The battle between buying local and supposedly better foreign brands
On September 6, 2019, I had an experience unique to locals as I went to get groceries for my family at a supermarket.
After buying most of the things I wanted, I spotted a mouthwash – a Made in Nigeria product. Sitting next to it was a Colgate mouthwash that had a price tag in American dollars.
The Nigerian brand was ₦750 while the foreign one, Colgate, had $1.99 confidently written on it. Then the dilemma “Made in Nigeria” Versus “Made in USA” came up within me.
It was a serious moral battle for me, especially as I remembered the fact that I had only recently designed a Patriotic Buying Campaign and driven it to some measure of public knowledge.
It was a battle between my responsibility as a citizen and the general negative perception of most things Made in Nigeria.
My thoughts were overwhelmed with a dialogue that can best be captured by the exchanges below:
Patriotic Buying Ayo Moses: How can you buy that foreign brand when you can see a Made In Nigeria product?
Brand Conscious Ayo Moses: Colgate is a reputable brand that has grown tremendous economies of scale to manufacture the best mouthwash in the world.
Patriotic Buying Ayo Moses: But this Nigerian Brand must start somewhere too and needs your patronage to fight this foreign brand.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is with sadness that I announce that Colgate Mouthwash won the battle. I mean, before I could conclude the mental dialogue, the well packaged bottle was in the cart.
Upon getting home, I didn’t open the bottle.
I spent about ten minutes looking at the product packaging and reading everything written on it.
Then I got to the point where I saw the boldly written price of $ 1.99. I looked at it for about one minute, questioning the rationale for leaving the dollar price tag in the Nigerian market.
I found what they used to help defeat my patriotic buying sentiment. The product promoters definitely know the power of leaving the dollar price tag on the bottle.
What does the American dollar represent?
It represents everything America, as a Nation-state Brand, projects. Narratives like Freedom, Innovation and Originality naturally comes to mind upon sighting a product backed by the American dollar.
Talking about the story of Nigeria as a panacea, we must look at how people get to trust their fellow citizens and governments, before taking that trust outside to win by gaining the respect of foreigners.
The best nation state, when it comes to branding, is the United States of America. The American Story is one that has been used to position the country as the greatest in the world to Americans and the rest of the world, and I believe that the same thing is what we need to do for Nigeria, leveraging on the power of Nollywood.
The American movie industry, by deliberate commission and structure, plays a critical role in selling MADE IN AMERICA to the world and Nollywood can be used for that purpose as well in Nigeria.
In telling the stories of anything American, all efforts are made to ensure that the country is projected in a positive light. They don’t leave that to chance at all and there are countless movies sponsored by the governments of the United States for strategic image and reputation shaping.
For Nigeria, I believe very strongly that the various story elements at our very socio-political and economic crossroads brings a rare opportunity that we have not fully and deliberately utilised to position our country right, at home and abroad.
The real problem before “Made in Nigeria” is the image and perception-challenges that the Nigerian nomenclature presents. The issue is that we have not defined who we truly are, and are yet to raise the characters among us that best typifies that dream personality for celebration and elevation.
Just as it is for product, idea or service brands that have not been defined for a clear personality, so it is for nation state brands. Indeed, it is when a brand has a valuable personality that its story can begin to make sense and catch attention.
What can the government do?
❏ Redesign the Mandate of the National Film Videos and Censors board to project a Greater Nigeria.
❏ Redesign the Policy for National Education and citizen Indoctrination to integrate every aspect of Nigerian history with the strategic intent to project New Nigeria and relegate tribal and ethnic elements to the federating units
❏ Incentivise the production and promotion of great stories that position Nigeria as the hope of Africa by Nollywood.
❏ All stories and movies that do not put Nigeria on the narrative path for the desired intent and purpose must be commercially and economically stifled.
❏ Develop a policy on child education and orientation that functions on the Nigerian story, getting all our people to have a common shared vision and interest.
❏ Develop a digital channel that will cover all epochs and carry Nigeria’s many victories and get all state public and private entities to connect for expeditious and sustainable dissemination of the Nigerian story.
❏ Above all, public purchases and consumption must prioritise Made In Nigeria and only buy from outside where we have no immediate capacity.
I believe that the many troubles of enterprise development in Nigeria and its attendant desire for foreign and ostentatious consumption is a sign of a deep-rooted zero knowledge of self among Nigerians.
Any society where people cannot trust themselves is bound for perpetual poverty. The key to gaining trust can only be unlocked by an effective and strategic story approach for national rebirth, rebranding and repositioning.
Ayo Moses Is a Brand Story Strategist at BrandStory Nigeria. A Public Relations Practitioner with a post-charter experience of about a decade in media management, brand strategy advisory and promotions, he worked in Telecoms and Corporate Communications sectors before starting CLAD Projects- a Communications Advisory and Corporate Social investment firm, based in Lagos. He has a background in communications and is a member of The Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) and The Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA).