Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Timeless Continuum of Lord Lugard Stereotype in the Nigerian brandspace

How do we explore the fifty years of post-independence Nigerian brandspace without referring to our collective past, represented by Lord Frederick Lugard? How can we document the litany of our brand management best practices without deferring to the Nigeria’s first Brand Manager? Yes, Lord Lugard was the Brand Manager who had the singular honour of crafting Nigeria’s positioning and brand identity process that culminated in how the geographical descriptor line “the area around the River Nigermetamorphosed into Nigeria’s brand name. The foundation laid by Lord Lugard’s brand management best (or worst) practice seems to have become the parametric boundary that continues to shape the evolution of our indigenous brands . This write-up shall therefore attempt to explore this similitude whilst setting hypotheses for our collective interrogation.

Was Lord Frederick Lugard a military colonial ruler on expedition or an archetype of our modern day brand managers you may ask? I think he was more of the latter because his 6-year reign was spent creating imagery, meaning and acceptance around a geographic contraption that had significant economic returns both in the short and long term. He spent most of his time winning the various market clusters of ethnic groups and putting in place “indirect” channel system to return maximum value to his superiors. A diagnostic review of this dynamic might actually provide an insight into the current state of his 85years old nation brand (currently undergoing a rebranding process) and what timeless learning we can glean on how the foundation of a brand often make or mar its future.

As the first Attorney General, history has it that Lugard merged the North and South protectorates in 1914 as part of Europe’s scramble for the African continent. This hastily executed brand merger must be one of the quickest in history as attested to by the inverted outside-in model that he deployed in defining the collective national stance from a coerced aggregation of varying and dissociated entities with little or no organic solidarity.

Lugard’s strategic intent was to forge a monolithic template that all the disparate clusters can be homogenized into whether there are strategic commonalities or not. The marriage of strange bedfellows that characterised the Nigerian banking consolidation in recent time is a classic example of Lugard’s approach. This is however antithetical to modern brand theories that “shared interest, communal passion and converging aspiration” are the basis for defining a brand’s point of view in order to have a mutually reinforcing, wholesome and collective proposition.

The “Human Energy” proposition from Chevron taps into this truth because the brand is identifying with a commonly shared environmental concern to deepen its relevance as the custodian of the friendlier alternative energy sources of the future. Procter and Gamble’s Always “Being-a-girl” initiative is creating a virtual world of young female teenagers where they can live their lives, discuss their worries and build collective intelligence on how best to manage the stress of puberty. These are examples of brands that appreciate the power of identity partnership around user-communities anchored on common aspiration that each citizen “brandtizen” can believe, own and live by. This is perhaps the first strategic error that “the Lord” failed to deliver on.

The many fine details of Lord Lugard’s brand management practice were aptly captured by his fellow countryman Mr. Ian Nicolson in a twist of revelation that unveiled the mind of our national brand creator/strategist. Some of these and others shall be explored in this article as I attempt to interrogate the foundational basis of a Brand Nigeria and how Lugard’s model continues to benchmark how we run the business of branding in Nigeria.

This piece shall draw attention to 4 critical milestones in Lugard’s brand management school and highlight scenarios and learning applicable to our time.

Boardroom or Bedroom:

Brands are like living things and their survival is inextricably linked to a natural habitat. No brand secures relevance outside the domain of the people that live the brand culture through its value continuum. Successful brands consider their degree of partnership with the end-users as the most important factor in securing long term endearment. Hence, brand naming starts and ends with the consumers whose perceptual frame of reference provides the sufficient mental bandwidth for memorability and resonance.

Nigerian brands often miss this critical, just like Lugard, who delegated the business of brand creation to a bedroom chit-chat that made Mrs. Flora Lugard (Nee Shaw) own the patent to our national identity. I surmise hers was a “spark” based on the limitedness of her understanding that made her focus on the physical geography rather than established socio-geographical truth that could have evoked populist ownership of their collective destiny. I opine that Flora’s feeling was a cumulative sum of all she has written and heard as a one-time colonial correspondent of The Times of London. Her location-based descriptor did not take into consideration the diversity of a nation of over 250 ethnic groups.

When you explore names like United States of America and how the robustness of the nomenclature succinctly captures the inner dynamics of a nation that genuinely appreciates its diversity. It is no surprise that this clearly crafted template continues to provide an inspiring dais for American governance and the consequent global dominance.

