Nigerian Breweries Plc is one of the few companies in the market that have grown multiple products without derailment, though with occasional hiccups. Raheem Akingbolu writes on the strategies that have worked for the organisation amidst stiff competition
Glimpse into the Market
Nigerian beer and beverage markets have over the years thrown up classical brands with admirable equities. In the same way, the market has recorded a high number of mortality rate and brand failures as a result of many factors.
Some brands in the past failed because of poor understanding of the market while some fizzled out because of lack of sustainable marketing strategies. However, Guinness Nigeria Plc and Nigerian Breweries Plc have continued to wax stronger despite the myriad of challenges.
Aside both major players, there are companies like International Breweries, Ilesa, manufacturers of Trophy Lager Beer, Sona Breweries, manufacturers of ‘33’ and a few others whose success in the market do not exceed a few sections and class of the market, while brands like Top, Satzenbrau and Club had since been rested.
Of the lot, Nigerian Breweries can be said to have an edge because it has successfully broken the jinx that it is difficult for a company to manage multiple products and record success on each of them.
NB is involved in the brewing, marketing and distribution of lager beer, stout and non-alcoholic malt drinks. The company's brand portfolio consists of: Star (1949), Gulder (1970), Gulder Max (2006) and Heineken (1998). Others are Amstel Malta (1994), Maltina (1974) and Farouz (2006).
A closer look of the market shows that NB’s various products tie their successes to cutting-edge marketing tools, which have continued to bond the brands with consumers.
The company's major competitor is Guinness Nigeria Plc for which they both jointly control over 80 per cent of total market share. NB's competitive advantage however lies in the diversity of its product portfolio and deployment of cutting edge strategies, as it has been able to attract a relatively higher patronage in most segments of its business especially among lagers and non-alcoholic drinks
Among other brands from the stable, Star is clearly the most celebrated with huge patronage. Its journey to stardom can be easily linked to advertising, sponsorship and events. At the global and local markets, the three marketing mixes have successfully helped handlers of great brands like Coca Cola and MacDowell to retain their international status.
By October 1, 1960, when Nigeria got her independence, Star was eleven years old. But being the first indigenous beer brand, with lots of loyalists in the market, it turned out to be the most visible drink used for the celebration. Since then, Nigerian Breweries has consistently leveraged on its belief that Star was a Nigerian beer to position the brand.
In line with this tradition, the management of Nigerian Breweries, owner of the Star brand, at a world press conference organised to unveil a new campaign developed to celebrate the nation’s golden jubilee anniversary in the year 2010 restated its determination to roll out series of activities to consolidate the blossom relationship the Star brand had with Nigerian consumers.
The 90-second material, which was premiered on the occasion, highlighted the Star brand’s journey since inception.
Those who were part of the midwifery of the brand when it hit the nation’s beer market on June 2, 1949 would attest to the fact that it was not one of the easiest deliveries. Not because the attendants were not honed enough in the skill of getting a baby out of its mother, simply because the existing children of the market then were not ready to give space. Then Star was the first indigenous beer brand in the country. Not ready to bite the dust in the battle for survival, the brand and its handlers trudged on.
When Star hit the market in 1949, its first attempt at convincing consumers to switch loyalty to the brand started with a campaign that had the print medium as its major focus and this was understandable then: there was no television yet in the country. And the advertising tagline then was ‘Ha! Star beer at its best.’
A more than cursory look at this tagline will tell any positioning pundit that right from inception, Star has been ambitious. Though the brand had to compete with the best in the industry then and coupled with the fact that it was new, it was not ready to concede the idea of superior quality to others.
This campaign continued through the fifties and it was during the sixties that Star and its handlers came with another campaign whose thrust as remained the bedrock of subsequent Star campaign till today. The main idea behind the campaign was “brightness”. In the sixties, when the campaign first broke, the tag-line was ‘You are brighter by far on a Star’.
Since then, there might have been variations, but the idea has been the same. Star decided to look inwards to push itself. The etymology of the word, albeit its usage, was simple: what is the essence of a star if it does not Shine Brightly?
There was another first for Star: it was arguably the most advertised brand on all main media in sixties and one of the first brands to be advertised on cinema. Anyone who was conversant with the Nigerian advertising industry in the sixties cannot but remember ‘Sammy Sparkle’ and ‘Men of Distinction’ campaigns.
