How Jim Ovia chose the name and logo of Zenith Bank

Billionaire Banker and Founder Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Jim Ovia has revealed how he chose the name and logo of his Bank, Zenith Bank Plc.

In his Auto-biography, Africa Arise and Shine, which was launched in Lagos over the week, the Agbor-born Billionaire Banker went down memory lane on the thoughts and processes that went down before arriving at the name and logo for the iconic and award-winning brand widely acknowledged as one of the most recognisable logos in the banking industry.

How he came about the name ZENITH

For Jim, the choice of name for the new bank began by drawing a list of names that are off-limits as banks in the country are usually not allowed to use any part of an existing financial institution as their name.

His vision was to build a brand that will not only be a major player in the country’s banking industry but also a force to reckon with in the international market and for him it was important to look for a name that would have a wide and long-lasting appeal to people and not limited by way of geography culture or language.

In his words:

“I started researching with those qualifications in mind to find a name that was unique, one that would be memorable to Nigerians, Africans and to the international markets”.

In his research of various dictionaries and thesauruses, Jim stumbled on one word that has a common meaning in numerous languages, English, French, Latin, and Spanish – ZENITH which means top or pinnacle. Eureka!!! This is it. According to Jim, when he found this word, it was more than an “aha” moment.

“My whole being said, Wow this is it”

 The choice of the bank’s logo

After coming up with the name, attention shifted to the designing of the logo. In Jim’s usual practice of doing a detailed and thorough research, he studied many of the easily recognised logos of Multinationals that have become household names across the globe this include: Nike, Exon, Mobil, Mercedes Benz, Mc Donalds not left in the search are logos of successful banks such as Citibank, Bank of America. One thing that struck Jim was the simplicity in their logos. Interestingly, these logos have three features in common this include:

  • Simple to read and understand.
  • Their names are either spelled out or Initials of the company.
  • The Red colour was also a common feature in their name.

He came up with a design which was the letter Z bisected by a top slice of white space- with the top of the letter rendered in dark gray and bottom in red.

Few of his friends, however, expressed their reservation with the choice of the colour. They felt the color was too strong a colour and that red was synonymous with blood and war. They bluntly told him the colour will scare people and may not want to associate with the brand and besides no bank in the country then as ever used red. However, all these suggestions were not compelling to Jim. When confronted with his choice of colour he will respond

“Look at flags of some of the most powerful and prosperous nations in the world, they all have the colour red in their flags besides, red is the color of love and I believe people will fall in love with our logo”.

This later proved to be true several years after the launch of the bank as other banks in the country took notice of how people were attracted to the brand. The success of the brand logo later influenced many other financial institutions to rebrand their logo with a touch of red.

It is, therefore, not surprising that some other investment owned by Jim such VISAFONE – an IT and Telecoms company previously owned by Jim – has red as its dominant colour.

According to ancient myth, Red is adjudged a magical and religious colour, it also symbolises super-human heroism to the Greeks. Findings also show that Red is one of the top favorite colours of all people and approximately 77% of all flags of countries have red. The colour is also the colour of good luck in Asia.

The Zenith Effect

Prior to the launch of the new logo, two of the oldest and most established banks in Nigeria that had been using colour yellow in their logos for more than 25 years later changed their colour to red after witnessing the amazing colour of red in Zenith Bank.

In no time the brand became a success and it began to appeal and inspire many other names.

In his words:

“I can recall a day when someone sent me a message to the effect that several members of their family had started to name their newborn babies-Zenith.”

 Jim as a brand strategist

The impressive response of people to his brand was a function of core aspects of a successful branding-Simplicity, broad-based appeal, and a combination of something easily recognisable and unique.

Determined to raise the bar of corporate branding in the country, Jim came up with the Zenith Cube – a three-dimensional cube with the bank’s Z shaped red and gray color on each of the four sides.

“There was a huge response when we put those cubes, and people on the streets would smile and stop to look at them”.

The idea was to put the cube on the highest point of each of the branches of the bank. This is to enhance the visibility of its Z name such that it could be seen from any direction. Nothing of this magnitude has ever happened in the banking industry.

The Zenith Cube on the Pinnacle of the Zenith Bank Building

The human mind is believed to be highly responsive to visual stimuli and colour is one of the major defining factors. For Business owners and Entrepreneurs, choosing the right logo colours can highlight business strengths and help attract the right customers, as it conveys the personality of the business. Today Zenith Bank has over 500 branches and business offices in prime commercial centres in all the states across the country.

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Author: see naija

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