On Sterling Bank’s Easter Infograph – Utibe Umoh


It is no news that the sterling bank Easter infographic message to Nigerians malfunctioned and was rather met with vitriol and invectives by irate christians who probably misjudged the bank’s allegedly innocent intent, but how can businesses avoid such pitfalls and do better at messaging?

Even though in my opinion the first Ad was a strategy to communicate the second Ad, but both failed as they did not anticipate the deep seated culture around religion in Nigeria.
Maybe it would have worked in the USA or UK seamlessly.

Nigeria’s religious sphere is one that is highly sensitive and inflammable, and cooperate business, of all institutions, should know this and tread this path cautiously.


One of the archetypes of the sterling bank brand is “Rebel” it is perceived to be a rebel brand and they have positioned themselves as an innovative brand in their category (innovation simply implies trying new things and stretching boundaries) but did they underestimate the culture of religion in Nigeria?

A slight change in the wordings of the Easter message would have made the whole difference – something like “The Bread of life, rose” instead of “Like Agege bread, he rose”. Trust Nigerians to shower encomiums on anyone who blends with their culture whether genuinely or not; we probably wouldn’t have gotten to this point.

Context and perception is key to complete understanding of any script and that’s what we call a copy malfunction. For example some colours have a positive perception in some countries while same colour has a very negative perception in other countries so a global brand would be very wary in using a generic approach in it’s brand campaign or messaging across several countries.

Even in Nigeria, big brands don’t do a generic Ad across the country. They are very careful that what obtains down here in the south doesn’t go up north considering culture which also includes religion.

A lot of market research is conducted in regions to understand both the demography and psychography of the target audiences so that a product launch, promotion or messaging never fails.

In my opinion, the strategy of Sterling bank was simple, create an obnoxious Ad, get an uproar, deliver another Ad (the main Ad) asking for forgiveness; isn’t that the crux of the easter message? Forgiveness? are christians not known to forgive easily as instructed in our holy book – the bible?

A brilliant strategy in my opinion but it failed woefully on execution simply because they overlooked the sensitivity of the issue of religion in Nigeria where they happen to do business.

As our favorite saying goes, culture eats strategy for breakfast. Everytime!
Ignore the culture of the target audience and your strategy will flat on its face.

Sterling bank, howbeit, has apologized unreservedly for their misdeed, but such hasn’t been met with smiles and hugs from the christian association of Nigeria which is earnestly clamoring for the resignation of the bank’s managing director.
We can only but watch as the events unfold.

Utibe Umoh

Utibe Umoh is a Public health enthusiast, poet and author with a great deal of interest in romance-fiction stories and short essays. His first e-Book, Tales of bliss, was out in 2020 and is currently available on the Amazon Kindle bookstore and free on okadabooks.com bookstore. He currently pursues a degree in Medicine and Surgery at the College of Health Sciences, University of Uyo and is editor-in-chief for his Medical student association. He is content creator for Ray of thought - an assembly of young thinkers who are out to impact the world positively - and enjoys listening to classical music at his leisure hours.

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