President, Experiential Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Kehinde Salami, spoke with Raheem Akingbolu on the decline in innovation and creativity among African business owners
Experiential wasn’t as popular as this in the years past, what do you think responsible for its patronage in the recent time?
Many people do think experiential is new in our market and is not so. It is just that it has started being reshaped in the last 10 years or thereabout. Over the years, people call it different names and that still continues. I have always said the way we define whatever we do is important and the way people understand what we offer is also germane. Experiential marketing is a field in marketing communication that business owners use to communicate with a market in a more active and direct manner. Each time I discuss this, I like to use to draw analogy between it and medicine, where we have ophthalmologists, gynecologist or psychiatrist. All of them practice medicine but in different field. That is exactly what happens in our industry too, where each of the sectoral bodies play different roles in marketing mix. In my view, it is in stages; identity creation, relationship marketing, digital and then reputation building. At the level of identity creation, advertising readily comes to mind, experiential handles relationship marketing before the digital people come in to create interactive forum around the brand. The last is Public Relations practitioners that are hugely involved in reputation building.
With over two decades put into practice, you are in a good position to say whether the industry is appreciated in Nigeria or not.
Let me first emphasise that part of my practice years experience was in the UK but like you said, I have spent enough time in this market to be able to state my view about the level of patronage and appreciation. If we consider the activities in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), I think the sector has consistently engaged experiential agencies to help create good bond between brands and consumers over the years. When you come to the financial sector, the reverse is the case, experiential marketing is not appreciated the way it should be. In the financial sector and to some extent in public service, marketing is still not regarded as investment but cost. To improve on bottom lines and get policies across to relevant targets, marketing should be seen as investment not as cost.
Things are fast changing anyway as the market is daily being redefined. In experiential industry, professionals have become more understanding and more professionals. They are ready to handle things differently to add value to what their clients bring into the table. Consumers have become more sophisticated and segmented, which tend to make business owners appreciate the need to approach the market through various approaches, depending on which class of the market one is targeting.
Experiential marketing thrives on brand experience. A lot of brands that use experiential marketing to sell their brands give the consumers the opportunity to understand the brand more. Brand owners can interact with consumers on experiential platform and get feedback. Experiential marketing is basically marketing a brand by driving understanding of the product through human senses.
You recently published a book; ‘To Every Man A Brain: How To Discover and Unleash The Power of Your Creative Mind’, what informed this?
One, the urge to share my experience and the need to trigger the consciousness of Nigerians and Africans towards opportunities that are abound in our land. I want to tell young professionals, students, unemployed graduates and head of businesses the fact that Nigeria is a country with tremendous potential that gives everyone a blank sheet of paper to write their personal dreams and vision but very few take good advantage of that.
It’s worrying that despite the opportunities that abound, many of us still find ourselves in limbo with no clear direction. We patronise the goods, services and technology breakthrough of the West shamelessly wearing the badge of the astute consumption economy with pride. Besides entertainment and a few other flashes here and there, our nation can best be termed as a doers’ economy. This scenario for any serious government should raise an imminent red flag as doing will always be inferior to thinking. If we all agree on this simple logical fact, then we need to change our perspective.
Has anyone stopped to think why the continent of Africa which boasts 17% of the worlds’ population (1.3bn inhabitants), is responsible for less than 1% of global patents? Has anyone considered the possibility of Oyo State, Lagos State or any other state for that matter deliberately championing Ideation via the selling of knowledge as a main export crop?
In the area of case study and content, what are those things that will make the book a must read to the targeted audience?
This book takes an insightful look into the issues and offers a quick fix solution with respect to vital methodologies that could help change mind-set while rebooting the brain to work more efficiently. Having studied individuals coupled with the benefit of interacting with people from different countries and culture over the years, I have a pretty good idea of where the challenges lie.
To everyman a brain is a book with meaning and I sincerely hope it will find its rightful place and positioning in the entire marketing communications space.
On the day of the book launch, you also announced the establishment of iD8, a marketing communications academy, was that deliberate and why now?
Why not now? On a serious note, let me quickly point out that the timing is deliberate and our decision to unveil the book alongside the academy was strategic. The launch of the academy was fuelled by an endless desire to break the status quo with the minute solutions. We are in collaboration with subject matter experts, businesses and passionate individuals to create sustainable frameworks, processes and products driven by learning for the future frameworks.
iD8 is more of training and capacity building organisation which is specifically designed to identify creative talents, nurture them and deployed them not only for our business but for the entire marketing communications industry.
It is an academy and marketing innovation hubs where we help promotes, support and lead learning and teaching transformation in this space. We are committed to birthing ideas, connecting people and designing opportunities as well as facilitating opportunities.
Can you please share with us the shape the academy will take at the taking off point?
Now we have training camps, boot camps, more like reality television and others. We have a number of training programmes that have been customised and ready for us to kick off. The book we have just launched has its own training module which people-students, individuals in the corporate world, business-can learn to transform their businesses. To Every Man a brain is going to be submerged under iD8 as one of the training tools and techniques.
What are the challenges confronting the industry?
Like other creative endeavours, there is always a challenge of convincing clients on the best thing to do. Experience has shown that not every marketing team would like to be told that something is deficient in their strategy or that their agency has a better way of getting better marketing results for them.
This is a challenge we are contending with but let me quickly add that there are some discerning clients who are always willing and open to other creative ideas.
Beyond this, I’m happy that at Idea House, we are contributing our beat to the development of the industry. Our creative ideas are impacting the bottom line of our clients. But much more, we are delighted that we are providing employment for the youths of this country. Apart from the staff at our office here, we usually have between 200 and 250 contract staff on the field almost all time. To us, that’s the way to measure impact and we are happy that we are doing that.
There is general challenge, which all the players in the marketing communication industry are daily contending with. There is infrastructure problem and shrinking in marketing budgets of many companies, which has reduced billings on the general outlook. In our own industry, the major one at the moment is the insecurity in the north, which has made experiential marketing difficult to explore in that region. There is constant fear of the possibility of attack of both the field workers and ad-hoc staff on parade. As a result of this, we are suffering in silence and daily losing millions of naira.
Coming to your agency –Idea House, what is its strength?
Idea House is a revenue growing firm; it is not just a supplier of services in the mould of other marketing agencies. We partner with clients to deliver on marketing targets in a creative manner. We truly partner with them and that’s why our thinking, processes and orientation are very different. We don’t wait or expect change, we initiate it. We are not a brief-dependent agency. By this, I mean we don’t sit down and wait for clients to call us and brief us on what they expect us to do. As an agency, we pride ourselves as an ideas factory. We incubate ideas and execute for the benefit of our clients.