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‘Nigeria Needs a Distinct Brand Identity’

05 Dec 2012

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 Managing Director of HQSC, Mr. Nnanke Harry Willie



Advertising and brand management expert and Managing Director of HQSC, Mr. Nnanke Harry Willie spoke to Raheem Akingbolu on the challenges of brand management in the Nigerian market and his vision for the year-old Brandpower magazine. Excerpts:

Nigeria’s greatest brand building challenge
I would say it is lack of appreciation of brand management, because a lot of people treat brand building as very tentative. Most people do not realise that there are brands you could be doing ten times its turnover, more than ten times its image value if they apply the principles of brand management adequately.

You see a one-man business that is doing more than his immediate expectation and the man is relaxed but that particular brand is a brand that if he takes it and gets a brand expert involved, they can take it and make it an international brand. When you have more capital, you are able to get greater talents and skill to add value to what you are doing and become maybe the major owner of an international brand rather than being a sole owner of an average brand.

I think the greater challenge is for people to accept the fact that this is what is relevant for me to do. If you look at Nigeria as a brand, one of the reasons we have all the challenges we have so far is because we have not look at issues from the brand management perspective. At every point in time; whether it is sports, trade and investment, agriculture or tourism, you must be asking; what is it that we must project about Nigeria? So if for instance we say in everything we do we must make Nigeria stand for excellence in all we do, it would simply mean that if is not excellent it is not Nigerian.

Unfortunately, a perversely negative sentiment is what is generally recalled if Nigeria is mentioned today. It’s sad. Let Nigeria equate to a positive standard, just like we have Germans who are known for ruggedness in technology. The Asians from becoming imitators have made a brand for themselves as being technologically savvy. It means Nigeria has to find its own brand identity and build its brand infrastructure and architecture.

12 months of Brandpower magazine
Very clearly our driving force has been our passion to build brands and make them better for all stakeholders in Nigeria. The driving force has also been the reactions that we have been receiving from our teeming readers and subscribers. The journey has not been a very smooth one as you would imagine, given that it’s a new publication; you are faced with challenges of circulating and distributing your publication, developing a subscriber base and ensuring that you have the resources to publish every month like you just said.

Be that as it may, we have been sustained by a rare empathy and love from our readers who are completely sold on our style, presentation and vision so we are challenged to do something new and better with every new edition. That is why if you have noticed from the preview edition of the magazine till date, every edition produces something new. In the next few years you would probably not recognise the publication because we would keep ensuring that we improve.

Brand management and related issues 
That is the original mission of our team. When we first came out, many wanted to pigeonhole us as an industry publication. But we were quite clear in our mind what we wanted to do with Brandpower. The publication cuts across all gamut of issues and spectra of society. What we are saying here is that we have a publication where you can view everything under the Sun, whether it is ecology, banking and finance, family relationships, public service, consumer or personality brands.

We are saying that the new lingo in town is brand management. I believe strongly as a practitioner that if we look at all issues, if we treat Nigeria from a brand perspective, Nigeria will be a much better nation brand. If you look at some of the most successful brands in history, they have gone through a couple of things. They have a template and they work on the template over and over again to reinvent themselves and make sure they remain relevant even as history unfolds, as tastes continue to change, as the market continues to evolve.

Part of the challenges that we have as a nation is the fact that things that though the world has evolved over time we have failed to collectively reinvent ourselves. We have either been ill-prepared for them or prepared but like the will to execute strategies for our re-invention. So, if we look at it from this perspective, what we are doing is what you’ll call news magazine with a specialised focus. We are not an industry magazine. Therefore you will not open the magazine and all you find there is news about brands and personalities in marketing. We treat general issues. That is, we have a general appeal to the social and political elite

First edition of the magazine Awards
Just like the magazine is a niche publication, we are also about to do something that is new in the award segment of the market. We looked around and asked: what do other publications do and we decided on how could we refresh this segment of the business? So we said to ourselves, we need to look at it from the brand management perspective. We need to have key elements and criteria that will be different from others.

This year’s edition for instance, we have a criteria. You would discover that with those criteria that we have, not all brands that you know or love would be there but by the time we open up on the awardees, you would be left with no doubt that these guys deserve these awards. I would give you an example. I was just coming back from a state up North.

And you won’t believe that this state is virtually unsung. But if you go up to this place and see what is on ground, it would amaze you to no end. It is exactly the transformation the President has been preaching about. And when you are talking of transformation, you are talking of the environment and the people. We are talking of developing human capital not only for the immediate but for the future.

Tags: Nigeria, Featured, Business, Nnanke Harry Willie, HQSC

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