Home / Cover / How Branding Nigerian Products Can Ease Dollar Scarcity – Shobanjo

How Branding Nigerian Products Can Ease Dollar Scarcity – Shobanjo

What will you say about the N i g e r i a n m a r k e t i n g communications industry? The industry has grown. If you put it in context, total media billing was N20m by the end of 1979. At the end of 2015 or thereabouts, industry billing was put at about N150bn. So, you can see that there has been growth. I think that the clients have b e c o m e m o r e

sophisticated; the people who work in the industry h a v e b e c o m e m o r e knowledgeable, and I think t h e m e d i a h a v e a l s o b e c o m e m o r e sophisticated. There has been improvement across board. By and large, I think we have tried to catch on with the rest of the world. We have seen the nation’s economy take a beating from the fall in global oil prices and a number of economic headwinds in the country. How is this affecting t h e m a r k e t i n g communications industry? I will say positively and negatively. It is going to be very tough time for those in the business because if a client is unable to access

foreign exchange to bring in r a w m a t e r i a l s , t h e implication is that he may not be able to generate the kind of turnover that he anticipates and the kind of revenue that is projected. A n d t h e r e f o r e , w h a t normally gets the axe in situations like this is your marketing expenditure. So, a whole lot of clients are cutting down. But the other side of the coin is to look at clients who are going to be inwarddependent. Those who w i l l l o o k a t l o c a l manufacture, where foreign content is not

that as high, could have the opportunity to begin to warm their way into the hearts of the consumers.

The other day I saw on television the Senate President trying out some locally made clothes and things like that. Just imagine a situation where you and I don’t have to go to work in western type attire. Then we have to work in buba and sokoto or what have you. If you go to India, that’s what you find. In Pakistan, they wear their traditional dresses to work. I

just used that in a very simplistic manner. There are clients who can make the best of this situation, particularly those

who manufacture locally. We have been through here before, anyway. I remember when I was still very much in active practice, which were the kinds of clients that gave us the head start that we w a n t e d ? T h e y w e r e indigenous clients like NASCO in Jos. They created opportunities f o r u s ; w e c r e a t e d opportunities for them as well. At that point in time,

m o s t N i g e r i a n s c h o o l children knew nothing but NASCO cornflakes; that was what everybody ate. There is the man who has been d o i n g t o m a t o – h i s company is Erisco. I don’t know the name of his brand. But people need to help him build that brand, and you need people like that. Aliko (Dangote) is an expert; he has looked inward and has done a whole lot of things. Today, you hear Dangote cement. I think that is where  people should concentrate; we need to focus on those areas. A n d o f c o u r s e , t h e multinational clients who believe that this patch is going to blow away soon; so they must continue to invest in their brands so that when the good times come again, they would still have been able to hold on to their loyal consumers, and hopefully, even win over new converts, so that when competitive times now rear their heads, t h e y w i l l h a v e t h a t advantage. There are global brands that are known for doing that. They stick it out, through thick and thin, knowing full well that this is only going to be a phase; it is going to blow away. Do you think the reduction in a d v e r t i s e m e n t a n d marketing spend will affect the growth of local firms negatively? I am not so sure. Like I said, local firms who really show a commitment to what they are doing and are able to take this to the consumers, and that’s where marketing communication comes in, can make the best of this period. If you are doing something and nobody knows about it, then you cannot generate the kind of volumes that you want. If you are doing something locally and the quality is

good, and you find experts to help you disseminate the information professionally, then you stand to benefit from that. I can keep on referring to the NASCOs of this world. If you find manufacturers in various sectors of the economy who are willing to

