Omoyele: Low Disposable Income Has Weakened Consumer Confidence in Nigeria


Managing Director, Nielsen West Africa, an international research agency, Mr. Lampe Omoyele, in this interview, gives some insight into the drop in consumer confidence in the country. Raheem Akingbolu presents the excerpts:

What is your assessment of consumer confidence in Nigeria?

Based on feedback from Nigerian consumers, we did the Nielsen consumer confidence index and analyse it. Any figure over a hundred is considered as the consumer having a positive outlook, anything below hundred shows a negative outlook. The lower below hundred is more negative, the higher above hundred is more positive.
When we started this in Nigeria it was above hundred in the 4th quarter of 2014 and it steadily increased until 4th quarter of 2015 when it declined for the first time and it went down to 104.
Whereas it is still higher than hundred it was a red flag for us that it declined for the first time and that for us was a concern. The concern was driven by the macroeconomic environment and the weaken consumer disposable income and the inflation, and that then on the way consumers are beginning to feel about the future. I think we were also concerned with the budget not seen and all that.

What is this concern and how did players in the FMCG approach it?

What we have seen is consumption of fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) product practically began to decline. What happens is that when consumers’ confidence begins to decline people begin to look at reprioritisation of what they spend their money on, and with inflation and consumer disposable income not increasing, what you are finding is that people are spending more money in education and housing and then having less disposable income to spend on branded items.
What FMCG businesses therefore have been able to look at is, because their consumption is being impacted, one of the things I have said to them is first thing they have to do is to hold market shares. How do you hold market share? Ensure that the people who are already consuming you keep on consuming you, and do not reduce the quantity that they are consuming. Drive branding and drive loyalty to at least sustain your consumers.
As you do that it means you must keep quality and you must keep engaging them. That is why I used the Coca-Cola campaign ‘Share A Coke” as an example. It was a different kind of campaign/promotion; it was not a promotion that said buy one and gets one free. It connected with the emotions of the consumers in using their names.

Despite the economic crisis, it was observed last year that the alcoholic segment recorded growth, what is responsible?

The growth of the alcoholic segment was driven by the Nigerian breweries. It was driven primarily from my view by two main factors; one is the acquisition of consolidated breweries. They consolidated the result of consolidated breweries into Nigerian breweries then drove that growth. It was driven by value brands, so a lot of consolidated breweries brands are value brands. When you have a situation where consumer confidence is reducing and access to funding is lowered, what consumers are doing are reprioritising, so they are spending more on value for money brands and that drove the alcoholic segment. The other point for Nigerian breweries is that they have consistently engaged with their consumers.

Generally speaking, can you please highlight the important of research in business?

Speaking from a generic perspective, research in anything like life, in marketing or integrated marketing communications, it helps to shed light where there is darkness when things are not clear and when there is unknown. More specifically, around integrated marketing communication it helps to understand who the target audience is, what their usages and attitudes are around products and services, around media usage and the channels that they use and as a result, IMC practitioners can formulate strategies and execute campaigns that are appropriately targeted.

What happens when there is no research document concerning a particular industry?

The implication is that the communication strategies might be like shooting in the dark, and when you shoot in the dark you may not always get good eyes. In some cases you might get lucky but in more cases than not you may not be appropriately targeting and therefore, the strategies you implement are likely not to be the appropriate ones. So one is likely to waste resources and at the end of the day the campaigns will not succeed.

Do you mean other failed campaigns are as a result inadequate insight?

There are a lot of factors; one may not be having the appropriate insight and information about the target market. If the research is not done to truly understand what the potential impact will be then campaigns will never succeed. At times, it may also be the quality of execution of the various campaigns that could have an influence.

At a time like this, how can brand owners maintain their relationship with consumers?

I think the key things for brands to do in this season that we are in is to hold market shares and that means engaging with their core loyalists. It means that the quality of the services must be sustained. It means they must be engaging in various ways, either through different communication channels that are most appropriate to the target market that they are addressing.
It is all about understanding the media usage and how to use it. This is not the time that marketers or public relations experts will say they don’t spend money. This is the time they will keep engaging because when we come out of these economic challenges, it is the brands that constantly engage with them that they will talk to.
Lowering prices may ultimately affect some brand equities, so the thing to do is how to get consumers to keep using or use more. Many brands have realised that when they reduce price it does not necessarily increase purchase. The thing is how you add value to consumers which could be putting in place promotions or campaigns that connects with them emotionally so that when they pay they get instant value.

It is often said that PR measurement in campaigns is difficult. What is the way out?
It is about understanding measurement indices. When the public relations is going to run campaign it is about saying, what are the objectives of the campaign? Is it about raising the awareness levels or changing perceptions and coming up with specific matrix that they can then say they will use to evaluate the campaigns?
Once they can show every depths of a change in perception and impact on change in behavior of the relevant publics that they are addressing, then they can make stronger cases with clients. The challenge at the moment is that a lot of PR campaigns have not been founded on specific measurable objectives that from the beginning already determine the metric that they will use to measure.

Does PR play a part in the brand building process?
PR plays a part. The point is that public relations have not yet been elevated in the minds of the general public as much as advertising. We do not have a specific data that says it has this impact. I think we are going to do a research that says, what is the impact of PR in influencing change in perception and publics?

How credible is the research that emanates from Nigeria?

I think that most research works that are done in Nigeria are credible. The challenge is that it can be better but in a company like Nielsen, we have quality checks. That means there are checks to the data that comes out. If we have researchers, supervisors, mangers and other research agencies in Nigeria that are monitoring what is going on, that means we have some quality checks. So research in Nigeria is credible, I will say that with confidence. I think the big point is that there are lots of data in Nigeria, and the issue is having access to data, understanding how to mine the data and generating interest from it. I have a persuasion, which is having 50 percent data is better than having no data.