On Tuesday 18th June, I received this email from the Stanbic bank.
Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is one of our strategic initiatives. We are cognizant of how diverse we are as an Organization and Nation. At Stanbic Bank our purpose is Kenya is our Home, we drive her growth. We are committed to fulfilling our purpose and ensuring that we apply D&I principles in everything we do for our Staff, Women, Youth and SME’s. The role they play in our organization, society and economy cannot be ignored.
It is for this reason that we are delighted to invite you to the launch of the Women’s Proposition which we have created for Women and with the Woman in mind….”
The email provided a very vague programme, but it’s a bank I figured it was the launch of a new product for women. It was meant to be a surprise. I wasn’t having that so I called the bank to find out the particulars.
The response I got, “just wait and see, it will be exciting.” I wasn’t very amused but either way, I decided it would be a great way to network.
At 6.30 am I made my way to Mövenpick Hotel for Stanbic’s great surprise, I had breakfast and networked. To my surprise, there were a lot of women from such diverse backgrounds. Women I knew from work and High School I hadn’t seen in years. Other’s familiar to me, remarkable corporate icons like Rose Kimotho, founder and managing director of Three Stones Limited, Eunice Mathu, founder and proprietor, Parents Magazine Kenya, just to name a few. There were experienced women across sectors; corporate, religious institutions, development sectors and media all present.
Women aged from their late twenties to sixties. It was such a diverse crowd of what seemed like at least 300 women. Why were we all here? We were all yet to find out. But what we didn’t know when we sat in the meeting room; was it would be a very long day with no clear answer as to why we were there.
The event commenced with the national anthem and transitioned into a horrible visual quilt of a video selling us all of Stanbic Bank’s work in the country. It wasn’t a singular visual story it was a prolonged series of videos of varying quality and packaging forced together. It was a confusing start which was painful to view. There were also other confusing videos played out that morning selling us Stanbic’s products. It was information constipation just too early in the morning.
I am not a morning person, so when I am up rather early at 5 am, technically it’s 4 am because my system goes into constant shock; jolting me up anxious with a fear of being late. By 9 am I start to shut down mentally if I am not engaged. And on this day, that’s the time the barrage of redundant speeches commenced.
The event MC, Yvonne Okwara-Matole, held the fort the best she could. It didn’t seem she was briefed on the direction to take the event. It felt as if she had experienced the quintessential, “You are a professional you’ll do great now that you know the gist of what we are going for” spiel event organizers tend to thrust upon MCs. She bridged speakers with interludes of motivational speech that started to get a bit too preachy for my liking. This event didn’t seem to have a clear storyline. Like that video at the beginning.
It was really getting on my nerves because I have been to events like this. This is what seems to be a signature trait of lazy event planning Kenyans seem to have across corporate, development and government events. It’s our love for power and hearing ourselves speak. Endless talks, which aren’t weaving a narrative. No engagement of the audience, we were like living wallpaper; there to look pretty and clap periodically.
We were slapped with “new” statistics of what women need and want. And the pure fascination of the bank’s realization of this was just saddening. This was market information which was known and accessible through numerous reports – Kenya Bureau of statistics reigns supreme in this area. Consumer Insight’s DAMA report also offers insights on this.
3 hours in no one was getting to the point. It was getting tedious, it felt like the management at Stanbic Bank was trying to make a pitch to the government or convince the development community of their commitment to women as per the UN – “He for She” movement. No one was addressing the big irritated and baffled elephant in the room answering one simple question – what was in it for us?
They couldn’t answer the question because what was apparent was they didn’t seem to understand what they were selling to the audience. They didn’t have a 30-second sales pitch perfected. That also meant this beautifully diverse audience of women also didn’t have a targeted message to meet their needs and justify why they should bank with Stanbic.
That is the bottom line, right? To get these women to buy into whatever product would be unveiled and become the champions to propagate the ‘gospel’ of this product to our friends and family. Women are great at word-of-mouth advertising. If you don’t believe me, remember when you made a mistake and chastised by your mother and how fast it spread to your aunts and their friends? Remember several months later at a random event when a distant relative brought it up from the blue? Word-of-mouth advertising at its best.
By 10.30 am I had mentally exited the event because this was now time wasting. I checked email and started making work calls. I returned to a panel discussion. Oh! Joy!
The panel did have some interesting women entrepreneurs sharing their challenges and growth but still, it was not clear what in the world we were doing there. I kept asking women around me what in the world was going on if they understood what it was, maybe my brain was just processing the information too slowly. But alas! No one seemed to understand what was going on either.
