When foreign brands are easily accessible, local brands must do more work
Made in Nigeria brands are literally catching on and displacing foreign brands in the minds of Nigerian consumers. A cursory glance at trends in Nigeria’s creative industry justifies this reality. Nigeria is currently the second-largest producer of movies in the world. Nigerian music is also incredibly popular within the country, in most parts of Africa and in the Caribbean. The Nigerian art market is fast becoming a premium market for art lovers in the world. Put together, these trends suggest that Nigeria has the potential to build, project and export strong indigenous brands.
However, it is puzzling to note that none of Africa’s indigenous brands made it to Africa’s top ten lists of consumer brands in 2018. Another exciting puzzle is that no Nigerian brand or personality made it to the top three most searched celebrities in Nigeria on Google in 2018. Instead, Alexis Sanchez, a famous football star, was the most searched personality on Google in Nigeria last year. These puzzling trends demonstrate that Nigeria has a mostly young demographic audience that is enthused by global sports, music and fashion brands.
The exciting insight that one could draw from this reality is that indigenous and foreign brands are competing for a share of the Nigerian consumer’s mind. Nigerian consumers want brands that offer value for money, whether local or international. The implication is that being domestic is not enough to win a share of the Nigerian consumer’s wallet. A lot of effort needs to go into building indigenous brands that can stand the test of time in the minds of Nigerian consumers.
A few tips would help local brand builders to grow stronger made in Nigeria brands. First, builders of indigenous brands must think global when creating local brands. In other words, it is essential from the beginning to aim towards building a brand that will have a universal appeal. The way to achieve this objective is to carefully select brand values that appeal across cultures rather than one region. Local brands that are limited to projecting narrow cultural values of a particular area run the risk of stagnating rather than growing. For example, the makers of a famous noodles brand in Nigeria found that the brand could not increase market penetration in Northern Nigeria. The situation was mostly because the brand projected values that were acceptable in Southern Nigeria but not acceptable in Northern Nigeria. Things changed when the company decided to reposition the message of the brand to have a broader appeal.
Indigenous brands can also acquire robust appeal when the brand values link up with the values of subcultures. Subcultures are groups of individuals that share a common interest that they express through social media activities. Examples of such groups include cheese lovers groups, music enthusiasts, food recipe groups, etc. Brands that associate their values with the positive values of subcultures reinforce their presence in consumer’s minds. An interesting example is the case of Onga seasoning, an indigenous food seasoning brand. This brand made a strong come back to the market by crafting its brand campaign around a social media celebrity that appealed to the recipe subculture.
Indigenous brands will only grow to have a universal appeal if they are credible and consistent. Brands must walk the talk. There is nothing more deceitful to a consumer than finding that a brand does not live up to its promise. The experience of patronising a brand must match up to the campaign messages that support that brand. Several times, Nigerian consumers get disappointed with local brands because of inferior product and service quality. Attempts to address these problems would offer a massive advantage to indigenous brands.
Finally, indigenous brands can acquire a stronger local and global appeal when there is substantial investment in making the brands available and accessible. Consumers remember what they see and hear frequently. The implication is that local brand builders must be ready to invest in building a robust distribution channel to support the efforts of advertising campaigns.
As Nigeria prepares to celebrate 59 years of democracy, it is an ideal time for brand builders to reflect on what it would take to globalise their brands. Being local alone would not sustainably attract Nigerian consumers. More work is required to secure a larger share of the consumers’ minds when foreign brands are easily accessible.
Dr Uchenna is currently the Director of MBA programmes at the Lagos Business School and a member of the Management Board of the school. He received his B.Sc and M.Sc in Sociology from the University of Lagos, and his Masters of Research in Management as well as PhD in Management from the IESE Business School, Barcelona. He is a member and reviewer of the Academy of Management and also a Research fellow of the Scandinavian Consortium for Organizational Research (SCANCOR). He is also an active member of the European Group of Organizational Studies (EGOS) and the American Marketing Association. He also served as a visiting research scholar to Stanford University, USA.