The raging Stout war in Nigeria is currently assuming a new dimension following the latest revelation by Monde Selection, which adjudged Legend, from the stable of Nigerian Breweries, as the best stout in quality, Raheem Akingbolu reports
Market at a Glance
In the last decade, the major players in the stout market have been Guinness, Legend and Dark Ale but the Guinness Stout has consistently maintained the leadership of the market, but with a serious resistance from Legend.
However, towards the end of year 2010, Pabod Breweries Limited, the Nigerian subsidiary of SAB Miller, threw a shot, when it unveiled Castle Milk Stout, with the promise that it was in for business. But surprisingly, it was not long before the brand was put in its position, with little or no national prominence.
Before then, Dark Ale appeared to have conceded the leadership of the market to Guinness, while Legend was not giving up the fight.
Legend Extra stout played a winning card in October 2009, with a re-launch, which market watchers believed was done in response to Guinness Stout celebration of its 250 years of ‘Greatness’ in every Guinness stout bottle.
That the Legend rebranding exercise took place at the time Guinness was still basking in the euphoria of its anniversary, made analysts to conclude that the brand was indeed being positioned to fight for a share of the market; then almost dominated by Guinness stout.
While taking guests through the journey of the brand and the challenge before it in the last few years at the event, the then-Marketing Director, Nigerian Breweries Plc, Jacco van der Linden, concluded that the brand had done well.
Explaining the reason for the re-launch, he added that the brand’s “high quality and excellent taste deserves high quality and excellent packaging.”
From any angle one chooses to look at it, the re-packaging further underlined the desire of the NB Plc, to have more bites of the market.
But despite its various moves, hardened patrons of Guinness had from day one predicted that Legend would not win the war because of the influence of Guinness Stout on the market.
Four months ago, precisely in August, the global stout market was taken by storm, when Legend Extra Stout received the prestigious Gold Quality Award at the 51st Monde award ceremony held in Athens, Greece. Since then, the story has not only changed but the achievement had left tongues wagging.
To handlers of Legend, the recognition became a remarkable achievement while it sent a serious shiver down the spine of promoters of Guinness Stout. Among other things, consumers, who before then had placed the Guinness product in high esteem, began to ask if their preferred brand was actually living in the past, with little or no improvement over the years.
This is so because the pronouncement placed Legend above competitions, including; Guinness Extra stout and Guinness Extra Smooth, in the area of taste and quality.
Having spent a better part of its existence in the Nigerian market playing second fiddle to Guinness Extra Stout, the new status has since redefined Legend as the best black beer that is full brewed from the finest ingredient and bottled under the highest quality standard.
Monde Selection, an International Institute for Quality Selections, is the originator of the annual international event organised to identify and recognise outstanding global brands. The Institute tests consumer goods from different global markets and grants them internationally renowned quality award based on independent quality evaluation of products submitted for evaluation.
After careful analyses and tests, the jurors of Monde Selection stated came out with the result and declared the NB product as the winner. Meanwhile, other stout brands from the Nigerian market were said to have also submitted products for evaluation, but Guinness Stout; its main competitor, came second, carting away Silver.
Journey So Far
The brand’s stellar status in the market against competition is not a surprise to many as its promoters have laid a good foundation for its current success.
Having observed a boring and uninspiring stout market in the country, Nigerian Breweries Plc in 1992, launched Legend to inject excitement into the category. The launch was meant to catch the younger generation in a more contemporary manner, associate the brand with already existing stout values; hence the first copy line for the stout ‘Light up your life - Put a spark in your life.’
Twelve years later, the promoters’ quest to turn Legend into a leading brand in the dark beer category did a re-jig by reformulating and enriching their products with Vitamins to reduce the bitterness and alcohol content of the brand.
The process, according to an insider source, also removed the observed ‘burnt taste’ that gave the brand the initial unpleasant flavour, which was perceived not to be the quality of the ideal stout brand. Hence a new advertising copy was created ‘Legend makes you feel real good’.
Unlike previous activities around the brand, three years later, a new packaging, which involved change of bottle and labels, was introduced to bring excitement to the brand and tickle the consumers.
The brand throughout this period never seemed to get it right in terms of positioning, packaging and quality but in 2009, Legend was repositioned and repackaged to elevate the brand from savings to mainstream category.