Products are not made isolated from the consumer’s reality or else it will be dead on arrival. Any brand marketer who cares less about how much its brand name evokes positive feeling is doomed for an early demise. Ford will never forget the failure of its Pinto car in Brazil because it was rather too late for the company to act on a name that meant ‘tiny male genitals’ in local language and same for the popular “Schweppes Tonic Water” campaign in Italy which on translation was “Schweppes Toilet Water”.

This lackadaisical attitude explains the dearth of proactive and pre-emptive consumer-focused research in Nigeria. We seem to think that we are still in the Industrial era boasting about how our mega advertising budget will force the consumers to buy a product that was not well researched as solutions to current consumers’ need-state. I have long observed that the use of pre-marketing researches were more of tactical obligation rather than top-level executive intervention to create breakthrough lighthouse that the business can rely on to win the larger share of the future. Nigerian brand custodians need to progress beyond our old recipe of bedroom guts to integrated collaborative intelligence that puts the consumers at the centre of the business.

The manifestation of this is obvious in daily interaction with Nigerian MDs who downplay the role of collective intelligence in critical brand-related decision-making. The Nigerian MD will rather make the television commercial to look like what his wife saw during her last shopping trip to Paris, even though the cultural nuances and market context are thousands of miles apart..

The future of Nigerian brands is bleak if we continue to triviliase brand management decisions to neophytes who are completely detached from the users’ aspirations, need-state and lifestyle. I remember an instance where a Chairman of a company threw away a well-crafted route-to-market plan presented by a team of brilliant strategists because his undergraduate son who was on holiday and was invited impromptu to review a body of work that he never knew what the foundational marketing issues were. Expectedly, his U.S. perspective won and his “superior” perspective continues to lead the company to an untimely comatose.

Does this suggest that great brands do not come from family business? No. I am aware that 35% of Fortune 500 companies are family-controlled and even account for 50% of American GDP. However, researches have proven that the critical reason for success is “decision and collaborative thinking beyond family sentiment”.

Amalgamation For Segmentation

Several commentators have suggested that the pre-independence scramble for Africa was a territorial quest for economic domination and that size of coverage was a key performance indicator. Lugard’s success was to be measured by how large his contraption was irrespective of the heterogeneity of the amalgam in behavior, attitude and belief. This may be the bane of brand practice in Nigeria. The one-size-fits-all strategy that has made most Nigeria brands to diffuse and over-extend out of their core competency areas, thus diluting their overall brand equity. It is alarming that only few Nigerian brands have clear, well-defined and distinct market definitions. It defeats logic when a brand manager insists that his primary target is urban dwellers and that is all. He often rationalises this with an excuse that he is seeking for the largest addressable market forgetting that it is more valuable to seek for “available and serve-able market” instead. A lot of our brands that could have secured positions in history as regional champions died exhausting their marketing prowess in a quest to be everywhere and everything to everyone.

Nigerian brands should realise that consumers are not numbers or statistics that we flaunt on our dashboard but clusters of emotional variables that can only be better profiled through multi-dimensional matrixes within defined cultural contexts.

A recent independent research conducted by a global research firm on Nigerian brands showed that more than 60% of brands in Nigeria are either over-positioned or under-positioned and a significant percentage are without a clear and convincing basic stance.

Lugard failed to properly articulate the basis for aggregating his market opportunities. Was his segmentation by geography valid or could he have considered a deeper dimension of consumer ethnography? The later breaks out of the lines of least resistance and provides leverage to a profitable future.

Indirect Rules Do Not Build Brands.

Lugard’s over-reliance on the middlemen and intermediaries created a market scenario where the top echelon were largely insulated from the consumer’s reality, and had to rely on diluted feedback mechanism that is definitely out of touch with the market situation. This created an hour-glass grotesque where the consumer is squeezed into a tiny space within the value delivery equation.

In order to grow a brand that is true to its constituency (i.e. people), we must seek not to over-decentralise power to local “chiefs” and “native authorities” in the distribution channel because it does not take long before they weaken the brand flow optimization for greed of profitability. This is the Nigerian quagmire.

Many Nigerian brands are plagued with channel-induced artificial scarcity that exploits the consumers, browbeating them to pay 30-40% additional above the recommended retail prices. These acts weaken the brand’s proposition because a brand is not delivered until it gets into the hands of the end-users “unadulterated”. It is even saddening that most of these channel members fail to invest in the logistics of brand support. The most affected are brands on dealership arrangements with international companies who will rather convert the referred marketing support budget to their personal bank account. It is therefore no surprise that an international economic Group has reported the high incidence of price arbitrage in Nigeria as one of the highest in the world with correlated impact on consumer overall spending value.

