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I Watch An Unhealthy Amount of CNN

A chat with Ogochukwu Ekezie-Ekaidem, Head of Corporate Communications and Marketing, Union Bank

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Professionally, I've been building brands for over two decades – those who want to know the details can check me out on LinkedIn or read my profile, but I'm not going to bore people with the details.

Personally, I am a mum to almost six year old twins, wife to a ninja, sibling to six, good daughter and loyal friend.

Philosophically, I just strive to be a good person every day.

As the head of corporate communications and marketing at Union Bank, one of your most notable achievements has been the rebuilding and repositioning of the brand. Tell us more about this achievement.

They say sometimes it might be easier to build a house from scratch rather than renovate. I think this was our reality when we started the journey of rebuilding and transforming Union Bank.

Our rebrand was a collective effort. Because the brand is what people see first, there's a tendency to want to make the outside look pretty so that it can attract people. For us, we didn't want to do that. We wanted to build from the inside out and that's what we did. We set very specific milestones for ourselves and said when we attained those, then we would go out and tell the public.

While that internal heavy lifting work was going on, we started to define who we wanted to be and how we wanted to present ourselves when we relaunched, and for us, we kept landing at authenticity. We wanted our reemergence to feel organic. We wanted people to recognise us still but experience us in a whole new way. These principles guided our approach to our rebrand and repositioning and I think so far so good.

There's still work to do, but we see the strides we have made and we know where we are headed.

How was the Bank's rebrand received?

I think because we were very deliberate and methodical in our approach, thankfully, the rebrand was successful and the public responded very positively to it as evidenced by our growing customer base and the business bottom line. The creative industry also responded positively and we have been honoured with various awards including this year's Pitcher Advertiser of the Year Award.

But like I said previously, there's still work for us to do, we are on a journey. We've done our best to maintain the same principles and I think that has shown in the brand initiatives that have followed since the rebrand in 2015. Be it campaigns like the Uncle Thomas and Enabling Success campaigns or the work we are doing under our corporate citizenship pillars, we want all Nigerians to see us as a trusted partner that is there to enable their individual success.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learnt in the course of building your career?

You have to put in the work. Simple.

As a creative, you have to expose yourself to a wide range of random influences, because you never know where your inspiration is going to come from.

If you could go back five years, what advice would you give your younger self?

Trust your instincts more. I think I already knew this 5 years ago though, but I believe now, I recognise it quicker. This doesn't mean your decisions won't come with a healthy dose of anxiety and sometimes doubt or fear, but if you've done the work, then I say trust your gut. I believe 95% of the time it will work out and those are good odds, I think.

Would you describe yourself as 'smart' or a 'hard worker'?

I'd like to think I'm a smart worker which in turn makes the work a little less hard maybe? But I'm not sure. I procrastinate quite a bit so I don't think I have a choice but to work smart when I finally get to it.

Hard work to me means doing the work that needs to be done and sometimes going beyond and doing the extra mile. I believe I do this as well, because for me when I'm in it, I'm in it.

What informed Union Bank's decision to partner with CHINI Africa in hosting the Creating a Better Africa programme?

I think anyone that is familiar with the work we've been doing recently at Union Bank understands that the Creating a Better Africa platform is a perfect match for us. We have positioned ourselves as success enablers for Nigerians – i.e individuals, businesses and communities.

In 2017 when Union Bank marked its centenary anniversary, our flagship event was a thought leadership forum which called for private sector collaboration to accelerate the development of Nigeria – specifically to ensure we meet our targets for the Sustainable Development Goals.

We are proposing to do this through The Next 100 fund which will be funded by private sector players to tackle poverty, education, youth unemployment, infrastructure and more. The simple fact is, we can only be as successful as the communities we serve. If we have over 60% of the population below the poverty line and financially excluded, then we need to do everything we can to bring them into the financial system because we will also benefit. More importantly, no one entity or brand can do it on their own and that includes government. Collaboration will be the key to rapid acceleration and ultimately success.

So for us, the CBA is the perfect platform to continue these sorts of conversations for Nigeria and in the wider Africa context.

What are your expectations for the CBA?

I am excited to hear and speak to Thomas Kolster because I think he has it right but then we have to contextualize these ideas for Africa and Nigeria. I honestly believe that creativity in its varying forms can change the world, so hearing how we as creatives can really help shift the narrative and even change behavior to steer the continent towards a more prosperous path will be key for me.

You're a fellow of the prestigious Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship, can you share more light on this initiative?

“Tutu fellows” as we are fondly called are expected to chart the course for the next generation of ethical African leaders. We can all agree that there has been a failure of leadership across the continent and so this programme really challenges fellows across the continent to do better and be better and inspire change. I am lucky to have been a part of it and I am trying every day to live up to it and make sure I remain a worthy ambassador of the programme.

Asides work, work and work, what do you do to relax?

Hmmm…sleep I'm not a particularly social person so when I'm not with my close circle of people, I'm honestly just sleeping or reading trashy novels

How do you develop yourself outside of the work environment?

I watch an unhealthy amount of CNN. To sharpen my vocabulary and my writing, I read the New York Times and Washington Post. Of course attending creative festivals like Creativity Week, Cannes and AdWeek also help keep you inspired and get the creative juices flowing. I generally try to keep up with what's happening in the creative space.


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