Experts Recommend More Consumer Engagement During Recession

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Raheem Akingbolu

Rather than cutting marketing budget as a palliative for the current economic recession, business owners have been advised to innovatively expand their platforms and roll out more consumer engagement communication materials.

Speaking at the maiden edition of the Marketers’ Conference organised by the Advertisers’ Association of Nigeria (ADVAN) in Lagos, recently, the Managing Director of the Nielsen West Africa, a brand and marketing research company, Mr. Lampe Omoyele, urged brands not to succumb to the temptation of cutting down on their marketing budgets despite internal and external pressures. According to him, engaging consumers at a time like this will ultimately help brand owners to make more gain.

Presenting a paper on ‘Consumer Confidence Trends and Engagement’, Lampe noted that since the third quarter of 2015, consumer confidence in the economy has dropped significantly, and it has dropped even further in the first quarter of 2016 due to nagging issues like devaluation, foreign exchange crisis, high inflation, budget delay and many others. He also noted that his company’s research revealed that there was a general decline in job prospects and a reduced willingness to spend by most consumers.

Because of these challenges, he explained further that most business owners now prioritise their expenditures and are consistently cutting down on what they spend on.

Omoyele also noted that, as expected, the sector that has had the worst hit is the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), which is usually a major indicator for consumer confidence in any country. Most of the companies in the FMCG, he stressed, have reported losses. On the other hand, Alcoholic beverage brands, Telco brands and non-alcoholic beverage brands have all recorded some growth despite the drop in consumer confidence.

According to the expert, the growth in the alcoholic sector resulted from the natural tendency for alcoholic consumption during “down or low moments”. Telco companies, from his research, recorded growth because of the general attitude of Nigerian to talk and connect with family and friends regardless of the economic situation.
However, from his study, the growth in the soft drink segment was primarily driven by Coca-Cola’s share a Coke campaign which was a highly successful and inspiring marketing drive. Likewise, growth in the alcoholic segment has been largely driven by Nigerian Breweries. Diageo Nigeria was in a form of decline despite the acclaimed success of Orijin, the rave of the moment alcoholic brand.

Lampe explained further that the key factor responsible for the growth of NB Plc was their acquisition of Consolidated Breweries which had a host of value brands. “So the growth was driven by the value brands,” he said.
This study’s INDEX- an acronym for Information through Disguised Experimentation- was gathered each quarter via survey of households and consumers opinion on current conditions and future expectations of the economy. And the current reverses in the economy according to the research and marketing expert have been triggered by inflation and other macro-economic issues like fall in oil prices, delay in the passage of budget, static wages and loss of jobs.
Ultimately, Omoyele warned that the FMCGs must begin to engage consumers in a positive way if they want to retain or even expand market share. “They must ensure they remain in touch with people consuming their brands, and they should do so through quality engagement” he admonished.

Also presenting a second lead paper on ‘key digital trends and opportunities for Advertisers’, Juliet Chiazor, Country Manager of Google Nigeria stressed that It is time Brands start considering using digital platforms and tools for marketing if they don’t want to go into extinction. Reinforcing this belief, she stated that whether brand owners like it or not, digital communication has come to stay so brands must learn how to utilise it properly. As part of her organisation’s contribution to this vital need for awareness, she announced that Google would be offering free digital training to five people from each member organisation of ADVAN.

All through her lecture, Juliet spiced the presentation with different digital ads to project the level of growth and development of digital advertising in the last few years. She also pointed out the advantages of producing an ad basically for an online audience as against just transferring TV ad to the online medium.

Earlier in his welcome address, the President of ADVAN, Mr. David Okeme, said the association, an umbrella body of brand owners and advertisers, initiated the conference in line with the association’s tradition of keeping strategic marketing issues on the front burner of businesses in Nigeria.