invest in supporting the brands that they have built, like the tomato paste I just mentioned, you will find that the taste that Nigerians have acquired for imported tomato paste just begins to disappear. The same is true of even our rice. Can you imagine that locally grown rice, for instance, is packaged? First, before you even begin to package it; you ensure that it is stone and pebble-free. If it is treated properly, and t h e n p a c k a g e d a n d branded, and then you take that to the market; are you saying to me that it won’t succeed? Of course, it would. Uncle Benz is a brand; it took a long time to build it. So, we want to see Nigerian rice carrying their own brand names and people helping to market them. How do you brand it? Branding is a long process. You need to get experts to help you through the whole p r o c e s s o f , f i r s t l y , determining what name you want to give to the brand, what it connotes to the consumers and then you begin to build the benefits around that brand; that the consumers can now believe in following a whole lot of things that would have been d o n e i n t h a t communication process. That is where we should be headed. Just look at the amount of money we spend importing rice, and they come in all shades and sizes. Just imagine our farmers, the big farmers who have decided to go into rice cultivation, and following through the marketing process and taking this to the market. It will mean a whole lot to those who are growing the rice; those who are going to help in communicating it a n d t h e b e n e f i t s t o Nigerians, and the savings

we are going to make from that.You can say the same thing even of palm oil products. You go to all our markets t o d a y ; w h a t k i n d o f vegetable oil do you find there? Which is the Nigerian vegetable oil that you know of today? For me, these are where the opportunities lie; that people need to say to themselves, “Wait a minute. We grow palm seeds here; there is palm kernel, let’s turn that into very good vegetable oil and let’s brand them and begin to sell them.” That will create opportunities for those in marketing communication business; for those who are actually producing these products by branding them properly, and you create opportunities for Nigerians. So, I think we just need to continue to look inwards because every time the government is saying these are the routes to success for us as a nation, sometimes I wonder; “Have we looked at the whole value chain? What and how can we as Nigerians benefit from all of these?” That’s the way to grow our economy; to create employment for our people, and to

improve the skills of our people. Are we to understand, from what you have said, that local firms have not really maximised the benefits i n h e r e n t i n m a r k e t i n g communications?

Tell me which Nigerian rice brands you know today. Even from the previous administration, I remember that our former Minister of Agriculture always reeled out tonnes and tomes of rice that we produced. Which is the Nigerian brand that you know of? Maybe, I am not just curious enough, but I don’t know any Nigerian brands that I have seen women talk about.

You can say the same thing of even vegetable oils. And I know that some people are producing vegetable oil in this country. But what have they done? What marketing has been put into those brands? Which Nigerian brands do you know of in the area of consumer goods? And that’s what we need to do. We need to quickly turn these products into brands. For now, there are products all over the place; we need to convert them to brands. It is when we succeed in doing that that there can now be a connection between the consumers and the brand. And that’s what will bring about volumes that we are looking for; bring the wealth that we are looking for; and save us billions of dollars that we don’t have. And it is possible. You are talking to me; you work for a Nigerian company that has a Nigerian brand called PUNCH. It is indigenous; it is good. Isn’t it? We need to see a lot of that in the area of manufacturing. Recently, your company entered into an equity partnership with a

foreign firm, Publicis Groupe, which acquired 25 per cent in the marketing communications arm of T r o y k a . W h a t i n f o r m e d t h i s partnership? If you operate at a particular level and you want to move on to the next level, you need to upscale. As a Nigerian group, we have been around for 36 years. We have done things on our own steam and we

have done fairly well. From one c o m p a n y i n m a r k e t i n g communications, we now have six. We started with advertising and we have gone into various areas of specialisation. We felt the time had come for us to become part of a global organisation. And the easiest way you could do that is to get foreign direct investment; get a foreign company to invest in your company, if they believe that you have what it takes for them to be a part of you because we know the benefit of that. The moment you become part of a global group, then obviously a lot of things are going to change; best practice, because there will be systems and processes that are global which you will now have to subscribe to, that you will be a part of. There will be enhanced training for your people, better exposure and tools that would even make you more efficient will be available to you. These are things you cannot buy off the shelf. So, for us, it was a deliberate effort, and we decided on this journey 35 years ago; firstly, going into an affiliation, learning the tricks of the trade, as it were, up to a point where we felt we could now ask for some of these global organisations to invest in our group.

What in your view attracted your firm to them? I think the first attraction is to say these guys have on their own steam

built an enterprise of this nature, which could in fact have been anywhere in the world. They looked at the quality of people that we have in our group. They looked at the kinds of clients we were working for; they looked at the quality of work we were doing for those clients. They saw our reputation and they were impressed. And that is why they started the discussion with us. The values that Publicis, as a publicly held company, saw in us gave them the encouragement that they can invest public equity in a private organisation. And they knew that by doing that, there could be, in fact, acceleration in the kind of progress that has been made in terms of helping to build our clients’ brands as successfully as we should. So, that was the attraction. And for us, we were also desirous of taking our business to

the next level. How, in your view, will this partnership impact on the Nigerian marketing communications industry and the economy at large?

When we acquire better skills, more knowledge, better exposure, which will all translate to better service delivery and quality of what we deliver to our clients; whichever way you want to look at that, there will be a rub-off on the marketing

communications industry because, after all, we interact. Some of the people who work here may leave at some stage, who would have acquired these knowledge and skills, they will go apply them. It is also possible, as we have seen in the past, people who have worked here and left to go and start their own organisations. They will start from what they know.

Obviously, if we are able to see Nigerian products transmute into brands and we have the opportunities to work for such

clients, for example; what happens is that you begin to notice a phenomenal growth in those clients that we work for, as well as the multinational firms that we work for. Once there is growth, it benefits everybody. So that is the easiest way in

which you can see the import of what we are doing. We will train people, who themselves will be able to impact the

business subsequently. Even from fresh graduates that we take on, we feed them with new knowledge, new skills and

opportunities, and they are going to use these to impact whatever it is that they have to deliver for various types of clients

and organisations, and once those organisations grow, it is a benefit to the country. Again, there are savings on foreign exchange which the clients that we work for will be able to achieve – savings that we need badly to develop other areas of the country. Troyka is a big player, if not the biggest, in the industry, and this partnership seems to g i v e y o u e n o r m o u s c o m p e t i t i v e advantage. Don’t you think it may worsen the fate of small players in the industry?

The fact that we have done this partnership does not mean that every client is going to start heading here. It is not possible. I think that at the end of the day, our intention is to be able to serve the clients that we serve better than the competition. That’s the ultimate aim.Second; with the skills and knowledge that we are going to acquire, it may be possible that some clients, who before now may not even see need to talk to an advertising agency, may say, “This guys have done this deal, maybe they can help us.” And then we can begin to help them to redefine the opportunities that they themselves are not even able to see. I don’t know in any market where everybody will just head in one direction. Some clients may even feel intimidated coming to our group and say, “These guys are too big.” Some guys may say, “I want to stay with a small company because I’m small.” So, I don’t see any threat in what we have done. And I can tell you many other companies are going to come via this route. They may not be able to get a potpourri as we have done. But clearly I see partnerships happening in the environment as we go along. You are a very successful entrepreneur; what would you say to start-ups and aspiring entrepreneurs who want to also be successful? I think I am an entrepreneur by accident. T h e c i r c u m s t a n c e s o f w h a t e v e r happened to me in life suddenly saw me becoming my own employer. My experience tells me that this is the essence of the little success most entrepreneurs have: being able to do things differently. The first thing is that you have to be prepared for the role you want to play. Do you have sufficient knowledge about what you want to venture into? There will be people who will say to you, “But I never even served any apprenticeship. But look at where I am today.” But I know for a fact that it is easier for those who serve some form of apprenticeship. I served an apprenticeship, and I rose to a fairly senior level; in fact, deputy manager of the company. So I had an understanding how to run an agency. I had acquired enough knowledge and skills at a time to go out there and make a difference because I was clear that I didn’t want to run a conventional advertising agency; I wanted to be different. You cannot come out to be different if you don’t know what the conventional is. So, I think that is important. You need to have served some apprenticeship; you have to have knowledge. You have to have passion for whatever it is. In fact, that seems to me to be the most important: that you must be extremely passionate about whatever it is that you want to do. That explains why I have been in this business for 45 years now. I had no temptation to look in the direction of those who were into oil and gas. I focused; everything I have done is on this business. That is being passionate. If I need to go another 50 years, I will still remain in this profession because it has become my life. It explains why I still come to the office; otherwise I probably should have retired to the village and be doing farming or something.

 

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