British American Tobacco Nigeria’s organisational structure of focusing on core marketing and integrating with Great Brands Nigeria Limited to deliver on its distribution imperative is a key learning for any company that wants to genuinely focus its marketing on research and development. It is rather alarming that most brand-oriented organisations that ought to focus on developing differentiating propositions have created an operational distraction through an in-house creative agency. Predictably, no great works that can disrupt consumer’s choice come from this aberration, as no brand manager can be the coach, player and referee in the same match. I know every creative mind is disturbed when a brand manager reviews a creative work with feedback like “I do not feel this works”. Yes, you are not meant to feel it because it was not developed for you but for the consumers on the street whose precious time we are attempting to interrupt and the first rule is to make those seconds worthwhile before pushing our brands on them. The same applies to the brand Nollywood whose stunted growth will continue for as long as we see instances where the lead actor “triples” as the Producer and Director of the same movie.

Outsourcing through strategic alliances remains an area where Nigerian brands score a big minus. It is only in this part of the world that channel members will never initiate localised promotions or invest in warehouses, deport or sales centers. The best example we need to learn from is the Japanese keiretsu model built around an integrated vertical distribution networks of buyer-supplier alliance. This is the model that transformed Japan post-war and made Toyota the global success we adore.

Involvement or exploitation

The brand management philosophy of Lugard is better appreciated by the controversial book that described him as a schizoid personality who believed less in Africans. The book had quotes that expressed his biased, exploitative and unbalanced view of the people he was leading for economic gains. Whether this is verified or not, the learning is that Nigerian brand owners can only secure the best of the market through genuine identification with the people and not just profit making. I believe that we must touch their lives before we reach to touch their pockets.

I recently had a priviledged access to a global route-to-market strategy of a multinational and was really embarrassed when I read a page that described their drive to Nigerian market. It read “we are going to exploit their ignorance of the category to skim in the first 5 years of operation”. I was disappointed and was once again reminded that capitalist exploitation will only work in developing countries like ours if it is genuinely combined with social entrepreneurship proposition. C.K. Prahalad in his “Bottom of the pyramid” thesis had advocated that companies that want to make profit from the “poor” must be genuinely involved in helping them to generate buying power. Nigerian brands must be willing to sow in order to reap. Corporate social responsibility must go beyond the opportunistic PR-led Christmas visit to the motherless babies to a genuine intervention aimed at uplifting the lives of the community where they do business.

Nigerians brands must build social capital and demonstrate their commitment to their future sources of revenue beyond the over-flaunted paltry projects whose total cost is less than the cost of advertising used to promote them.

We need a blended value business model that combines a revenue-generating business with a social-value-generating component. Do we have brands that have proactive interest in wind energy, renewable energy from the remnants of DMT toilet, local agricultural brands from our massive arable land etc? Nigeria’s Public Private Partnership (PPP) strategies need to reflect this genuineness.

In summary, it is obvious that we have very few brands that are strategically positioned for the long haul, in meeting and exceeding the consumer expectations both for today and for the future. If our brands continue to score below average on metrics of global competitiveness, then we can predict how much value our brands can translate to in terms of nominal GDP both in the short and long terms.

I know that we have brilliant brand builders who have read a lot about successful brands and even attended world-class business schools but the challenge remains our inability to translate these into localised actionable template to ensure global relevance. Of a truth, we cannot afford to play a “LORD” Lugard, but we must genuinely stoop low to serve the needs of the over 140 millions that are trusting us with their needs. Remember that was why it was called “Protectorate” i.e. to genuinely protect the interest of a group of people.

(Picture copied from Google Image)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nigeria’s 5 greatest living legends and lessons for brand builders

The highly publicised Nigeria’s five greatest living legends voting and final selection has come and gone, but it leaves us with so much to unearth as students of brands evolution. The whole initiative, which I consider very indigenous in context, provides us a very valid basis to substantiate our quest for local insights on how global brands will emerge from this part of the world. This article shall attempt to review its conceptual imperative and also propound certain hypothesis that can engage our intellectual minds in unravelling how 5 mortal men became our adorable reference characters through the morals, lessons and the bigger purpose they consistently stand for. Like the myth of iconic brands or Saatchi’s Lovemark, these men have become our collective heroes and have earned our voluntary endearment, spontaneous evocations and deep-seated followership that transcend sentiments or ethnic stereotypes.

