Sitting with Enitan Denloye, the Vice President for Brands at Airtel Nigeria was a mini masterclass. A seasoned professional, Enitan Denloye took us through his career journey, how Airtel achieved Total Recall with their ‘Data is Life’ campaign and also dropped nuggets on how you can achieve same for your brand.
By Sharon-Ann Adaigbe
Enitan describes himself as “the chief custodian of the brand”, responsible for the Airtel’s campaigns, brand strategies and everything that has to do with the brand.
He says, “This is what I have been doing here over the last 3 years. We take our brand seriously; it is one of our biggest assets at Airtel.”
He started off his career in Brands; his love for the world of branding is unmistakable. ”Growing up, brands like Coca-Cola were very close to my heart.
So even though I studied Economics, the first company I worked for was Procter and Gamble; I did a short stint in the Business Development unit before I moved over to join the Brands team.
I was the assistant brand manager for Ariel for Nigeria and later, managed both Nigeria and Ghana. During my time in P&G, Ariel made tremendous progress; we grew to become the leading detergent brand in Nigeria.”
It is interesting to note that during his time at P&G, Enitan took the Ariel brand to unprecedented heights, surpassing a brand that was so huge that people referred to it whenever they wanted to buy detergent.
After his time at P&G, he joined Coca-Cola as a Systems Brand Manager for Coke.
“It was a great experience being part of the brands team, working on campaigns that I had seen growing up. From being an assistant brand manager, I went on to become advertising manager for all Coca-Cola brands.”
Not resting on his laurels and desiring to improve himself, Enitan decided it was time for a second degree. He says, “Being at Coke was fantastic but I needed to push myself further so I decided to go for an MBA.
I got admitted into Kellogg School of Management, where I met and worked on a lot of projects with various students of diverse backgrounds.
While I was at Kellogg, I did an internship at McKinsey because it is a renowned consulting firm and joining them was going to improve my strategic thinking.” After his internship, Enitan joined McKinsey full-time and this took him to Asia, the US and Africa.
After almost 3 years, he joined British American Tobacco in South Africa. With so much experience garnered outside the country, he then felt it was time to come back to Nigeria.
Taking over Telecoms
“I came back to the country and joined Etisalat as the brand director. Under my leadership, Etisalat grew to become the number one brand in Nigeria in terms of data. It became a brand people loved; it was youthful, fresh and aspirational.
My scope was also expanded beyond handling the brand to also include customer experience. I have a favorite saying, ‘the brand is the experience and the experience is the brand.’
With the brand, you are making a brand promise but when it comes to the customer, you are delivering on the promise; so both of them have to sit well together.”
Enitan moved over to Airtel from Etisalat after spending about 5 years there. At Airtel, he has spearheaded the campaigns that have put the brand on the lips of Nigerians all over the country.
“In the last 3 years at Airtel, we have won every award possible within and outside the country. We are glad that consumers and shareholders love what we are doing because we have experienced tremendous growth.”
Data is Life
Data is extremely critical for telecoms companies because research shows that while revenues for voice are starting to decline, the potential for data is immense. Enitan was well aware of this and this guided his strategy.
“Coming in as the VP for brands, I prioritized data. We first started with a campaign called, “data is life.”
We did a lot of consumer research and the key takeout was that a lot of people could not live without data. As such, we rolled out “The In-laws” campaign, which focused on data.”
The campaign was an award-winning campaign which a lot of people could resonate with.It was clear that Airtel was speaking not just to 4G but also to 3G, because in a country like Nigeria, 4G smartphone penetration is still very low.
He explains, “We realized that 3G was good, but 4G was just better, and we could use one campaign to speak to both directions.
We also wanted to do it in a very simple and relatable way; telling people about the technology behind 4G in a way that wouldn’t be too complex for the man on the street.
The use of real life analogies to communicate the necessity for 3G and 4G technologies gave birth to the campaign.
We dug into a lot of insight, did a lot of focus groups and came up with about 30-40 scripts before pruning out what works.
