John Ajayi is a Journalist and Publisher of Marketing Edge, a frontline marketing magazine in Nigeria. A Public Relation Consultant and Communication Specialist, Ajayi has been in the business of advertising and branding for the past 13 years and his experience over the years has made him a Custodian of Marketing Knowledge. In this exclusive interview with SECURITY MONITOR’s Wale Abideen and Shola Akinyele, Ajayi attributes poor patronage of ‘Made in Nigeria products’ to lack of quality branding on the part of products producers and insincerity of purpose by the government.
DO YOU CONSIDER BRAND AS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF BUSINESS STRATEGY?
Every business is a brand of its own; we cannot isolate business from branding, neither can we isolate branding from business because if you are involved in any business endeavor to achieve respect and competitive advantage, you must be able to create an identity for your business. For example, if you are a barbing salon operator, motor mechanics, food seller etc., you must create an identity that will separate you from others. This identity will stand you out and attract more patronages. A business entity that does not have a brand identity will lose in crowd. So, branding essentially is about creating a unique identity for the business, product or services. If you are a medical doctor, you must be able to have brand identity for your medical services, such that your target audience will be achieved, weather a primary or secondary target audience should be able to distinguish your services from others in line. It’s that identity that you have created for yourself, that will distinguished you from the crowd and that is what will contribute or promote the bottom line of your business, every business must be identifiable with his own unique nomenclature, it is not always about the color or a physical attributes of the representation, but how do you want people to perceive your business both tangible and intangible elements. There are tangible elements you can see and there are those things that distinguish your business by having a company name, logo and color, which make it unique and peculiar to you. But it beyond that, there must be something that talks to the psychology of your target audience, something that will give them some kind of consciousness about you.
YOU HAVE IDENTIFIED BRANDING AS AN ADDED ADVANTAGE IN BUSINESS ORGANISATION. DOES INDIVIDUAL NEED BRANDING?
Every individual is a brand, the way you talk, the way you speak, you relate, your attitude is all in compulsive, it goes in a long way to determine your total brand personality. Whether you are somebody who likes to go out with shirt and trouser dressing style, whether your shirt is half opened or somebody who likes to always put up certain particular attire, the way you put it on, is different from the way people see it, they will begin to recognized and associate with you. Branding is all in compassing phenomenon. So branding is not just about color, name and all others artificial things that you can see, but it goes beyond that, if you want your business to make impact in the business world out there, you should be able to create some physiological impressions. For instance, when we talk about product branding, I like to drink tea or taken a coffee, but anytime I want to drink tea or coffee, I prefer to use particular milk like peak milk, because of the brand image that particular milk like peak milk has attained for itself. It’s just that I don’t want to drink my tea without the peak milk alone, but I want to drink it with a quality brand milk, so that if I drink it, it will give me a mode of satisfaction in there, which means that a good brand must be able to offer emotional satisfaction.
DO YOU THINK IT IS ONLY PEOPLE IN THE PRIVATE SECTORS THAT NEED BRANDING OR GOVERNMENT ORGASISATION TOO DESERVES BRANDING?
Get one thing clear, branding is not all about people or business alone and it’s not only people in the business organization that requires branding government itself is a brand. Nigeria as a country is a brand, if not how do we perceive Nigeria as a country or nation. For example, Lagos state as a brand claiming to be the Centre of Excellence. To say the fact, does Lagos state have the attributes of excellence? If you come to the Lagos what are the things that distinguish Lagos from other states, is it a state where you will just see aquatic splendor or a state where everything happens, a state where you come wisely and shine your eyes. Moreover are things working the way it supposed to work, so when you look at this totality available social infrastructure put in place, you will begin to judge whether this state qualify to be the state of excellent or not. So the truth is that every business required branding even individual. Branding is all inclusive being a business, social services, personal services, government etc. In conclusion, all business required branding because branding is about identity creation.
IT HAS BEEN A DIFFICULT TASK TO REBRAND NIGERIA DESPITE THE REBRANDING CAMPAIGN OF THE GOVERNMENT, WHAT DO YOU THINK IS MISSING?
So many things are missing; one of the challenges of branding a nation, particularly a very difficult nation like Nigeria, is because over the years there have been a poor value orientation. The value orientation is negatively stigmatized that in those days the Nigeria is such a nation that you come and people are hospitable, they are very happy, generous, no evil, no criminality or unnecessary hatred, those were egg ages and when we are just graduating from the colonial era. The Nigeria of today is not the same thing, not the qualities they know us for any longer. You can imaging somebody that has not come to Nigeria, who has read on internet about Nigerians fraudsters, internet scandal, 419 and so many negative things about this country, these has become the identification task for the Nigeria as a whole, not until we have to do a surgical operation, narcissistic surgery to value of our country and rebrand our leaders, and begin to trek the part of sanity, which will enable people to recognize and see us as a rewarding excellent, hardworking people and government, to see promotion of values in the real sense of it and makes an average Nigerians to be amazed. When I see a graduate of Nigeria University, what matters to them is not about some of the thing we treasure those days, which is hardworking. What matters to them now is on how to make money. If you employ fresh graduate in Nigeria today, his or her interest is not how to add value to the organization that employ him but how to make quick money. Even though you are paying them for the job they cannot even do. Can you imagine that you will see a graduate of mass-communication who cannot write any good story? That tells you the kind of graduates we now have in this country. So, those are the issues but we have to begin with value re-orientation. One of the things that Mr. President is doing, which I strongly support him is absolutely war against fraud, corruption, because most of us who worked hard cannot see anything to show for it, those who are just embezzling government money look at us as fools.
IS THERE ANY RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BRANDING AND ADVERTISING?
Advertising, branding and marketing are inseparable, if we look at what advert does, advertising helps to promote business, create identity, it also helps to propagate and instill emotional attachment, which is the onion of selling a brand and put it across. So advertising, branding and marketing are all inter-related.
LOOKING AT YOUR YEARS OF EXPERIENCE AS A BRAND AND COMUNICATION SPECIALIST HOW WOULD YOU RATE NIGERIA BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT IN TERMS OF BRANDING; ARE THEY DOING ENOUGH TO PROJECT THEIR PRODUCTS IN SUCH A WAY THAT CAN MAKE THEIR PRODUCTS GET ACCEPTABILITY BEYOND NIGERIA?
I want to tell you that the answer is an emphatic no; the branding culture in Nigeria business is very poor. Most of the business owners in Nigeria had been doing trading. They are nothing near manufacture. Very few businesses are trying to create an identity for themselves. They must try to be the best on the minds of the public, because if you are the best nobody can take your position and when a particular brand takes percentage shares of the minds of the consumption, every other brand that comes will share the other parts. The issue is now how far you can go to determine your effort. Nigeria business owners have being doing trading, they have not been doing branding, that is why some of the business are not growing, it’s good to say made in Nigerian product, but does this product satisfy peoples’ consumption needs, what about qualities?
WHAT IS YOUR PROFESSIONAL ADVICE TO GOVERNMENT WHO HAVE BEEN ADVOCATING FOR THE PATRONAGE OF MADE IN NIGERIA PRODUCTS?
Government should first make the business environment conducive for business owners. There should be aggressive creation of enabling business environment for government who is keen about promotion of made in Nigeria products. Infrastructure such as electricity, good roads, portable water and so on is very important to engage Nigerians in the production of quality products that can stand the test of time. Also, Nigeria’s regulatory agencies should be up to their responsibility. The government must look into the issue of multiple taxation and duplication of charges. All these are very essential to the production of quality products that can be marketable in Nigeria and beyond.