By Jeremiah Agada
In 2016, ten agency executives from Forbes Agency Council shared what qualities brands should look for when selecting an agency to partner with. In order to have a thorough understanding of the team they will be working with, they advised that brands should have an understanding of the agency’s history, its previous work and its vision for how to meet campaign objectives and goals. In addition, brands are to pay close attention to how that agency is regarded within its industry, and if and how the agency’s executives are demonstrating their thought leadership and credibility. Importantly too, they advised that an agency’s strategic directions and core values, authenticity, likeability and thought leadership should be considered.
Interestingly, that was exactly what FirstBank of Nigeria did some nine years ago, specifically in 2010 when it called for a pitch for its much coveted account. However, out of the pool of 16 agencies that can be referred to as giants at the time, it picked a relatively young Etu Odi Communications, a young vibrant and nimble agency. From that time till date, the agency has maintained unbroken relationship with the brand, a feat in an industry where agencies and clients are known to part ways in a relatively short time.
Speaking recently to Brand Communicator team on the quasiquiscentennial achievement of the First Bank Brand at his GRA Ikeja office, the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Creative Director of Etu Odi, Uzoma Okoye said about the brand. “FBN has done exceptionally well as a brand. They have grown with Nigeria, even before independence. I like their current campaign ‘woven into the fabric’ which shows that the brand has woven itself into the very fabric of the Nigerian society over the years.
“It has transformed itself. First Bank is known as an innovative bank as no one will look at the bank and say it is old school or old generation even though it is inarguably Nigeria’s oldest bank. But that has come about through constant innovation, and constant understanding of the customer. They offer a lot of value and put the customer first. Even the bank’s promise is ‘You First’, the expression that says their customers are always at the forefront of everything they offer; that is why it has maintained its relevance through the years,” he said.
Quite dynamic, Etu Odi does more of strategy and Below The Line (BTL) works for the bank. Signed on as a BTL agency, Etu Odi has carried out a lot of Customer Journey Mapping-looking at users’ experience for the bank and strategic works with regards to the future of banking. It helps the brand in maximizing and optimizing users’ experience both in-branch and online.
The agency has been instrumental in helping the bank shed its ‘old generation’ bank image, reinventing itself as one the most customer-focused, innovative service providers. The bank has a top of mind awareness among customers as the bank for all ages, offering innovative services while putting the customer ‘First’ in its dealings. Unlike a brand bank where one tends to perceive its customers as members of the old generation, Firstbank has in partnership with its agencies that include Etu Odi positioned itself as a trans-generational entity.
The agency also redesigned the bank’s entire in-branch communication system, giving it a very dynamic appeal, whilst ensuring that customers could easily understand product features and benefits. He added, “In carrying out Customer Journey Mapping, we worked collaboratively with the bank in helping them understand who their customers are, building bespoke services for them. We felt that by understanding your customers, you are able to offer the right information and at the right point, so understanding the retail customer, understanding her journey is of great benefit.”
In its years of relating with the bank, Uzoma said that the agency has enjoyed cordial relationship with the client. “It has been a fantastic relationships. I know that people have come and gone in that period. A couple of our staffs have even gone to work at FirstBank. They refer to us as partners. They have always kept us on board on anything they are doing. We were one of the agencies that were part of the initial rebranding about five years ago.”
Aligning with the clients values as noted earlier is important in any client-agency relationship. Who else will know better than Chris Carter whose agency’s (Rep Interactive) serial success with clients got him a spot on the Forbes Agency Council? On values, he once noted, “We’ve had a lot of success winning new business because our partners and prospects believe what we believe. Our core values are reflected in our work and in every business pitch, we focus on why we exist as a company, over the how/what.”
In the same vein, in promoting its client’s ‘You First’ operational philosophy, the agency has been operating a few values. As Uzoma noted, “the key thing for us is that we are a creative agency; we believe in the commercial value of ideas. So, creativity is our greatest tool but it is not just creativity, it has to be the type that impacts the bottom-line of our client and promotes our client’s brand.
“As part of our culture, we are proactive, so we don’t always wait for briefs to come from clients. We are currently looking at the landscape to know what is changing in the market, the culture and what the competitors are doing. So, we propose briefs and we propose solutions to the client as well. Even before they bring it to us, we have the ideas that can solve client’s problem. Obliviously, the key to longevity of any relationship is chemistry, you must add value, and you must also have the right people interfacing with the client and make sure that you deliver on time. Apart from that, the quality of work that you are delivering also has to be great,” he said.
Its name, Etu Odi or the ‘The way it is’ as translated in English is part of its operational philosophy. “Our name is the differentiator between us and other agencies. What is more important is not just the name. The philosophy behind the name is also important. It is about being bold in standing and differentiating yourself, being bold in the use of culture. We believe that all companies should do that in order to resonate with their target audience. There is no point in talking in a language that a lot of people do not understand.
“At Etu Odi, we aim to help clients release the potential of their brands by making sure that their benefits are clearly defined and effectively communicated through powerful ideas around which communities of like-minded passion people can converge and interact.
“We invest a great deal into acquiring this insight and gaining a deep understanding of the audience that our clients are looking to attract. It’s about building empathy, understanding their needs, goals, wants, desires. One thing that is clear when you deal with us is that we are passionate about exciting insights and the resultant ideas. It takes powerful insights to propel an idea across multiple channels and sustaining them through time,” he said.
Creativity for the agency is very key. An offshoot of the agency’s Etu Odi operational ‘Talk human’ philosophy. The idea behind that is that the most effective way for brands to pass their message across is to emulate real human communication. By asking who, what, why, when and where to define target, reason, message, timing and delivery.
Uzoma expounds that the ‘Talk human’ mantra helps them make sure their communication mirrors itself on real human communication. “That is how we feel we can be more effective. For instance, if I were to communicate with you, I would have done my research. For instance, I will know your likes and dislikes, the best time to approach you and how to do that effectively. There is no point in me communicating to you in language that you do not understand.
“Everything that we do is about talking human. We do that from our strategic implementation through to our creativity, just making sure that the communication we put out to any client is effective and working very well.
Birthed in 2010, Etu Odi Communications is a full service creative agency that specialises in combining insightful brand strategy, creative communication and engaging experience in helping organisations chart the course from awareness to loyalty in the minds and hearts of its customers.
Over its years of operations, the agency has risen meteorically as its clients’ businesses. For a creative agency, Etu Odi has a very high client retention record as many of its clients have continued to trust their businesses and brands with the agency for many years. The agency has worked on great brands like 33 Export Lager, Swift Network, Hi Malt, Oando, Goldberg, FirstBank, Malta Gold, Williams Dark Ale, UK Aid among other numerous brands. Uzoma attributes this feat to the composition of the agency’s DNA which he narrows down to creativity, people and being proactive among others.
The agency has core competence in Brand Strategy, Brand Communication, creating Brand Experience with specialist units for design, packaging and technology solutions.