Quite recently we have seen the re-launch of the new visual identity and marketing campaign of Absa Group Ltd. For most this rebrand came at a perfect time while others question the authenticity thereof.  Before I cast my vote I’d like to explore their new verbal and visual language, see what components make up their new brand identity system and why they have chosen to spend copious amounts of time developing this new identity.

With the introduction of Absa’s new found identity I can’t help but feel like it’s their way of celebrating their return to their African roots. I realize that they’ve never lost them but I do feel that they have lost touch with their core values a couple of years back. If this is Absa’s way of claiming back their roots and celebrating it through a new identity, then I definitely want to celebrate their homecoming. Finding ways to get things done – that’s the new Absa and that’s Africanacity!

The brand identity system is composed of various properties that include brand vision, brand purpose, positioning, brand personality, values, as well as visual and verbal language (Klopper and North, 2011:69). All these properties integrate and support the visually and verbally identity of a brand. (See illustration)

To ensure clear and coherent brand behaviour there are three distinguishable properties of verbal and visual language ie. Tone of voice; Symbols & Story that need to be considered.

Tone of voice
The tone of voice Absa has decided to reposition its offering relies on three words.

  • Youthful: trendy, with it, tech savvy, digitally focused, entrepreneurial, millennial.
  • Approachable: friendly, relatable, human, real, un-confrontational, open, authentic.
  • Confident: bold, strong, brave, willingness to try something new.

The video below indicates how Absa uses these three words to communicate its new position as a proudly African bank.

Brand symbols
The new identity brings with it quite a few unique and identifiable symbols including the new Absa logo, their previous logo was complex and had a heaviness about it. It’s safe to say that most things are moving to digital with banking being a part of this movement too. There is a lot of controversy around their new logo, a button-like design that would sit quite comfortably in the digital space. Some say it’s unoriginal and copies that of Open Serve, while others argue that it resembles the Anti-Lock Braking system sign that lights up on a car’s dashboard. If that’s the association the logo has I don’t actually think it all that bad, in fact I think it adds to Absa’s identity. Consider this, would you be comfortable in a car without ABS brakes?

Other symbols used are the rounded “brackets”, used on the sides of the Absa logotype, which acts as a holding space and is used to communicate a specific message.


The new brand has a new sound logo to accompany it at the closing of ads or radio snippets which sounds like African drums beating. This is a bold and confident sound that I feel announces the return of a once respected African bank. Colour also plays a great role in their visual language as the different shades of red brings depth to the brand and further separates it from the competition. Their authentic photography tells real stories of aspiring entrepreneurs breaking new frontiers, it captures the heart of “Africanacity”.

Brand story
To understand the brand’s story we need to understand a little bit of the history of Absa. Founded in 1991, Absa managed to extend its asset base quite dramatically through the merger of a couple financial service providers at the time. Up until 1998 these financial services (banks) were trading under their original names when they all fused together to form one single brand. This gave birth to their new corporate identity “Absa Group Limited”.

In 2005 South Africa received its largest direct foreign investment to date when Barclays Bank UK purchased 56.4% stake in Absa. Since then Absa has changed its name from “Absa Group Limited” to “Barclays Africa Group Limited” and again back to “Absa Group Limited” after Barclays decided to reduce ownership in the group giving Absa the opportunity to rebrand and reposition themselves as a truly South African bank.

“Our ownership change has given us the opportunity to relaunch Absa as a different bank and we needed a new visual identity to mark the substantial re-set we’re making as a business,” said David Wingfield, head of Absa Group Marketing. “Our new brand is an expression of the new identity we are creating as an entrepreneurial, digitally-led bank with deep knowledge of African markets and with global scalability.”

When attempting to rebrand, consider your customer’s needs, understand who you are as a brand and allow visual and verbal language to reflect the authenticity of your brand’s vision and mission.


Embracing Africanacity (Source: https://youtu.be/FxzbP0aq_8g)

#Africanacity (Source: https://youtu.be/aBRxRvu58Nk)


Klopper, H.B. & North, E. 2011. Brand Management. Cape Town: Pearson

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