by Kim Penstone. When I say Bidvest… your most-likely answer to that question is Brian Joffe. But where to from there?

Bidvest is a monster of a corporation, and a monster of a brand, with holdings in over 300 companies from the likes of Alfa Romeo, BMW and Toyota to Rennie’s Foreign Exchange and Cecil Nurse office furniture, not to mention interests in pharmaceuticals, security services, facilities management, laundering and toilet hire. And pretty much everything in between.

Japie van Niekerk
Japie van Niekerk

Including a bank

Bidvest Bank is one of South Africa’s so-called ‘second-tier banks’, which is to say that it’s not one of the Big Four. Founded in 2007 when Bidvest-owned company, Rennies Foreign Exchange, rebranded itself to leverage off the Bidvest brand, it began its life as a forex bank, but over the years has evolved into a full-service bank catering to both individuals and businesses.

The problem, says CEO Japie van Niekerk, is that South Africans have seemed none the wiser.

“Being part of the Bidvest brand is a double-edged sword,” Van Niekerk explains. “It’s a fantastic motherbrand, with very strong financial associations, which is great for a banking brand. But the problem is that South Africans don’t automatically think ‘bank’ when they think Bidvest.”

“Let’s Get It Done”

Newly-appointed agency, House of Brave, was tasked with creating a brand that would simultaneously stand out in the banking and Bidvest crowd, and still maximise the Bidvest association. The result is “Let’s Get It Done”, a campaign that not only plays the bank’s relatively small size to its advantage but also capitalises upon the motherbrand’s strong association with entrepreneurship through its founder, the aforementioned Brian Joffe.

It doesn’t hurt that it should resonate strongly with South Africans from all walks of life, who are simply tired of stuff that doesn’t work or doesn’t get done.

Van Niekerk explains that the South African banking space is dominated by big banks; there is a tendency towards scale. With size comes many advantages but also some disadvantages — most notably the inability to create real tailor-made solutions for clients. “Bidvest Bank is small, yes, but this also means that we are more flexible and nimble than our bigger competitors. Our relatively smaller scale also means that we have more-personal relationships with our clients, enabling us to work with them to find financial solutions.”

An existing internal attitude

House of Brave’s executive strategic director, Rob van Rooyen, takes up the story, adding that “Let’s Get It Done” is based very much upon an existing internal attitude, which makes it a much more compelling campaign and likely a much more enduring one, too. “Bidvest Bank has evolved according to client needs; the bank hasn’t looked for consumers for its products but rather created products for its consumers. We think the market is ready for a bank that rejects a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, and that is willing to really listen to consumer needs. This ‘can-do’ attitude is what stood out most for us when we started talking to people within the bank — right from pitch stage through to now.”

The campaign, which incorporates TV, radio, print, out of home and digital, makes use of heavily inclusive language — “Let’s take risks together” and “Let’s give it our all” — emphasising partnership at all points of communication. It also focuses heavily upon the bank’s ability to “turn no into yes”, part of the brand’s drive to showcase its ‘can-do’ attitude.

Of course, says Van Niekerk, the difficulty is that the banking industry is a very complex, and highly-regulated, sector, which means that you have to be very, very careful about what you promise as a brand.

‘Let’s not start with no’

“There is a tendency to over-promise and under-deliver in the banking sector; that’s not what we are doing. With this campaign, we aren’t promising the world; we are simply saying that let’s not start the conversation with a ‘no’ — let’s talk and try and find a way to make it work.”

He adds that the banking sector in SA is hugely competitive, and there are very few unbanked consumers. But that’s not to say it’s a closed book: “If you offer consumers something that they believe in, they will switch,” he says.

“Before we launched this campaign, we looked at the banking sector from every angle, and I don’t think there’s a huge gap in terms of product,” Van Niekerk concludes. “For me, the only real gap in the banking sector is in the relationship — and that’s what we’re targeting with this campaign.”


Kim PenstoneKim Penstone is a freelance journalist, specialising in marketing, media and advertising. Over the past 15 years, she has worked for a variety of leading marketing industry publications, including Marketing Mix, Marketingweb and Brand Magazine, and in her freelance capacity contributes regularly to specialist titles, such as Brands & Branding, AdFocus and MarkLives. She has recently started a blog,, which is completely unrelated to the marketing industry.

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