I’d be lying if I said this was the topic I’d had planned for the week. But considering that I have spent a healthy chunk of the last 48 hours watching and rewatching Tobi Amusan shatter and set a new world record, I couldn’t get this topic out of my head.
Like most people, I am often conflicted by my deep sense of nationalistic pride. My firm belief in Nigerianess and in the Nigerian spirit even when my belief in Nigeria as an institution is repeatedly tested. To be Nigerian is truly something special: it’s to succeed in spite of, to learn to take when you’re never given, to rise in the face of. It’s a very powerful thing.
It’s why Burna Boy sells out the Maddison square garden and I gather my friends under the veil of games night and we somehow end up watching and dancing along to an almost 2 hr long performance.
Tobi’s victory is hers but it’s ours too. We just ran the fastest time ever in a 100m hurdle sprint.
As a marketeer, my first thought is always what does this mean for brands? The ultimate goal of branding is to evoke feelings that get your brand noticed (and hopefully liked enough to be bought). With national pride being such a powerful cultural force that evokes a sense of devotion, attachment and oneness amongst citizens, it feels like such a waste to not see more brands building ‘heritage’ campaigns that hold powerful opportunities to connect with consumers.
Sure, we see brands step up during big events like the World Cup, Afcon and the Olympics, but very rarely do we see brands design entire and authentic strategies around this sense of pride. It’s not hard to see why. For starters, patriotism branding can easily turn out clumsy– slapping the flag on a product, sending the audience to sleep with long drawn out speeches about patriotism. There’s also, of course, the ‘small matter’ of patriotism’s ugly political side where brands can easily get burned by association.
Still, a lot of consumer behavior is influenced by a sense of belonging and we have great examples of brands, home and abroad that have and are doing this. Jeep, Disney and Nike are a few examples of brands that have cracked this quite nicely
So what can brands do?
- Find your meaningful insight: The number one reason that brand campaigns fall flat is that they skip the important step of finding the insight that is true to their brand.
With Tobi for example, I saw a few tweets that encouraged brands in the afro hair category to get behind her, and while this could work really nicely as it’s authentic and she notably braids her hair, the brands would have to tap into an insight that rings true beyond this individual moment.
I like to think of insights as little secrets hidden just beyond the surface that explains the behaviors, motivations, points and emotions of your consumer. Your insight should get your consumer to say “Yeah! That’s exactly how I feel.”
Peak milk is a great example of a brand within the Nigerian context that found a true insight. Their “It’s in you campaign” is dug from the insight that everything you need to succeed is already within you. It inspires you to find validation from within while reaching for the best. It’s also smart when you consider their name is quite literally “Peak.”
The result of finding this insight was an over a decade’s run of iconic advertising campaigns including a long term brand ambassador deal with Kano (arguably Nigeria’s biggest football star). I particularly enjoyed how they showed the passing down of greatness from generation to generation with the ad with Kano and his son.
Ask yourself “what is true,” “why does it matter to the consumer” and then tell the audience in a way that proves you get them.
2. Don’t chase fads: For your brand to really reap the rewards of any sort of brand strategy, it needs to be consistent and woven into the very DNA of the brand. A one off outing will get you some attention in the short term like Glo pulled off with their Anthony Joshua spot, but it is unlikely to shift the perception of your brand and evoke a consistent feeling in the long term.
Air Peace is a good example of a brand that has consistently been front and center on tapping into national pride. Famously supporting the super eagles through their incredible AFCON run last year, but also (and perhaps more importantly), being one of the few brands that comes to the aid of Nigerians in distressful seasons, like when they helped Nigerians in South Africa escape Xenophobic attacks, and more recently their work in evacuating Nigerians from Ukraine following the Russian invasion.
For all their operational failures, there’s something very endearing about a brand that’s the people’s hero. Innoson motors is another example of a brand that’s very strongly building this consistent messaging and I see this paying off in the long term
Being consistent also makes you very credible. It gives you the credentials to back up your messaging and allows you reap the benefits of iconic moments without your brand looking desperate and opportunistic.
3. Take opportunities but don’t overdo it: Finally, remember not to go crazy. Being tacky with the messaging or even tapping into narratives that are potentially offensive or hugely divisive can push people away from your brand.