OPERATIONALIZING THE CHANDLEREAN SEMIOTIC PROCESS: DECONSTRUCTING(Stage four)

The most important signifiers including written words, photographs, visual symbols and the ideas that these signifiers are associated with must at this point be located and identified. Efforts must at this point be made to establish the nature of system or the culture in which the signs in the texts make sense. The First Bank advertisement contains three important signifiers including one large picture, the body copy (including the headline, sub-headlines, details, closure) and a corporate logo, all of which makes sense (mostly) in the Nigerian business environment. The picture in the advertisement, which is of a young man flanked by a young woman – both beaming with smiles and standing relaxed on the balcony of a top floor building. The man (wearing a short sleeved light grey T-shirt over white striped trousers) wraps his left hand around the shoulder of the young woman. The woman wears a dark colour long sleeved shirt and dark striped trousers, permed hair and wearing fairly small hooped earrings with her left thumb-up. Insurance market

Behind the couple (in the background) is a panoramic view of high rise buildings (including First Bank’s architectural edifice) on Marina Street Lagos. These buildings belong to some of major operators of the Nigerian financial services industry. Marina Street is (as depicted in the picture) is adorned by stream of traffic. First Bank’s building. First Bank’s architectural masterpiece is the tallest in the picture and it stands prominently to the fore of the other buildings. An abbreviation mark (1st BANK) is inscribed at the top of the building.

The abbreviation mark is to give recognition First Bank Nigeria Limited as the owner of the property and also to convey a message of financial strength, power and confidence to stakeholders and most especially, customers. The man in the picture shows off a First Bank of Nigeria Limited Passbook in his right hand. By showing off the passbook, it implies that customers are incredibly proud of First Bank Nigeria Limited. The implication of the ‘show-off’ is that First Bank has a very good corporate image or reputation in which customers are proud. The relaxed atmosphere in which this couple are found indicates that customers are rest assured that their savings are secure and in safe hands and that by saving their money with First Bank of Nigeria Limited, ‘nothing can go wrong’. It also means that First Bank Nigeria Limited is a reliable institution that can be trusted with the safety and security of wealth. In addition, the ‘relaxed atmospheric’ sign indicates that by saving with First Bank Nigeria Limited, customers are assured of long lasting and enduring peace of mind regarding the safety of their savings. Thumbs-up by the lady is another sign that (signals and) asserts the confidence which customers have in relation to the safety of their money in the coffers of First Bank of Nigeria Limited. It signals and affirms that the couple (and most especially First Bank customers) are fully satisfied, okay, and most of all happy with the banking services provided by First Bank of Nigeria Limited.

By standing in front of First Bank’s high-rise building and state of the art architecture, it is implied that First Bank’s customers are backed up solidly by a very big, strong and successful institution that has stood the test of time. The copy headline ‘You’ll always leave FIRST BANK with a smile-that’s our goal’ printed with a bold sentence case and uppercase 32, 36, 32, 18 point Microsoft Sans Serif style typeface, respectively, in black ink, is a direct promise headline making a pledge of the benefits of banking with First Bank. The bold Microsoft Sans Serif style typeface aims to arrest the attention of the target audience, gain their interest and desire and invite them to read the text in the copy further. By putting smiles on faces, First Bank ensures that customers’ desires (i.e. virtues of safety and security of savings and the provision of efficient customer service) are satisfied. In order to achieve customer satisfaction, First Bank positioned itself as an institution that recognizes the customer as ‘King’. Therefore it aims to draw all its resources towards satisfying its customers. This copy opens with the phrase ‘It’s no use aiming at a goal when you don’t have the ability to achieve it’. This means that personal and organizational goals must be set with the hindsight of the skill, ability and competence to achieve it. The intention to make customers smile at all times (see headline and rider accompanying headline) is a goal, which First Bank Nigeria Limited is perfectly capable of accomplishing. The word ‘able’ in the sentence is indicative of First Bank’s ability and core competence (a bundle of integrated constituent skills and technologies) enabling, enhancing and contributing immensely to the delivery of fundamental customer benefit and customer perceived value, which bring about customer satisfaction.

The achievement of customer satisfaction, which inevitably brings smiles to customer faces, is First Bank’s major goal. In order to understand customer needs, First Bank had to first adopt a philosophy that recognizes the customer as ‘King’. To serve the ‘King’ satisfactorily, First Bank made customer service and satisfaction the focal point of all its business activities. This philosophy is driven by First Bank’s passion to delight its customers. It identifies the varying and ever changing needs of customers and takes decisions to satisfy these needs speedily, proficiently and resourcefully.

