Mr. Taiwo-Oluboyede

The chief executive officer of Top 50 Brands Nigeria, Mr. Taiwo Oluboyede, in this interview with Raheem Akingbolu, speaks about the place of innovation and brand visibility in brand building

How can you rate Nigerian brands and what contribution have various initiatives by stakeholders done for their growth?

You have to look at this from two perspectives, whether you are rating Nigerian brand internally or you are looking at things from a global perspective. The Brand Nigeria itself in many ways influences the ratings that Nigerian brand may have, particularly if you are looking at things from a global perspective. That being said, Nigerian brands or what is called home grown are improving. I think about every of the top brands rated here have a whole department managing their brands and obviously, they are doing good job. While the international brands have benefits of wider experience and often economics of scale, we are also doing well and many of the top Nigerian brands have even gone continental and across the world, from the Nigerian financial service providers to manufacturing brands. let me give you an example, a Nigerian brand came second on the overall top 50 this last year and I think there are more Nigerian home grown brand in the top 10 that are international brands.

Since we are talking about brand Nigeria, I hope you have heard of the #IAmBrandNigeria campaign, a clarion call for open endorsement and show of association with the Nigeria brand by the people. We are of the opinion that the responsibility of the promotion of the Nigeria brand lies more on the hand of the citizen, so we are championing this private driven initiative which gives a positive narrative of the Nigeria brand from the point of view the resilience, tenacity and making things happen against all odds. Many Nigerians have been able to achieve success in their endeavours in the midst of the inadequacies we have around us.

What is the essence of the top 50 bands Nigeria?
The Top 50 Brands Nigeria, which has now become our name, is a market research firm which measures brand performance, healthiness and advice owners on factors that influence them. We make a periodic public presentation of some of our research works, chief of which is the annual 50 top brands. We evaluate how brands are delivering on their promises from the point of view of the consumers. We get their opinion, which we believe is a reflection of their buying decisions. We carry out surveys and subject the high-lighted brand(s) to the Brand Strength Measument; to test their strength and somehow indicate weaknesses and advice on improvement. So, since the top 50 is what we are known for, we have decided to have it as the company name as well.

What’s the need for it?
Brand in our modern world has become one of the most important and valuable assets of a company. Though an intangible one, in some cases, it is worth one- third the total value of an organization and most times determines profitability of the business. Since the brand is that important, then it should be of utmost importance to know how it is faring in the market place per time. Brands must always ask pertinent questions such as; is the brand attracting the right audience, is it passing the right message and if the message is in alignment with the brand promise, these and much more will give brand leverage amongst its competitors.
We have devised a means of measuring the top 50 that have been able to outdo the others in delivering on their promises from the market point of view and these are the brands we celebrate as the 50 TOP BRANDS of the year as it is being done in other world economies.

So, this is like a report card that tells if you are actually among those important brands in the market. Not just that, it helps to also know your position among the top 50, what needs to be done to improve on brand performance even when you are among the top and what needs to be done to remain there. As it’s been said, it is easier to climb up than to remain there. The top is always highly contested for, this is why we annually rate the 50 top brands for the year and show you the factors that influence the selection and rating. What this does is, it serves as a tool that enhances those at the top to improve on their promises and to motivate the aspiring brands to gain sufficient acceptability for a possible placement on the top too.

What are some of the vital factors that brands need to put in place to ensure they are among the top?
For the annual 50 top brands in Nigeria, we use the Brand Strength Measurement, BSM Index; it is a specially designed model that uses basic qualitative factors to determine brand ratings. Some of the entries in the model are popularity of a brand, consumer’s ability to recall a brand. For this we use the top on the mind survey, where people tell us brands they can easily recall. We found out that patronage, satisfaction and visibility are some of the factors that influence respondents’ choice in the survey.
Other factors are innovation, that is in the product/service delivery, customer services etc. Quality element- these are factors that reassure customers that a brand has quality.

Category leadership, this checks a brand market share in its industry
We look at National Spread that is how widely spread across the country a brand it. The model also highlights on the brands Online Engagement- you will agree with me that the online platform has become the alternative platform and often the first point of call when consumers want to engage a brand. They often check you out online and possibly engage. This affects decision making. Various surveys point to the fact that a growing number of consumers now check the online platform and mostly compare vital factors before making buying decisions.

The model also looked at the Corporate Social Responsibility. CSR is one of the salient factors that determine brand’s acceptability and many brands have recognised that CSR asa key factor that enhances their relevance. Many brands now consciously set aside a certain percentage of their profit for this purpose. It is really important. All these put together is what goes into the BSM index and the aggregate determines the 50 top brands. For you to be on top, you have to build on these factors.