I stepped out again and went straight to the very well-groomed and very warm staff to ask what in the world D.A.D.A was. They fumbled, what I got after a 20-minute barrage was that it was not a new offering per se, what it was, was Stanbic Bank introducing all their available products and encouraging women to take them up. They also have non-financial activities (a very confusing term in itself) such as mentorship etc. which one could sign up to do or opt to be mentored.
But with the automation of the bank, would they have a D.A.D.A dedicated area? No one knew they expressed doubt. I have been to 3 different branches a week later, no branding in them on D.A.D.A. No brochures. No call to action, on upcoming dates. What. A. Waste.
After expressing my disappointment and promising to send an email on my feedback on the event to the sales team, I went back in to share my vague findings with my new found acquaintances.
At noon, after being introduced to a brand ambassador which left more eye rolls, and sympathetic laughter for the comedienne, D.A.D.A was launched. What was it? As far as what I left with, it was an acronym, Dare to Aspire, Dare to Achieve.
I left for lunch and met some phenomenal women who I intend to stay in touch with. That is my only take home from the event.
And this is what annoys me the most with how companies across East Africa operate, especially established brands. It’s all about checking the boxes, they had a ‘great’ event, great turn out, money well spent from the marketing budget. They were covered in the newspapers. It’s a week later, aside from Stanbic staff who cares or even knows about D.A.D.A.?
If you cannot package your product well and sell your value to people CLEARLY and CONCISELY no amount of 10 second PR and events can save your company. What is clear to me is that Stanbic Bank either doesn’t have a clear communication strategy tied to its overall vision and growth strategy, or it is poorly constructed or the team in possession of it just doesn’t know how to execute it.
Any communication and marketing professional worth their salt should have been able to recognize the numerous bloopers of the event at the planning stage. I can ramble on for eternity highlighting what could have been done better. But I won’t.
I will offer you a quick summary of some of the pointers I shared on email with Stanbic to consider as they progress on this D.A.D.A path.
- This event could have been done and dusted in 3 hours flat- less talk from Stanbic senior staff- and focus on powerful stories from individual beneficiaries of Stanbic financial services – to build the case for the solution you are offering.
- You need to differentiate what selling points are boardroom talk (which most of the morning speakers were all about) and what is a good business case to share with consumers. It was clear in your choice of speakers and content shared you didn’t quite understand who constituted the majority of the audience. Your communication team needs to be allowed to guide you a bit better on this going forward.
- This helps your MC set the stage. Yvonne Okwara is a gifted and brilliant mind and MC, she was limited by the type of programme she had. She was painfully underutilised. And in response became a bit too preachy.
- There were too many products being sold to us via the videos it was so confusing it was like walking through a flea market with people yelling the price of different commodities at you. It just threw everything off.
- The initial video that was played at the beginning of the event was painfully long. With so many videos McGyver’ed together. The video was like a digital quilt with different video resolutions and quality slapped together into something longer. You are better than that. You need to invest in revising your video into a maximum 90-second video with one singular sales pitch. It might mean an annual investment if your sales pitch changes. That video was disappointing and very confusing to watch.
- You do not need a “brand ambassador” unless you have statistical evidence that so-called Kenyan “celebrities” have the star power to bring in sales. If you can’t don’t use them. It will save you tonnes of money. So far, unless the target audience is 23 years and younger, brand ambassadors are more about hype never about actual sales from my experience. And more so, ensure the “brand ambassador” actually relates to the audience – Teacher Wanjiku doesn’t fit the bill. At all. And to be honest the fact you chose her was insulting to many I spoke to. If it’s a business and finance, pick someone who can tell a tale and we can at least respect in this area – Michelle Ntalami would be great for young entrepreneurs.
- Demographics – yes we are all women, our ages experiences and business needs vary, clumping us together will mess you up in targeted marketing. For young women, Michelle Ntalami would be great. But as you cross the 35-year-old mark Dorcas Kombo and Rose Kimotho are the kind of mentors we crave for. I had never heard Dorcas’ story before, I wanted to hear more. I even wondered why anyone before she spoke at all. Dorcas was the story we needed! The journalist in me was already thinking her story would make a great news story.
- I genuinely feel the entire format of your event should have been more like an interactive workshop. Chat in breakaway groups with some of the women we idolize in business, open up and get face-to-face advice and then after a 10 am tea break unveil D.A.D.A. What you would be offering then is experiential. For example, when I speak with Rose Kimotho who I may idolize and never have access to at this event, and I am informed she is a D.A.D.A mentor I will bring in legions of women to sign up.
- Be clear on what you are offering in one simple statement. If it is too complex to explain, it means you still haven’t figured out the workings of your offering efficiently.
- Also now that Stanbic is automating its branches the human touch is decreased. Some people were asking, myself included, will there be a D.A.D.A section in your branches and if so how will that work?