and exemplary was the campaign that even some of today’s biggest and most established brands, as we heard Absa Group Chief Marketing and Corporate Officer Sydney Mbhele speak at the launch of the bank’s latest branding campaign, continue to draw inspiration from its brilliance.

Likewise, ‘Your Story Matters’ is more than a strapline, Absa tells us. An affirmation of the bank’s intent that their customers are much more than mere account numbers, it’s a reminder that every’s story matters; that each one has the power to inspire – no matter how seemingly big or small it may be.

Your Story Matters: inspiration, lessons to take

As it’s the case with Nike, a big part of Absa’s new brand repositioning lies in the understanding that words can transcend marketing campaigns to become a critical part of popular culture.

Likewise, the brand promise of #YourStoryMatters was conceived to remind customers that they do truly matter, and so do the stories behind every one of them.

To bring more context, Mbhele gave guests a captivating backstory of his own career journey; a shy boy – born in Soweto – who grew up in humble circumstances. He finished matric but couldn’t string a comprehensive sentence together in English…went to university (UCT) but was afraid to ask any question in class “because I was scared people were going to laugh at my grammar”. Fast-track a number of years later, he went from not only dreaming to work for Absa, which at the time “was the coolest bank in South Africa” he said, to now being its group chief marketing officer.

“So my story matters; and it matters because ‘think of how many of similar stories of boys and girls growing up, who need a little bit of a push to unearth that seed and germinate it, because in all of us there’s an element of greatness.” he said, adding: “So what Absa is doing by repositioning itself with the new payoff line ‘Your Story Matters’, it’s recognising that every single time we interact with a customer, we see an opportunity in every story. It’s an opportunity to just take you up a notch in your life. It’s an opportunity to help your business have one more trajectory of growth. It’s an opportunity that we don’t say to you ‘NO’ when you apply for a loan. We say how can we journey with you to a ‘YES’?”

According to the powers that be at Absa, the bank’s brand reimagining #YourStoryMatters follows a detailed review of customer insights, feedback and research. The campaign launch was attended by a slew of South Africa’s much-loved celebrities, among them actress and TV presenter Nandi Madida (left).

Unpacking the inspiration behind #YourStoryMatters messaging, he said: “You, know as people lose confidence in government, they look to organisation like ours to provide a little bit of leadership, a little bit of hope. So when we say ‘your story matters’ it is designed to be as simple as that, because simplicity is difficult. To say ‘your story matters’ might look like something quite easy, but it’s difficult to deliver. And as business, we’re willing to take that risk and be human again.”

So, when all is said and done, what does Absa wants to be remembered for with its new ‘stories’ campaign?

“Just like Nike did in 1988 when they launched ‘Just Do It’, at the time they used to mainly talk about the shoe, but today they don’t even talk about shoes much, they talk about greatness. I’m hoping that for generations to come, we will be inspiring people about this notion that all of us matter…that whatever journey we travel matters,” Mbhele said as he explained how a straightforward and meaningful phrase can become not only an enduring symbol of a company’s brand identity, but of hope.

“As an organisation, we are saying to you, ‘your story matters’. It’s a recognition that wherever you come from isn’t so much of an issue. What really matters is where you’re going; that we can tap into that little something in you. So we’re inviting people to partner with us so that we can help them write their own stories.”

Tankiso Komane
Tankiso Komane
A Tshwane University of Technology journalism graduate, Tankiso Komane has a vast experience in print & broadcast media business and has worked for some of the country’s biggest daily newspapers, including The Sowetan, The Citizen, The Times, and The New Age. Through her varied work as a journalist, notably as a copywriter for SABC1 (On-Air promotions) and as a publicist for Onyx Communications, she has developed an in-depth understanding of the nature of the media business and how to use it for the purpose of exposure. Her expertise in journalism across various disciplines, coupled with a good reputation, has laid the foundation of a new kind "trust in Journalism" as the media ecosystem continues to digitally evolve.
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