Vanguard Newspaper and Silverbird Group have through this democratic system given us an intellectual goldmine to understand how the emergence of legendary individuals perfectly correlates with the evolution of iconic brands. The all-involving selection process also validates how elevated conceptual entities often become archetypes whose parametric boundaries define how we navigate our way through life. Like brands seeking buyers’ attention in the shelf space, these individuals have authoured larger-than-life mental stories that are told and retold, forge meaningful connection with our unconscious extension and have secured long term tenancy with our deeper motives . They truly represent our shared and collective ideal.

This frame of thinking rationalises why we genuinely adore, cherish and hold them in high esteem; not just because of what they do but because of what they have come to mean to us. These principles remain valid for brands that play at a level near gods. Brands like Coca-Cola, Mercedes, Apple, Nike, Disney, MTN etc. have become social artifacts, mutual symbol of trust, emotional emblems and have become popular lines in our everyday lexicon. They remain our forever brands that continue to be relevant as they perfectly accentuate our collective aspirations and define the epicentre of populist ideal.

These five legendary Nigerian icons, like every successful brand have won our votes because they have consistently stood for a bigger purpose; even at their own personal detriment and their stories have become a narrative template and an inspirational platform for living. They have therefore won our hearts through consistent delivery of a compelling promise that have become the rallying cry that all Nigerians irrespective of age, gender , social class and ethnic groups and we could even go the extra mile to pay premium (confirmed with the many text messages we sent as votes) to validate this.

The voting pattern provides very insightful opportunity to profile parameters that make for a legendary brand. Pastor E.A. Adeboye’s 30.8 % is a proof that the deeper purpose dimension is the most elevated expression a brand can bring to the consumer. Nwankwo Kanu’s 10.4 % vote means that brands must own a popular cause sufficient enough to translate into a reinforcing socio-emotional capital. Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu’s 8.9 % from the Biafran historical perspective demonstrates how important it is for brands to define an identity that consumers are proud to uniquely associate with. Chief Gani Fawehinmi 7.6% and Professor Wole Soyinka 6.2 % aptly buttress the importance of being people-centric and champion consumer’s aspiration in sincere activism.

What does this mean for brands?
You will agree with me that successful brands are not haphazard creations; they emerge from a consistent reinforcement of a point of view that secures permanent placement in the consumers’ hallowed space as an ageless, borderless, and timeless influencer of choice. This by implication demands that such brands are not just functionality-driven and thrive on basic category membership but have evolved to earn an elevated space that weave them seamlessly with consumers’ self definition and expression.

The projection of these brands is also skewed towards consumers’ deeper motives and finding affection at the core of consumers’ sense of being. They therefore do not just sell products; but promote enduring issues like hope, optimism, relationships, nostalgia, family values etc…things that we genuinely care about. Looking through the 5 Nigerians who got the highest number of votes and cross-validating it with some high-level proprietary researches, we can advance an hypothesis that a brand will stand like a legend if it delivers on 4 stepwise concentric manifestations , which are explained below using the core attributes of the 5 winners.

1) Symbolic and deeper purpose dimension: Represented by the moral standing and the spiritual transformation associated with the person and the ministry Pastor E.A. Adeboye.
2) Social cause ownership : Epitomised in Kanu Nwankwo and his social impact initiatives
3) Conferral of Identity : Dim Ojukwu and the genuine search for the Igbo essence.
4) Populist activism through service (or sacrifice) : doubly typified by Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Professor Wole Soyinka
*(Chart and tables of correlation indices available on special request)*

1. Symbolic or the power of higher purpose allows a brand to touch the core of consumers’ being by “enhancing” consumer inner self whilst providing a “renewed” imagery of their desired self. This elevated role is anchored on the unseen power of conceptual relevance and personal testimonials (of the consumers) built on a sustained usage ritual that consumer treasures and relishes.
The symbolic power of a brand makes it to transit from the rational world where features and benefits reign to the allegorical space where associations, experiences and feelings rule. When some are talking reliability, price, aesthetic ; our kind of brands are engaging the consumers at the level of deeper meanings like adventure, independence, originality, nostalgia, truth etc.

Popular campaigns like Dove “real beauty from within” and Axe ‘success’ fantasies of an underdog lover are examples of how the spiritual dimension of a brand is enhanced through the provisioning of compelling answers to life, inspiring confidence in the users and challenging consumers to be the best they can be.

This deeper brand space becomes stronger when consumers can capture special and individualised meaning for the experiences that the product delivers like a personal religious testimony. The individualised “aphrodisiac” perception of Guinness Extra Stout and the Seaman’s Aromatic Schnapps association with the unseen world of the ancestors, even without any scientific proof are examples of symbolic magical moments that are compelling enough to provide a transgenerational anchor that makes for a “cult” brand. These are the magical moments every brand must seek to create as perfectly crafted memories that outlive times, heighten emotions and create a feeling of stronger bond that provide the ignition for repeat purchase and sustained referral.

