I know. As a business owner or Nigerian reading this, you may ask: What’s the point? What’s my business with global brands? Those big brands have money to throw around and they are recording sales in the billions of dollars anyway but the truth is, everyone starts somewhere. I recently added SMEs to my portfolio as a Branding/Marketing Professional, after almost a decade of working with international names and I’ve gained quite a perspective. Below are a few things (principles if you like) young Nigerian Business owners and brand can learn from the internationally acclaimed ones. 
  • Strong Consistent Visual identity
The first thing your target audience will notice about your brand is your imagery. Before they buy your products or pay for that service, you must make an impression that resonates with them. It will also be the second and the third thing they will notice about you. Have you ever wondered why CocaCola has retained it’s red, all these years and why any bright yellow material could almost be attributed to MTN, it’s the consistency. The unmistakable Coca Cola font and symbols have been even trademarked. I’ve mentioned these examples because these are brands that have done well locally and internationally because of their consistency. This is why I always advise my Clients to develop a brand identity manual and not just a logo. The manual establishes who you are as a brand, it showcases your logo and explains it in detail and provides guidelines on how to use and not abuse it. The manual also provides you with additional brand elements, shapes, lines and symbols to support the main logo. The brand guidelines will help you and whoever your freelance graphic artist (yes, I understand you can’t afford to hire one permanently) per time to keep it consistent. It’s your Brand Bible! Image is everything and this translates not only to your colour but even to the style of photos and videos you use. People should be able to look at a picture or video missing your logo and still say it looks like you. Image also shows up even in the kind of environment you build around your brand, your retail space, packaging staff etc These big brands go as far as having physical boxes with pieces and chunks of materials which must be used in creating anything for their brands. In my day as brand exec, I’ve handled boxes containing chunks of specific mahogany wood, marble, crystal and metal, specifications of which must be adhered to! But you see, that’s only because they have an international network of thousands of   staff and employees to handle that stuff. You just keep it simple and go with the basics of Identity, Logo, Colour, Imagery, Font and a couple of other things!
  • Research
As a brand, you need to know what you are doing and scope of research in marketing is so incredible - Competitive Analysis, Product Research and Development, Consumer consumption trends, Media Effectiveness and so on. There’s no marketing without research. You need to know what’s really going on, with your customers, with the market, with competition etc These all sound complicated and expensive but as a business owner, you can conduct your own version of these things cost effectively. Simple stuff like focus group discussions to find out how your products are perceived by a handful of members of your target audience will go a long way in helping you improve your product or service vs competition. Simple online surveys sent via email can yield some insight into the most convenient ways for your customers to buy your products. The power of social media goes beyond selling your brands, you can get feedback. Every post you put up will get a reaction and you need to pay attention to those cues. Next time, you post something, pay attention to the likes, comments vs the impressions. There is something there. From time to time, ask candid questions from your followers , you will get interesting responses. What’s even better is that, your pages come with analytics that tell you to an extent the gender of your followers, their most active times online and stuff like that . Take advantage of these cues and align. 
  • Experiential Marketing
I have said it a 1000 times, your brand is so much more than a logo. Your logo is the signpost of whom you are, a promise of something phenomenal. Imagine you had a fantastic logo and crappy food service or you had a witty slogan promising the world and your packaging is off! People will interact with you brand and you better be giving them a good time. Every phone call, every box of products, every store space, every instagram post, every event is part of the brand experience you’re exposing your customers to. Each of them are seeds that add up to a unique brand experience. Don’t mess it up. The big brands know this and that’s why MacDonalds or Starbucks in America, In Dubai and the UK seek to retain consistency with the experiences across continents. I respect what Hans & Rene, Ruff n Tumble are doing here with the brand experience in their outlets.
  • Result Oriented
The big brands want a bang for their buck so before they set goals before stepping out to market. They have goals, Qualitative and Quantitative Goals, they have Marketing goals, which translate to Market Share goals, indeed goals for everything! You can simplify yours e.g I want to sell a thousand units of my dresses in the month of May. I want to have grown my online community to 1000 customers by end of Dec 2017. In the last quarter, I want to achieve X, Y, Z. What you want to achieve will determine exactly what need to do. After setting your goals, you will find that you can’t be on every social media page, you can’t exhibit at every fair. You have limited funds so you need to be sure of what exactly you need to do so you know when you your marketing efforts have worked. 
  • Strategy 
I know what you’re thinking. Big organizations have fire power and can afford to employ thousands of skilled staff to strategize over every single thing but a strategy is simply a plan of action. Every thing you do as a business must be strategic .Your strategy will determine the kind of staff you employ to attend to your customers, it will determine the kind of merchandising you invest in , what kinds of posts you put up on social media and even what kind of social causes you support.You cannot go wrong if you are strategy-oriented. In the end, you will find that all the above points are interconnected because they all come together to drive and support your bottom line, making your marketing efforts worthwhile. They are time tested principles you can apply in your own way. As a young business, you want to ensure every Naira or dollar invested in that beautiful store ambience,   in those Sponsored Social Media posts and in shipping your packaging from China make sense. Try them out today and let me know how you fared. I can help. Just send me a mail on @ Ayodotun@lifestylehues.com.    

1 Comment

July 3, 2017

Business branding for SMEs by Ayodotun Rotimi-Akinfenwa - She learns here

[…] She spoke for a little over an hour, unfortunately the network was really bad and we couldn’t record the class.  However,  she wrote extensively about these points on her blog. Read the post here.  […]

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