Articles and Opinion Pieces

Storytelling Redefined

20 March 2019

By Mahmood Qannati, Head of Marketing, Brand & Corporate Communications, Bahrain Islamic Bank

The art of storytelling remains, it’s simply the medium that has changed.

Stories help us interpret our place in the world, connect with people across generations. From bedtime stories when we are young to gathering with friends around a campfire sharing snippets of our life; it is how we connect with one another.

I have worked in the field of marketing for a very long time, and it revolves around the art of storytelling more than anything else. But today, as we stand at the helm of a social media revolution, where content is exploding and all restrictions are virtually removed, the power has shifted back to the consumer. Brands have to work twice as hard to earn customer loyalty, and innovation and merit are the only way forward.

Ever since I joined BisB, I have been part of team of change makers. We all wanted to shake up the industry of banking, we wanted to challenge the traditional norms, and question all that was taken for granted in the industry.

Last week, we launched an exclusive event aptly entitled #BisB, inspired by the Hashtag generation, the millennials, and the Gen Z. We had a reason to celebrate, with 2019 marking BisB’s 40th year anniversary. We wanted to gather everyone around and remind them of the power of a good story, and like any story, it had to have an interesting plot and plenty of exciting and unexpected twists.

We took inspiration from the innovators of our time, and followed in the digital footsteps of international tech giants. Together with our CEO and our Head of Retail Banking, we took to the stage to immerse the audience in the Bank’s 40 year journey, and what the future holds.

We wanted to truly engage our audience through multiple touch points, starting from the venue itself – the Isa Cultural Center, house to rare and original collections of commemorative history. Guests took a walk down memory lane through a museum-like gallery fitted with digital screens that showcased the Bank’s evolution across many eras.

As our audience entered the main hall, the lights were dimmed, the chatter subsided, and a digital timer on the screen signaled the start of the event. After a digital reading of the Holy Quran, a first for this kind of event in Bahrain, our CEO Hassan Jarrar, took control of the stage.

Kicking off the session with his usual confidence, I watched from the side as he started to briefly recount BisB’s most notable moments, drawing attention to the efforts of its founders to bring Islamic banking to the forefront of the local industry. I listened as he told the story of the Bank’s evolution into the powerhouse it is today; reminiscing our success stories but also our challenges. He spoke of the Bank’s earlier strategy; how it had served its purpose, but needed re-engineering to live up to the demands of today and push the Bank to transition into a truly customer-centric entity. I was drawn into his words as if I was hearing them for the first time.

I couldn’t’ help but smile as he revealed what had become second nature to the air that I breathed, our revived DNA and brand promise – ‘Fueled by Bahraini devotion, we craft new ways of simplifying your money matters’. He made it a point to express how “Bahrain-ness” had always and will forever be a living value at our Bank in light of our warm, open and friendly approach towards our customers; and how this key pillar of our DNA demonstrates our desire to continually find new solutions to connect customers to the right technology.

When our Head of Retail Banking took to the stage to share some of the Bank’s innovations that were set to take the industry by storm, I knew without a shadow of doubt that we were part of history in the making. She revealed our partnership with MasterCard to establish a cashless student ecosystem - a first of its kind in the Kingdom and across the GCC – and excited the audience with insights on the seamless capacity of our newly launched digital branch. Somewhere in between Hassan jumped in to show live demos of Personal Finance Top Up in 4 minutes and the newly launched abilities of ‘BisB Digital’ in record time (our customer onboarding via Face ID Authentication is truly comparable to the likes of any bond of sci-fi movie). At that point we had shifted our focus entirely to technology and the audience was captivated.

As the Head of Communications, I had the pleasure of introducing our ‘Social Innovation’ pillar, and unveil “Jood”, our community-focused platform which is honestly one of the success stories that I am most proud of.

I turned to the audience, and shared with them exactly what I am sharing with you today; that I don’t like the word CSR because it ought to go beyond responsibility and a mere buzz word. That traditional CSR simply put, isn’t enough to drive solutions to the problems of our world today, nor address the needs of our community; we must take action to enable sustainable change.

We chose the name “Jood” because we truly want to give back to the community in every sense of the word. At the end of the day, what is a CSR effort if it doesn’t create real impact, and positive change? But we are not superheroes, we can’t do everything. We took a look at what we as a Bank can offer and how this can complement the needs of the community. The result was the main pillars of “Jood” - education and innovation; because, to create a future ready workforce and foster leadership, it’s time we start working together across industries to create an innovative ecosystem of learning and creative minds to solve the problems of tomorrow.

As I handed the mic back to Hassan, he revealed our refreshed BisB logo, his voice echoing across the halls: “We want to get with the times, become trendier, more future ready but still remain tied to our name, roots and heritage.” A small change can go a long way.

But to the surprise of many, that was not the end. #BisB had to finish with a bang, just like a good read, the ending had a twist that would leave people pleasantly surprised. One last innovation to remember, introducing our first Bahraini virtual employee, Dana.

A hush descended over the audience as Hassan casually welcomed the witty, bubbly and immediately likeable Dana, who charmingly, in flawless Arabic, introduced herself to the audience as the Head of Simplicity, speaking about her role in finding simple ways to make customer’s experience more seamless and hassle free.

Looking around, I took a minute to take in the entire event and reflect on how far we had come. The sheer amount of innovation, the technological advancements, and the change that we had undergone was summed up in a single, underlying word - “Simplicity”.

We had pulled off quite an event. But that is not what we were most proud of. We took on an impossible task; BisB embarked on a journey of self-discovery and reflection; we took a 360 degree look at our business and set out to transform it into a truly customer-centric Bank. We revived our brand and our values, while holding on to our roots. We kept the best of our heritage, our name, and our history, but had a new approach for the future and a fresh coat of paint for our brand.

We told our story well, and we told it with pride because we had the actions to back it up.

The words that flashed across the screen at the start of this event have stayed with me till this day. “We haven’t come this far, to only come this far.” And we’ve come so far, in such a short time.

This is only the beginning; we have so much more planned, and so much more to tell. But this is a story for another time.

To be continued……at #BisB 2020.