These local examples have shown us that brand building is far more than the intrinsic qualities of a product or service; it is about generating compelling narratives. Does a heritage bank likeFirst Bank sees its “Elephant” as a symbolic property for brand reinforcement or a mere passive entity in the logo or a just a public offer activation gimmick? Has Nestle taken the positive aura of “Milo Clap” beyond just an identifier sound to a reinforcing mnemonics of sonic brand expression?

2. Social power of brand speaks to the ability of brand to create unending spheres of influence through a focused social intervention that intersects or overlaps a definite consumer or societal concern while making tangible impact in the world where its consumers live in. Beyond the grandiose corporate posture is the need to own a populist cause that is perfectly aligned with the brand’s eternal purpose. It is not just about corporate philanthropy, but a genuine act of involving the brand in what your defined stakeholders feel passionate about, something they will take on themselves and champion on your behalf.
Brand must grow to become a genuine giver like Kanu who gave his talent and became our Atlanta 1996 hero and also translated his personal challenge to a common good that now addresses the need of a largely neglected segment. Fidelity Bank environmental support intervention remains one of the most focussed social involvements in the Nigerian brand space; same as MTN Foundation’s 1% profit after tax made available to make our world a better place to live in. Guinness “Water of life” project and the popular Nedbank’s solar billboard remain excellent references.
Beyond our quest for market share, great advertising etc., we must always ask this lifelong question “what shall my brand be remembered for?”

3. Identity conferral is the ability of a brand to deliver a feeling of uniqueness to the consumers as an exclusive complement to their desired self statement. Consumers will always be attracted to brands that elevate their sense of pride, evoke individuality and create a feeling of being different from the crowd. Such brands provide tool of identity formation and forge a “mosaic of the self” within certain perceptual boundaries that ultimately hoist consumers’ self worth.
These brands act like exclusive membership tag similar to the sincere drive of the great Ikemba to give every Igbo man a sense of uniqueness captured by Biafra’s collective identity blueprint.
Brands must provide some form of identity like a distinct communal space that consumers desire to belong to. Users must feel like the brand says something unique that is true to their roots and must provide opportunity to explore their miniature space, cherish their differences and inspire some inimitability. Dunhill’s “Cosmopolitan aristocrats” , Nike’s “Everyday Heroes”, Ribena’s “Bullies breakers”, Tura’s “Brainy beauties” and Mimee’s “Adventurous palate”are all identity labels for brand definition and personality profiling.

Brands that also facilitate consumer’s desire for customized experience, mix-and-match bundle and do-it-your-way services fall within this space. Milo in cans identify with always-on-the-move transumers, so also are Indomie pepper soup variant, Bank PHB’s Pink Account , FRSC customizable plate numbers, Mimee’s 6-in-1 Bumper pack and MTN’s Do-It-yourself CallerTunez Reloaded appealing to this identity space. How convincing have LG’s Electronics Naija Tele , Nokia with Nigerian native languages, Nollywood and Etisalat’s 9ija been articulated and configured to serve for consumer self projection?

4. The power of activism or service is the most basic expression of any brand that wants to be mentioned on the legendary hall of fame. Brands that have genuine interest in the people who provide their hard-earned money in exchange for its value delivery. These brands understand that they must serve the consumers in a way that make the end-users feel that they are getting more than they paid for.
An activist brand understands the imperatives of delivering on the basic product core (performance/quality) because its mantra is that the consumers must never at any time feel cheated in the value transfer. Activist brand develop a customer service culture that does not see customers as statistics, but as people that have the right to get what they pay for. Like any activist, these brands are burdened by consumers’ concerns, worries and agitations and remain driven by their standpoint for an egalitarian society where there is neither cheating nor deception for every customer’s penny. This for me is the most primitive expression of a brand because it reinforces the need to be of requisite quality and sold at a fair price and available whenever needed.

Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Prof. Wole Soyinka, whose struggles for our democratic transition epitomise these brand dimensions because they live and swear by the rule - “an injustice to one is an injustice to all” . These brands will not consider it a loss to recall a product line if a single customer lodge a formal complaint because it is not just about making money but about building a timeless name. And like the concerns of every activist, every brand owner must ascertain if they are serving the interest of the large populace of the end-users (i.e. common man) who keep them in business or serving the ambitious drive of a very priviledged few (the profit sharers).