A unique propriety bottle with a new and exciting label heralded a ‘real deal’ communication campaign that eventual culminated in the brand being certified the ‘real’ brewed stout brand by Monde Selection.
In preparation for the current leadership in quality, Legend has evolved some interesting communications mechanics. The brand debuted with ‘it’s your life, xpress it now’ advertising campaign in 1992 to announce it readiness to capture the youth segment of the dark beer category. A new ad campaign was launched a few years later tagged ‘New Legend Extra Stout-carry Da Torch’. This campaign played around the dynamic flame and torch, which is the brand logo.
Realising that the campaign couldn’t lift the brand beyond its previous status, the brand owners unveiled a new communication campaign to exude youth independence dubbed ‘Xpress Ur Independence Now!’ In 2007, ‘Life’s Much More Fun’ and ‘Correct bros don come!’ were launched, but all these still couldn’t lift the brand.
To ensure lower segment of the market was taken care of in its communications “Aaah! Legen-di’ was launched in 2008.
Then what looked like the brand unveiled the ‘Legend, the real deal’ campaign, which seemed to have now ended its sojourn in the wilderness. The brand promoters ensured that the campaign went beyond the theme. Therefore, for the first time in the history of dark beer category in Nigeria, a new leader was elected.
Prior to the Monde Selection honour in quality, several blind-taste-tests of Legend showed that the brand was better than other stout drinks on the following parameters: texture, flavour, bitterness, foam formulation, retention ability and smoothness.
Confirming Legend’s new status in the market, Marketing Director of Nigerian Breweries, Mr. Walter Drenth, said, “You are all living witnesses to the strides the Legend brand has made over the years, establishing itself as a Real stout on many counts and refreshing its outlook uniquely.
“Over the past 20 years, the Legend brand has continued to position itself as a credible choice of stout, full brewed, the way an original stout should - giving Legend the credibility to be called the 'Real Deal,' - a sincere proposition that has sustained the brand’s growth since the re-launch and acceptance in 2009”, he added.
He reminded the consumers that the campaigns at the re-launch further ride on the brand’s real brew positioning with emphasis on the production processes considered desirable for a real stout. This innovation, according to him, has had a tremendous positive impact on the brand's volume, market share and overall equity.
On what highlights the brand in such a short time playing in a market where there has been an existing dominant brand for more than a century, the Marketing Director stressed that the brand custodians' passion for consistent quality check over the years pushed Legend to take another bold step to validate its quality by participating in an internationally recognised taste and quality evaluation panel named Monde Selection Institute, independently evaluating for quality since 1961 and based in Brussels, the capital of Europe.
According to him; “the reliable nature of the quality evaluation of Monde selection process, which is second to none in the entire world, encouraged us to enter the 2012 quality challenge alongside over 3,000 contestants including other brands in the stout category from Nigeria.
“You will agree with me that it takes excellence in the crafting and delivery of music to win a Grammy. To win an Oscar, it takes the ability to hold an international audience spell bound with great acting; and just of recent, we observed in the Olympic, winning Gold takes the combination of preparation, peculiarity, diligence and strength”, he added.
Senior Brand Manager, Legend, Funso Ayeni, in his reaction to the achievement, stated that the award is for the consumer that has stood by and believed in the brand over the years.
“Our consumers have been great over the years; they encourage us to continue to brew the best tasting stout brand in the country. The fact that this award came from a renowned international authority, after passing through series of quality control tests, goes to show that the quality of Legend is unique,” he added.
Between Guinness and NB
The fierce brand war between Guinness Nigeria and the Nigerian Breweries did not start now; it has always existed. In a way, it can be likened to the ‘Cola War’, which existed between Coca Cola and Pepsi Co many years ago.
Between these two companies lie at least six of Nigeria’s biggest brands, namely Legend Extra Stout versus Guinness Stout, Star versus Harp, Maltina versus Malta Guinness. These are household names all over Nigeria and generate huge sums of money for both companies.
The beer powerhouses of Nigeria have been so dominant for years; even the threat of the global meltdown and the banking crisis seem not to have fazed them. Rather, they have seen earnings continue to rise year after year. With the new development therefore, the journey may have just begun.