How does it affect brands in Nigeria?
One of our objectives is to create a healthy competition among corporate brand in doing more to satisfy their customers and delivering on their promises. In today’s business world, and Nigeria not an exception, major brands budget heavily to enhance their brand, even though the best boast to your brand image is delivering on your promise. This makes brands in Nigeria to become more sensitive to in building their brands by using customer’s satisfaction and other important factors as a differentiators, seeing themselves as being watched and performance are being rated as obtainable in developed economy. So, they begin to strategically work towards better value propositions and delivering on them. This in many ways also serves as advisory to brand owners to have a better knowledge and first-hand information about the consumer’s needs, and working towards satisfying them and we are beginning to see improvement and better engagement.

What informed your decision for this award?
Firstly, I need to make some clarification, this isn’t an award, rather, an assessment platform where organizations can reassess their brands performance thereby help them to appreciate the important value their intangible asset is adding and advice on vital factors that improve brand perception and market shares. However, we will be having an award for certain categories, starting from this year. We will be recognising some Nigerian (home grown) brands especially.

The concept of brand ratings and valuation gained more popularity when business acquisitions in the developed economies were becoming popular in the 80s. And it was observed that the asking price in all the cases is more than the real assets. So, the difference is the premium that the brand has been able to add over time. For example, if you owned a company now and for any reason, you are selling it or it’s being acquired by others, your selling price is the value of your assets plus a premium.

The premium is a function of the perception of the market. We have had many acquisitions in Nigeria in recent years and the brand value has played important role in the value of the businesses. Since brand has become a very important asset in any organisation, it has also become important to evaluate and rate them. As businesses and brands are springing up and we are seeing megabrand as well, it became necessary to have such here as well. It also enhances the global appeal of our brands. Since year 2000 when the Nigerian economy seems to have opened up a bit more and with increasing influx of foreigners and foreign direct investments, there has always been a need to have independent opinion platform about major brands in Nigeria. We have had to advice a number of people on certain things on brand performance in Nigeria.

One of our desires is to see Nigerian brands taking the lead in the annual top50 brands rating. And we are seeing an improvement. In the midst of the recession, Nigeria brands are doing well. For example, from the assessment this year, we have 25 of the 50 being home grown, that is a whopping 50%. It’s the first time we will be having this since our first edition in 2013. This is really very exciting for us. Now we also have another category, called Brands to Watch, these are brands that have not made the top 50, but with potentials. Now, 8 of the 10 this year are home grown. Now, that is very exciting for me. Some of the mid-year report from some of brands also, particularly the banks show profitability.

It is our belief that the Nigerian brands listed and even those that are not will take good look at these factors and seriously work on their value proposition and live up to their promise. It’s also important for them to adequately communicate these promises to the consumers, you know. People make buying decision based on information and experience. I need to know first before buying and before I can experience.

What makes top 50 brands Nigeria different among others?
Like I have explained above, this is about performance, this is like a report card, and this is like an advisory system that says, based on these and those factors you are this. In many developed economy, you have things like fortune 500 and many others. This has become like a yardstick for measuring class and positioning and it has greatly help in improving image, at least from the feedback we are getting from the brands.

How can you rate the acceptability and what are the feedbacks you are getting?

Let me give an example, based on our last edition, where brands like MTN Nigeria, Dangote Group, First Bank of Nigeria, Julius Berger, Guinness and Nestle Nigeria were listed among the top 50 brands in the 2017 edition. The listed firms are among the most resilient in Nigeria and achieved growth during the 2016 economic recession. Reports from some of these companies have shown that the award has given them substantial boost in the market place.

They were those who defied the odds, with many of them declaring good profits. Cutting across various sectors, they are the engine that power and drive our economy; they are the employers of labour; they create wealth and provide vital goods and services for the people.
The brands honoured at this year’s edition of the Top 50 Brand Nigeria Awards have transcended their product/service categories and mean much more to the consumers.

Another example was where the international office of one of the top brands had to contact us. Am told of another one that they received commendation letter from their group headquarter for being among the top. We had the announcement of the 50 brands few days ago and we have received calls and emails from many places already. Now this isn’t really a yardstick for us. What is important to us is that brands owners are getting to see what they are probably doing right and some of those things they need to improve on. I think this is a better yardstick. And we are getting vital feedback from many of the brands.