The emphasis on ‘widest experience’ in the above statement is reflective of two of First Bank’s distinctive, distinguishing, unique and differentiating features, namely history and unrivalled experience. By positioning First Bank as an institution with the widest banking experience in Nigeria, it means First Bank is the most experienced bank and financial institution operating in Nigeria. Being the most experienced bank in Nigeria, it implies that First Bank Nigeria Limited has amassed the most extensive skill and vast amount of knowledge in Nigeria’s banking sector. It has gained large varieties of experience, offering more product and service choices than any other bank in Nigeria. By developing the widest experience, First Bank Nigeria Limited may also have familiarised itself with the Nigerian market more extensively than other banks and may also have developed a better understanding and unrivalled technical know-how of the financial industry in Nigeria.

First Bank’s virtue of integrity implies that it has operated and carried out its financial responsibilities with honesty, truth, honour, veracity and in an upright manner. By positioning itself as an institution with the most formidable asset and resource base, First Bank characterizes itself as a unique bank. First Bank also distinguishes and differentiates itself by making reference to its asset and resource base, which it describes as the most formidable in the Nigerian banking industry. The formidability of First Bank’s assets base implies that First Bank possesses the most inspiring and biggest financial and materials resources in the Nigerian banking industry. These unique resources endow First Bank of Nigeria Limited with the ability to provide strong financial backing on which customers and businesses can depend. The sentence ‘First Bank has more branches than any other bank in Nigeria’ distinguishes and communicates the distinct characteristics, which positions First Bank form others.

With more branches than any other bank in Nigeria, it is evident that first bank has the widest national coverage with a strong network. It implies that First Bank is stronger and has a greater edge and better positioning to provide better banking services (to Nigerians all over the country) than other banks. Being a member of the Standard Chartered Bank, which is one of Britain’s major financial institutions, First Bank has access to over 1,500 institutions located in 60 major countries, all belonging to the Standard Chartered Bank group.With such strategic international partnership, First Bank signifies a unique ability to offer strong financial backing to Nigerian personal and corporate customers pursuing various international businesses with an array of financial services including personal, corporate, investment etc. in 60 foreign countries. The implication of First Bank’s emphasis on its partnership with Standard Chartered Bank Group coveys a very strong message of its core competence, a unique ability to offer trade and credit information (i.e. contact details of exporters and importers worldwide) to customers proposing to collaborate or partner foreign business on various business projects.

It is also a sign of First Bank’s capability to provide customers with information on the nature of foreign markets and potential business associates. This is a unique ability, which other banks cannot match.The closure makes a summary of the core messages in the text. It invokes the bank’s core competencies, a unique ability to offer trade and credit information to customers proposing to collaborate or partner foreign business on various business projects, which other banks in Nigeria cannot match. It also draws attention to its competence in identifying customer needs and its ability to deliver these needs, create customer value, achieve customer satisfaction and bring smiles to the faces of its customers.

This copy ends with First Bank’s corporate logo and pay off (…..truly the first) printed at the centre of the lowest section

of the copy.

The logo comprises an agile and nimble 7,000 kilogramme black African Elephant (the largest land animal). The elephant (inscribed in a rectangular box with a white background) moves speedily with its trunk in upward swing. Being the largest land mammal and one of the most powerful animals, the elephant signifies and complements some of the issues discussed in the body copy of the corporate advertisement. The size of the elephant stands for the size of First Bank, proclaimed in the body copy as the biggest bank with the largest branch network in Nigeria. The nimble character of the elephant supports First Bank’s ability to respond to customer needs speedily and efficiently (as claimed in the body copy of the advertisement). The strong and powerful elephant also represents First Bank’s power, strength and ability to provide financial backing efficiently to personal and corporate customers.

Printed next to the rectangular box containing First Bank’s nimble elephant is a white numeric mark (1st) commonly used to denote the word ‘first’. This numeric mark in thick font is printed in another rectangular box with a black background. Next to this is the word ‘Bank’ printed in thick white twenty two font size Bookman Old Style type face and with the date of incorporation of the bank printed at the centre bottom of the word ‘Bank’. The entire corporate logo is followed by the bank’s payoff ‘……..truly the first’.