The thrust has always been positioning Star as a premium brand and for men and women who like quality. Like Coca-cola, Star was ‘splashed’ on our consciousness and there was nothing we could do. Through effective campaign and absence of a very strong competition, any beer consumer who did not take Star felt inadequate. Hence, Star assumed the power of appropriation of generics over other brands in the same category. Such was the power of positioning.
In the eighties came the classic: ‘Enjoy brighter life…Star’. Both electronic and print, the image of a good-looking man hold a unique cup of Star with a half-filled bottle was unmistakable. It also reinforced the belief that the brand was top of the hat one.
However, the greatest promotional effort that pushed Star was not from Star and its handlers, but from its consumers. A million sparkles inside a cup of Star gave rise to the slogan: ‘shine-shine bobo’. Within months, even patrons were not asking for a bottle of Star when they went to pubs, but across the country, it was simple ‘shine-shine bobo.’
In recent time, the handlers have used events and promotions to push the brand. Two recent ones are the Star Quest and Star Times Promo, which turned many unexpected consumers to car owners.
Though Gulder is a household name among beer consumers, its journey to the top was not an easy task. At the beginning, it didn’t only face resistance in the overall beer market; it had Star as an enemy within. But over time, it broke through due to the doggedness of its promoters.
It finally made inroads into the youth market in year 2004, when Nigerian Breweries came out with the first edition of its classical Gulder Ultimate Search, which recently concluded its 9th edition. Gulder Ultimate, which requires rigorous mental, intellectual and physical efforts, is the reality show for individuals who are champions in their everyday lives.
To drive the reality show, the handlers had, at the beginning picked a Nollywood actor, Bob Manuel Udokwu as anchor. The singular decision has since been described by pundits as one of the best decisions taken to add glamour to the show because of the personality of the actor. Today, the brand has not only become a product to beat, the reality show has also become a must watch annually by patrons and non patrons of the product.
In the last one decade, major players in the stout market have been Guinness, Legend and Dark Ale, and Guinness Stout has consistently maintained the leadership of the market, but with a serious resistance from Legend.
However, towards the end of the year 2010, Pabod Breweries Limited, the Nigeria 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 seemed 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 that was then almost dominated by Guinness stout.
While taking guests through the journey of the brand and the challenge before it in the previous years at the event, the then Marketing Director, Nigerian Breweries Plc, Jacco van der Linden, concluded that the brand had done well.
But despite NB different 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.
Five months ago, precisely in August, the global stout market was taking 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 connect with consumers, handlers of the brand have, in the last one year consistently used its ‘Legend Real Deal Night’, a platform initiated to fete consumers to win loyalties.
Between Maltina, Amstel and others
Like in the beer market, the malt market is another complex one, with Malta Guinness, Amstel, Maltina and recently Malta-Gold, slugging it out with one another. Though Malta Guinness maintained a clear lead in the market at the beginning, the composition of Amstel Malta as a low sugar product gave the NB product an instant boost in the market and made it possible to drive sales from consumers, who were not comfortable with the consumption of too much sugar.
By the time Guinness would realise that a large number of consumers had switched over their loyalty to Amstel because of its low sugar content, the brand had punctured the market share. In response to Amstel’s influence, Guinness had recently launched the low sugar variant of its popular Malta Guinness to tackle the Nigerian Breweries brand.
Again, this seems not to have achieved it is target because there is no distinct difference between the physical appearances of the two variants. However, Maltina has always maintained a humble profile, with its own patrons among the consumers that appreciate what its mangers often describe as ‘its friendly taste’.
But in the last few years, the profile has shored up appreciatively as a result of the ‘Maltina Dance All’ which tries to promote dancing among families. Because it is an all inclusive entertaining reality show, and the initiative helped the brand to win the support of both the young and the old in families. The case of Farouz and Heineken are not different if one considers the activations that have helped the two brands ion the love of patrons in their respective target market.
From any angle one chooses to look at it, Nigerian Breweries is conveniently on top of the game and it would take competitions a massive marketing strategy to unseat NB’s various brands.
A brand analyst and Publisher of Brandpower, a wholly marketing communication publication, Mr. Nnanke Harry Willie, in an interview with THISDAY however summed it up in few words; "Consistency and innovation did it for NB, and this is a lesson for other brand builders."