Multi-language call centre like MTN’s create a sense of equality where every Nigerian can freely express themselves in their mother tongue. Low unit portion packs initiated by Cowbell milkor Orbit’s new global campaign that claims it will refund any excess if a customer finds a price less than hers anywhere else. Deliberate concern for the downtrodden like GT Bank being the only bank that has a walkway for customers on wheelchair and HiTV’s compelling entry as the common man’s succor to entertainment are manifestations of this dimension.

In conclusion, like Sir Hector Laing said “Buildings age and become dilapidated. Machines wear out and cars will rust, but what live on are brands”. This is an eternal truth to always ponder on as we continue our search for truly Nigerian global brands. We must appreciate the fact that the business of brand building is retelling collective experiences like stories that help us feel good about ourselves. If we consciously elevate our users to heroes, we elevate our brand to the status of a legend. It is law of direct proportion worth living by as we continue to etch ourselves into the consumers’ collective unconscious as an enduring conveyor of people’s trust.

Picture used extracted from M2 Weekly Online

Sunday, March 1, 2009

How SURE is your brand?

Consistency of delivery is one of the critical differentiators that make for a reputable brand. It’s a product’s constancy of purpose to meet consumer insatiable expectations at all times, in all places and for all cadres of user-ship profiles. This comes across to the market as uniformity, reliability, dependability or standardized homogeneity.In the brand’s pursuit to remain “SURE” to the market demands and consumers’ expectations, I have proposed a 4-factor determinant that makes for “a SURE brand” that maintains stability by balancing varying market variables to its advantage.The 4 determinants that make for my SURE theory are treaSURE, pleaSURE, leiSURE and meaSURE.

TREASURE dimension: At the core of every successful brand is the mythical dimension that the consumers must perceive as their “special diamond or gold” that deserves a premium. Every brand must strive to mean more to its core audience than related products within its category as a basis for sustainable differentiation. This “treasure” in the brand provides the symbolic hook that the consumers latch on to as a mental prop for self projection. The luxury brands have mastered this principle and make us all pay more for this unseen treasure that subliminally gratifies our quest for ideal self. This “treasure” can be a physical attribute like Absolut’s purity or conceptual theme like Orange’s “bright future”. Consumers continuous search for this “treasure” provide the basis for affinity and enduring loyalty. Please note that a brand’s “treasure” is not always superficial as a surface discovery. It takes “insight miners” to dig it out.

PLEASURE dimension- Brands become endearing object by the very special sensory feeling that the consumers associate with every point of use. This often triggers positive evocation and desire for repeat purchase as it redefines the basic utility that the product delivers. Every brand must create this pleasurable “sync” with the consumer. It must be a memorable feeling of joy, satisfaction, belonging etc. that the consumers can codify and store in their subconscious as their “special moment with the brand”. Coca Cola must always deliver the pleasures of refreshment as Disney is under a mandate to be a worthy “magical moment”.

LEISURE dimension - Beyond the treasure and the pleasure is the externalised fun-time or subtle indulgence that makes a brand create a shared recreation space for users to share their collective experience as a “hobby”. Harley Davidson riders have extended its mythical treasure to a leisure platform where members engage, share and reinforce their collective loyalty to the brand. It makes great engagement for consumer to turn your brand experience into their leisure. It’s a winner strategy! Another popular case is the growing loyal fan base around Chelsea FC for example. Every gathering to watch their team play is an elevated leisure space for Chelsea loyalists to share a collective adoration as a “branded” ritual.

MEASURE dimension -Every brand must extend its relevance to a quantifiable platform where the consumer can capture the special emotional value they have for the brand. It’s a mental calculation of the opportunity cost of not using the brand. Heinz “measure” was defined by how much customers will move from one store to another until a Heinz product is found, even where there are cheaper alternatives. The true test of a SURE brand is the unseen value that the consumers consciously associate with it, even when they do not know the actual price on display. It is exciting each time you hear the consumers say “that shoe should be more expensive than that price tag on it”. It confirms that consumers can deduce cues for right product pricing and a very insightful trade-off analysis should be able to identify these unseen utility measures.In financial measures for example, it’s known that a bottle of Coca Cola is 90% unseen “measure”.

This metric challenges modern brand strategists to be able to define, capture and evaluate the “unseen” element of your brand because it’s the pillar for winning in the long term.In conclusion, I believe strongly that the future of every successful brand is proportional to an efficient management of these 4- SURE factors to secure relevance for today and tomorrow.
Is your brand really for SURE or just for the LURE of instant profit?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Who is your brand doctor?

