THE BRAND MANAGEMENT CHALLENGE FOR NIGERIAN INSTITUTIONS
it is interesting to observe that many Federal institutions now have television programmes to showcase their activities. Some states are also not left behind as they equally have specific programmes for some agencies or the state itself. Though a commendable step in the right direction, a good number of programmes can be better packaged and produced with more technical as well as creative depth to achieve maximum impact on the core target audience.
Also, many Nigerians may not know for instance that virtually all the ministries equally have monthly and quarterly journals published at great costs. The reason for their ignorance is because the circulation and sensitization of the target publics about the vital document is not as effective as it should be, they therefore gather dust in many stores in the respective MDAs or are barely perused by the core target who manage to receive them as they are seen more as propaganda documents rather than a true brand report of the respective ministries, departments or agency (MDA).
The television programmes and journals however ought not to be done in isolation of other key marketing communications tools and brand-building opportunities available in traditional media, new media and event platforms. It is about time that Nigerian MDAs adopt the brand-management model that has for ages served successful global brands and nation-brands across the developed world well. Already many corporate organistions in the country now take brand management seriously and have established units or departments to transform their institutions, services and products into enduring and endearing brands
The key element of the brand-management model is that unlike the traditional method that MDAs have for long employed to handle public relations or PR as it is more popularly called, a good brand-management model works proactively to achieve the set vision of the institution and not merely being a vehicle to make terse announcements and organize press conferences during events and during crises. The traditional approach is essentially reactive and definitely ineffective and more expensive in the long as a damaged or unappealing reputation leads to loss of goodwill, respect and revenue.
A properly thought-though brand management strategy will understand the sensibilities and dynamics of the relevant target publics as well as have a good grasp of the vision, mission, objectives and purpose of the respective MDA before the planning and execution of a well-knit string of complimentary communications activities. One would recall with sadness the failure of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Small and Medium-scale Industries & Enterprises Investment Scheme (SMIEIS) which accumulated so much into a special fund for the support of SMEs but only a handful of enterprises benefitted, leading to its scrapping. My take is that the ideals of the scheme were not effectively communicated to the core target audience.
MDAs will have an intimate relationship with their core target if the brand management model is adopted. The target public will be properly briefed on the core vision, plans and activities of the respective MDA with platforms for updates, experiential engagements with a view to having clearly understood communications and thus engender necessary buy-in and empathies from the target public. Depending on the needs and finances of the MDA, internal consultants can be recruited from organizations with a rich history of brand building and management or advertising agencies and ancillary agencies. It is however pertinent to engage, seasoned agencies and consultants for best results. Nigerians will be marveled at some of the achievements of many unsung, even maligned institutions in Nigeria, they can only get to know and appreciate some of these facts with expert, proactive treatment and deployment of relevant information and brand values. The time to start is now!
SO, WHO IS THE MANUFACTURERS’ FRIEND?
I had a 3 hour meeting with a client of mine recently. I was prepared for our regular meeting with my brand-management team but he requested that I came in alone. We had produced some fantastic radio and television commercials which we had expected to deploy more than 3 months ago, but sadly, he announced once again that there was no need to deploy the materials since he was virtually running out of stock.
I had never seen an otherwise cheerful man more broken. I left him sad, angry and exasperated. It was a session of lamentations, regrets and bitterness. The gentleman had always been a trader.He started out as a teenager, learnt the ropes and eventually, his business blossomed so well he had outposts in Central Africa and Asia. Being that he was generally involved in buying and selling, he ran at his own pace and quietly built a veritable war chest of investible funds running into billions of Naira. Business was good.
That was when the patriotic bug bit him. He wanted to go into manufacturing, generate even more employment for Nigerians and retire happily knowing that he has given back to his dear country which gave him the opportunity to grow and prosper in the first place. 3 years after that decision, he had been beset with one debilitating challenge after another. First, it was a senior ex- government official who tried to stop him from taking possession of the property he had fully paid for to use as factory because the said official was also interested in the property and had also been in talks with the previous owner!
Second, it was harassment from various agencies and agents of federal, state, and local governments, and then came the banks They came with fantastic loan proposals which he eventually fell for but after paying up his own percentage requirement, the bank had a change of mind and decided to stagger their own contribution to a letter of credit (LC)that clearly would not be honoured by the overseas supplier unless payment was made in full. Now the gentleman is in a bind: his money is tied up in an LC he cannot use; he is paying a huge interest for money he cannot use; he cannot restock his raw materials,;soon, he may not be able to pay his operational bills and, worse of all, if the bank does not change its contentious stand he may be out of business soon. My client’s case is not an isolated one.
It appears there is a conspiracy among government agencies to harass and punish entrepreneurs for ‘daring’ to set up productive companies in Nigeria and banks would rather buy federal government bonds and deal with fraudsters than risk their monies with real business men. The ones who smile to the banks are traders who import products from other countries to dump in Nigeria. many of such people have no investments whatsoever in Nigeria sometimes not even an office as they simply hire warehouses or tank farms and sell directly to distributors from there. That is the reason we have so many stupendously rich men (and women) while Nigeria’s real sector is slowly dying. If the authorities fail to arrest the drift now, we may never recover. Government and banks should support, indeed promote the manufacturing sector and SMEs for real growth and prosperity. No nation can attain greatness without having its own mix of great consumer brands. It is better late than never!