In terms of feedback from consumers, it was fresh and everybody could understand it. On the financial side, we have achieved a lot of growth.
In terms of conversion of customers from 3G to 4G, it has been significant and the revenue growth of 4G has been great. We found that it helped 3G as well.
Overall, the campaign has been extremely successful for us as a company and we are thinking of what to do next to build on these successes so we can continue to excite our consumers and shareholders.”
Achieving Total Recall
“Everything we do is always insights-driven. If you are going to do something for consumers, you have to understand them.
We are very big on being relatable and differentiation; because as a brand, one has to stand for something different.
We do a lot of focus groups and mind what is going on, on social media. For example, the selfie became a trend so we pulled that into our brand communication.
We are also big on quality. If we are not going to do something really well, we will not do it at all. In order to deliver on quality, as my CEO would say, ‘we do the vital few’; where we do a few things but do them really well.
Collaboration with our agency is also very important to us because without them, we won’t be able to do things we do.”
Total Recall for SMEs
Understanding that SMEs don’t have a mammoth budget, Enitan shares a few tips that can help them achieve total recall. “Focus on doing the vital few and on differentiation.
If you do something different, it is possible for people to remember it and not just that but also share it and talk about it.
So you always have to differentiate; it is important. When you achieve talkability, you spend way less money.”
For small businesses, social media is very critical. He explained that as small businesses cannot afford to spend as much money buying primetime TV slots, there is a need to develop social media content and weave the brand or product message into the content seamlessly.
“What you find out is that you’ll end up spending little money to push the content because when consumers like the content and it connects with them, they will share it.
A lot of businesses now do a lot of selling on social media because it is cheaper.
Some people don’t even have stores; they only have social media pages where they communicate with consumers. It is not easy to differentiate, by the way.
You just have to go through the rigour and have a clear position as a brand that differentiates you from your competitors.
Have a position that takes you to product or brand leadership. In terms of execution, make sure you focus a lot on social media because it is a lot cheaper and you can get people sharing your content without paying for it.
Next, execute flawlessly. In Nigeria, it’s not about how complex a strategy is but about execution; it is tougher to execute flawlessly. So, focus on these three things.”
On Digital Advertising and Traditional Advertising
In Nigeria today, digital penetration is growing to a large degree but the traditional segment is still very important. TV, radio and outdoor media remain extremely important.
Airtel is clearly a mass market brand and radio, TV and outdoor media are essential for reaching this target group.
“TV and radio are very important for building engagement because you can tell your story. In places like northern Nigeria and in the rural parts of the country, radio plays a very important role. And as a telco, rural penetration is very important for us for growth.
For brand stature and leadership, TV is critical because that is where you can tell real stories; stories that are larger than life that will make people love and connect with your brand.”
Going down memory lane, Enitan recalls, “Growing up, one brand that really connected with me was Coca Cola.
Coke ran back to back ads and owned Santa Claus. Growing up, Christmas was important to all of us and Coke made Christmas a ritual.
There was an ad that was run years ago, and from a connection standpoint, it is a brilliant and memorable ad. A lot of these campaigns made coke an iconic brand. So, it wasn’t a coincidence when I ended up working with Coke.”
The Other Side of Life
Mr Denloye is clearly a very busy man, so we were curious to know what he does when he’s not talking brand strategy and he gladly let us in.
“Family is very important to me. I spend a lot of time on the job, but you always have to unwind and recharge.
I have three daughters and there is definitely that strong bond between fathers and their daughters. I had to go for my daughter’s PTA meeting today and met with all her teachers.
Apart from family, I spend a lot of time swimming for exercise. I’m a member of Ikoyi Club and there was a time I made it a routine to swim four times a week because if your job is a high pressure one, you have to exercise so you can perform optimally.
Outside of that, I love to travel. I have been to about forty countries and lived in five.
Traveling and meeting people is learning for me because you get to understand different cultures and it helps you be a well-rounded person. I also love mentoring people because of the potential I see in Nigerian youth.”
Editorial Note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.