-Bayo Adekanmbi explores how a healthy brand can create a wealthy business.

Brands are not inanimate products we pick off the shelf. Like man, they are living entities and extendable organic identities that exist in the hearts and minds of everyone they touch. They evolve like embryonic creature and grow to take on human personalities that make them powerful forces that control our desires. No wonder, if well nurtured they often outlast their creators and generations of others servicing them.

A retrospective comparative with our elementary characteristics of living things coded as MR NIGER, validates this hypothesis. Brands can move from the factories to the end-users. They are sensitive to market equilibrium, feed on market trends and grow through line or brand extension whilst exhibiting definite growth curve through their product lifecycle. Like humans, they breathe and thrive on the air of consumer emotion as an exhalation of core values and attribute. As animals compete for food and territory, so do brands compete for customers and markets. It’s no tautology that brands demonstrate significant human traits that make it valid to conclude that they can die like every living being.
This reality of “brand death” calls for an intellectual discourse on how Nigerian brands can secure immortality in the shifting marketspace and survive the tsunami of death-causing market virus.

Nigerian brand landscape has experienced more brand demise in this decade than the previous. We have seen more brand obituaries than we have seen excellent brand health state. You only need to be at forum where brands are discussed. It’s all rhetoric of case studies on the rise and fall of our beloved brands.
Those that were inoculated from the virus of counterfeiting could not dodge the hit of the distribution snipers or evade the big stick of regulators. It’s like a serial killer has been on rampage and have left more brands in atrophy and morbidity.

The genuine concern this throws up in the mind of an average brand student is the question of who monitors our brands’ state of health. Are there no observable symptoms that can mitigate against this avalanche of marketing disaster? It seems like our healthcare system, there is a dearth of pre-emptive brand diagnosis. The market is in dire need of anticipatory observers who like modern day doctors believe and live the mantra - Prevention is better than cure.
The biggest epidemy in our market is the preponderance of quick-fix and short-cut tactics of quacks masquerading as brand health custodians. They have got all the buzz words, the razzmatazz and the gizmo of health-boosting treatments without deep-seated microscopic check-up at the DNA level. They are not different from modern herbal medicine-man who calls every bacterial infection “Staphylococcus” with gusto! They are not different from half-trained auxiliary nurses who having worked as a messenger in an hospital goes ahead to set up a maternity clinic. They have midwived the highest brand mortality ever in history. Even the few survivor brands are “haemorrhaging” from the unending internal bleeding caused by the surgical knives they forgot in the body of “patient-brands” during their crude operations.

It’s painful to realise that most of our brand health custodians have survived on a meagre credential of 5-day crash course in South Africa. It’s no wonder each of their brand surgery leaves the brand worse for it. They have stabbed brands for the sake of short-term profits, and have reduced their life expectancy through paucity of know-how.
Like “one-drug-cures-all” peddler in a “molue”, every brand problem is resolved with theme advertising. You cannot imagine how a fundamental product problem is being resolved with a new campaign or a distribution gap issue addressed with a value-destroying consumer promotion!

Your brand is all you have got!
The immediate question that comes to the mind of a curious reader is “why another treatise on brand health?” Well, the answer is not far-fetched. It’s a known fact that the brand is a business’ most valuable asset. It’s not the physical infrastructure or the size of the balance sheet. It’s that special place a company has jealously secured in the minds of the consumers that subliminally propel preferential demand at every point of purchase. A healthy brand is the driving force behind profitable customer relationship.
It’s the admirable soul of a healthy brand that gives the right meaning to all the outward qualities expressed through tangible assets like the company name, the product, tag lines, symbolism, iconography and even jingles. When you go to the market with a healthy brand, you are not just a commodity but a strong emotional link that consumers are fanatically attached to. Healthy brands are truly the foundation of wealthy businesses.

The need for intelligent probing
From Milward Brown’s Brand Dynamic Pyramid ™ to Ipsos BrandOptimizer™ are hundreds of proprietary tools used as symptomatic frameworks for measuring brand health globally. There are even company-specific tools like Heineken’s Dashboard custom-made for this same purpose.
Each comes with its peculiar strength and biases. For example, Nielsen’s framework appreciates the importance of the category where a brand plays. It emphasises a need to deconstruct the category to be able to have a relative brand health scores. This is premised on an assumption that a brand is as healthy as the category where it shares appreciable membership and mental cues.
With so many school of thoughts, agreeing on appropriate measures of brand health can be a very demanding exercise. Like a modern doctor, it is not just the blood pressure but an interpolatory combination with the blood sugar level and body mass index to make a valid conclusion. Woe to that brand custodian who like my great grandmother relies on body warmth to conclude if it’s a typhoid fever. Its therefore pertinent every brand owner must understand the basic underlying principle of brand health measurement before your brand doctor walks in with his “prescriptions”.

