SMEMarketHub Vs SMEArena: GTBank and Etisalat’s Worst Efforts At Branding


Three years ago, GTBank PLC launched SMEMarketHub (using the domain name). It is a classified site where SME owners and retailers can sell goods and services.

GTBank also used the site to markets its savings, loans and current accounts products and services the audience on the platform. The bank had since the launch of the site expended huge marketing budget to promote the site across various media channels.

Although the success or failure of the SMEMarketHub cannot be ascertained (no public data on its registered number of sellers/buyers), but the fact that the bank has continued to promote it means it is getting some traction and the site is delivering some value to its users.

While the idea is not new and innovative in any way, the mere fact that GTBank was the first major blue chip (MTN was the second with its 30% equity in Jumia, formerly Africa Internet Group) to directly invest in eCommerce in Nigeria is commendable.

However, the Nigerian airwaves has been pervaded with another clone of SMEMarketHub that goes by the name SMEArena (with the domain is getting a huge marketing support. The site is fully owned by Etisalat. No doubt about it, Etisalat is free to create any venture it wishes, but the execution is not what is expected from a company that ascribes ‘innovation’ to its name.

The first problem with the whole idea starts from the name. If you already have a competition that is known for something i.e colour, name, sound or idea; the strategic thing to do is to go the other way round. The word ‘SME’ should not have surfaced in the naming in the first place.

The confusion that will likely ensue as things is worrying. Also, a stellar precedent has been set for ‘blind’ copy and paste work in domain naming for ‘dummies’. Any lazy startup owner with interest in another classified sites (even though we do not need another one) can just look for another word and just add ‘SME’ before its e.g SMEAssembly, SMEPalace etc.

On a negative note and a PR backlash, GTBank and Etisalat will be promoting their sites with the first three letters of their names exactly the same, discerning visitors to both sites are likely to be offended.

Definitely, Etisalat deserves a thumbs down in its blatant act of ‘copy-copy’, folks at GTBank should also go read up positioning by Al Ries or attend a crash course in branding. When your understanding of branding is too superficial, you can only come up with ‘no-brainer’ names like SMEMarketHub and SME Arena.

This whole scenario also accentuates the ‘paradox of the big’. While millennial startup and programmers are using timeless names for their classified sites i.e OLX, Jiji, Efritin; Etisalat and GTbank, two of Nigeria’s biggest companies in assets and marketing firepower, are brandishing dictionary meanings of what they do as brand names for ventures they directly bankroll.

I wonder! (copied from Al Ries popular end paragraphs).

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