Taiwo Obe, one of the most frequent visitors to this blog reminisces fondly about Mr. Tayo Aderinokun, the MD of GT Bank who joined the Saints Triumphant this past week. His short essay tells me two things one of which I did not know before reading this; rather, it actually confirms one that I had sensed since I lucked into several correspondences with Mr. Obe in the course of getting on with this new blog: that he has chutzpah!
The other thing that has really just started to sink in is that people really do love the late Mr. Aderinokun very genuinely. Some years back when we tried to open an account, several people suggested GTB but weaned on staid old reliables like Barclays, I was sceptical at first but the bank has been nothing but professional. Mr. Obe’s encounter with Aderinokun showed a man who could, from having a simple discussion with a seemingly pushy slightly younger man, see much more than the superficial. I guess that’s basic to GTB’s success at assembling very able and willing-to-learn young people. I was at my local branch yesterday and the workers, all dressed in black, appeared genuinely in mourning.
On November 7 last year, I wrote in my Sunday column in The Nation about a young lady, Funke Alaka whose death led to somebody I did/do not know sending information on the girl who had worked for Chartered Standard Bank – to me. The document lambasted the girl’s employer and here is a bit of the write-up based on a document the guy sent me: “ … GT Bank, for example, flew a staff that was shot at by gun men four years ago abroad for treatment, paid his full salary and had all his work tools customized to enable him continue to work because his visibility was slightly impaired.”
What tribute could be better than that! I think it says a lot about the leadership of GTB anchored, of course, by its late Managing Director, Tayo Aderinokun. May God grant him eternal rest.
Uncle T: No more emails, txt …
By Taiwo Obe
Everyone who had asked me what the name of the company means, I had always asked what Coca-Cola meant and – for effect – added: ‘there would be a free seminar at our 10th anniversary.’
Indeed, there was a seminar, on 16 November 2005, the exact anniversary date, which was keynoted by international brand futurist, Martin Lindstrom. He gave a multimedia presentation of his bestseller, BRANDSense. The seminar was graciously sponsored by GTBank; and, to say it like the television commercial of its insurance subsidiary, GTAssurance, there’s a story to that.
It was the morning of the 2nd Ogun State Economic and Investment Summit held at the then Gateway Hotel, Abeokuta. As Chairman of the Planning Committee, GTBank’s Managing Director/CEO, Mr ‘Tayo Aderinokun had arrived early and was seated, alone, in his world, at the foyer while the auditorium was being prepared for the event. I was returning from the restaurant. I walked up to him and introduced myself, handing him my business card. He looked at it, and as if he had just struck gold, said, ‘ah, yes, I’ve always wanted to know the meaning of this name.’ Of course, I told him, ‘there will be a free seminar at our 10th anniversary….’ ‘OK: I’ll wait,’ said Aderinokun, quietly and smilingly, as he handed me his own card. The bank was then known as Guaranty Trust Bank and widely called GTB. Several years later, at a private dinner for a British guest lecturer whose institution had done a case study on the bank, Aderinokun, in his signature quiet, almost aloof way, got his guests – there is no free dinner – to engage in a focus group discussion on their perception of the bank’s new identity, the Orange colour and the new name –GTBank.
Two months or so to the 10th anniversary of TaijoWonukabe Limited, I remembered that I had been promising ‘a free seminar’ – without, er, ‘having a plan for that too.’ So, I went to the cyberspace and more or less brought it down in search of any available international speaker on branding.
I found Martin Lindstrom. His credentials were fascinating, nay, intimidating. A Dutch, he was resident in Sydney, Australia; his company’s headquarters was in The Netherlands and outposts in Australia, United States, United Kingdom…. He had set up an advertising agency at age 12. He was not an alumnus of any of the world’s prestigious universities. In fact, he didn’t attend any university. In 2005, he was just 35 and a branding consultant to Fortune 500 companies.
Then the “groundbreaking” book, BRANDSense. Foreword by “one of the all-time masters of marketing, distinguished Dr Philip Kotler.” It was “being touted as the marketing book of 2005.” “Drawing heavily on the data of his extensive research, Lindstrom discovered some remarkable facts. BRANDSense proves how the smell of a new car, or the perfect sound of a closing car door, plays a major role in selecting what model is purchased. Ironically, a new-car smell simply doesn’t exist. What the consumer smells is an artificial odour that’s been sprayed into the interior, creating a sense of quality. Now the generic ‘new car smell’ is about to be branded along with the sound of a closing door – just like Singapore Airlines has patented the smell in their cabin. Likewise, the sound and feel of Kellogg’s cornflakes crunching in our mouth has been created in sound labs.”
Lindstrom was then taking BRANDSense on a world tour. He had been to South Africa, and I think, Kenya or, and, Egypt. I called his Personal Assistant, Signe Jonasson, and, yes, Lindstrom would be available on 16 November, 2005. I found out how much the investment fee was, and asked that his credentials, everything, be emailed to me. Pronto. That evening, I emailed Aderinokun, reminding him of our meeting in Abeokuta and concluded, ‘here, Sir, is the seminar, can you please underwrite it?’ I sent similar emails to two others. I actually forgot about it, until I received an email from Muyiwa Moyela, then on the staff of the External Relations Department of GTBank, that his MD directed that his department got in touch about the Martin Lindstrom presentation. That was it. We had our free seminar. Thanks to Uncle T, as he was fondly known and called at GTBank. Three years later, I emailed him to sponsor the multimedia presentation of Lindstrom’s next bestseller: Buyology: The Truth and Lies About Why We Buy. Before the public event, Lindstrom had a one-hour session with GTBank’s management, followed by breakfast.
We are currently discussing with GTBank’s folks about a webinar by Lindstrom on his forthcoming book, Brandwashed, but, sadly, without Uncle T. May his soul find peace.
Extract from The Japanese Company, a forthcoming book by Taiwo Obe.