Like Jim Lenskold said in his popular book Marketing ROI “The roadblocks and endless detours on the path to effective brand health measures are not the result of subtle errors in the execution of sophisticated techniques, but are mostly the result of not getting the fundamentals right.”

Here are 5 key basic requirements
1) A cross matrix of behavioural and perceptual measures beyond market share scores.
2) Basic appreciation of how consumer perceptions drive positive brand behaviours.
3) Elementary extrapolation of future propensity from current perceptions.
4) An understanding of product vulnerability dimension, measured by how much the brand delivers on its primary reason for being purchased.
5) You must always consider a 2-way approach that matches research feedback with “real-time” consumer buying behaviour.
Please note that a misleading measurement tends to correlate with the employment of ultra-sophisticated black-box techniques, managed by the gurus. The principle is to measure for the pleasure of discovering the treasure. As with any process, the practice of measurement is a journey more than a destination.
It is also important we appreciate that there is no silver bullet. Each firm requires unique measures but always consider an appropriate mix of perceptual, financial and behavioural measures

Beware of cosmetic surgeries – new logo, new pay-off
The brand guru Kevin Keller said “Brands are built over years; it’s beyond a yearly change of face”. So much as it’s important to reinvigorate our brands to be relevant to times, we must not be sucked into the “my new logo” syndrome. It’s a much serious disaster to change your logo without translating it to a better experience, intuitive products, superior wow service, and smarter channels for the consumers. It is not merely in the exciting TV adverts with lovely models and sing-along songs. A genuine sincerity to the cause of brand health is beyond the sensational. Every act must cumulatively support a coherent point of view reinforced by every element of your marketing mix. This is really the most recommended treatment path in the Nigerian brand emergency wards. It’s no jibe to mention that a popular branding consultant from South Africa had to rebrand itself having secured the best share of the “owambe” Nigerian rebranding spree.
We must always remember that “Brands are living, breathing things, not static logos”

The first symptom comes from your staff
Your brand message is as powerful as your brand messenger i.e. staff who deliver the experience. The first touchpoint for brand health check-up is to test how your staffs LIVE the brand at every point of engaging the consumers. This could be through the walk-in ambience, call centre response, problem resolution via email etc.
Internal stakeholders must first believe before you can make a believer out of somebody else. It’s “faithless” spending millions of naira on high-impact advertising and brand communication programs, yet devote little or no resources to make sure people inside the company understand and “buy into” what the brand is all about.It’s simply practising what you preach. I think someone should advise those that “touch the right spot” to learn to stop touching the left spots of the Nigerian “high fliers” or else they will “disVirgin” a global success story

We need to make doctors out of the top management
Brand health tracking requires company-wide resources. Brand-health measures need to be elevated and added to the executive “dashboard” as leading indicators predicting future revenue streams. As such, they should be reviewed by the executive team with capital allocation mindset. Investing in brands is securing future profitability, and as such brand building must be seen as a marathon and not a sprint. Surprisingly, few brands appear be set up for the long haul.

Measuring brand health gives you a view of forward momentum — keeping the brand position relevant by staying ahead of constantly shifting customer needs and competitive pressure.
I strongly believe that brands can be eternal if nurtured well. Coca Cola, First Bank, American Express, Budweiser, Gillette and Western Union, for instance, are still going strong in their respective categories after 100+ years with no finite end.
The “white and red blood cells” of healthy brands are resilience and leveragability and our brand custodians must always realise that maintaining long-term brand health is usually more important than the short-term naira gains.

Latham in his book Brand power said “Brands are living things. They communicate. Act and react. Create experiences. Form relationships. Become a part of people's lives”. If you don't give them the right environment—intelligence, respect for the audience, flexibility and a willingness to change—they will wither and die

While there is nothing we can do to make a dog live to age 50, there are many things you can do to double the life expectancy of our very beloved brands.
Like Bedbury said in his book -a brand new world, “Products and services will continue to come and go, but the residual experiences of customers who consume them will ultimately define the brand.”
The Nigerian brandscape is really calling for true brand doctors who have sworn to the Oath of Hippocrates to be truthful to the brand, the market and the almighty consumers
Maybe you are the one.