In December 2018, FirstBank promoted a social media campaign tagged #FirstBankIssaVybe, #DecemberIssaVybe. It involved massive ticket giveaways to premium events in Lagos including the FirstBank sponsored Burna Live. Over 500 mostly VIP tickets, which cost from N15,000 to N50,000 – were given away and money raised for Down Syndrome when tickets to Burna Boy’s concert were slashed to N125.

The Group Head, Marketing and Corporate Communications of FirstBank, Folake Ani-Mumuney explains why #FirstBankIssaVybe was a success and what other brands can learn from it.

What is the concept behind #FirstBankIssaVybe and #DecemberIssaVybe?

#FirstBankIssaVybe was a variety performance for us. FirstBank, which has always been your partner in enabling your dreams, takes not just your financial well-being into consideration but your entire well-being by enabling opportunities for families to come together to celebrate. We supported concerts, plays, fashion, food etc. In all of those different expressions, we were making sure we supported our heritage, the value systems we believe in and created opportunities for families to bond across generations. The carefully curated experiences spoke to our ethos, what we believe in and what Nigerians would appreciate. We were not just concentrated like some other brands on specific areas, or just one name; we were true enablers across the raft, and offered variety.

Why sponsor events in arts and entertainment?

We are making sure we look at so-called alternative jobs. That’s what the First and Arts platform does, beyond being the repository of our values and heritage which we mustn’t lose. We are creating jobs through entertainment and contributing to the GDP of Nigeria. In the last statistics which I think was in 2017, the creative industries contributed a good 2% to the GDP. They can contribute a lot more. We must diversify the economy and this is one of the reasons we enabled the arts and entertainment.

Why just concerts in Lagos and not nationwide?

With our partners, #DecemberIssaVybe, we were trying to curate across the country as a whole. In previous years we were fortunate enough to identify one or two events we knew were going to take place in other cities. Waka the Musical in 2017, I believe, was taken to Abuja but in 2018, Queen Moremi the Musical which was from the same production company was not. If it were, we definitely would have supported it. We were not as fortunate (as in previous years) in identifying partners who understood what we were trying to do. I think, increasingly, we would like to see a situation where, across the country we see as much (events) as we see happening in Lagos. A good 80% of the events during this past Christmas were Lagos-centric.

How do you make it up to your customers and followers in other parts of Nigeria?

On events outside Lagos, in the past we have sponsored the Igue Festival in Edo State, and for a number of years, we were headline sponsors of the Calabar Carnival in Cross River State. We still make sure our branch within that region actively participates in the carnival even though we are no longer headline sponsors. Some of these events may be powered by branches in those regions and not spearheaded from the centre but we do make sure everybody feels us.

What was your criteria for brands (eg: Burna Boy) and events you chose to partner with?

We have demonstrated we have a knack for spotting trends in the creative industries. We identify those we wish to partner with for that year and they end up being the biggest names. As the foremost bank, based on our experience overtime, it should be expected. So any time you see us beginning to push a play or an alternative expression like spoken word or fringe theatres like Freedom Park, just know that person or trend is going to blow.

Would you regard IssaVybe as a success and what do you owe your success to?

It was a tremendous success because we reached a lot of our customers and had amazing feedback from social media. The engagement we had is worthy of a case study for any brand. I have an amazing team. And how they did all of that the whole of Deecember: up all night at the concerts and plays, and then the next day, they kept on going. I just think all of that was the vybe.

Going forward, how does FirstBank hope to capitalise on the publicity gained from IssaVybe?

It was not a publicity stunt. It was actually supposed to be something that would deepen capacity and appreciation of the various genres that I talked about. What we did was cross-pollination: For those who ordinarily would go to concert, when we engaged them, we were also telling them, “Don’t do only concerts; do financial literacy as well.” It was really about making sure we opened people up to new experiences. FirstBank has become the defining curator for December experiences.

Do you have other promos planned for each month or is this just a one-time thing?

Yes, we do. It is not that we have just started but we have always done. Throughout the course of the year, there’s a very rich and robust calendar of different things.

Will these be tied to your 125th anniversary?

This year we are definitely going to be celebrating 125 years. If you look globally, how many countries can claim and boast of having an institution over a 100 years. We want Nigerians to be proud to say actually, we have a home grown brand that stands tall with other companies out there at 125 years. We are a bank and a brand that has demonstrated, within its DNA, it knows how to reinvent itself and remain relevant through all ages. We are still at the forefront of technology and innovation through all the things we do. Very true to our name, we have introduced a lot of things first. I think there’s reason to celebrate 125 and everything we do this year would be around it.

Why the sudden push for a young, hip brand image –through #FirstBankIssaVybe for example?

What we push for is to remain around for the next 125 years. It is not necessarily about appearing cool but enabling everybody to succeed, young and old alike. We are a bank for all generations.

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