Giving Back to Consumers

Ferdi Moolman
Chief Executive Officer, MTN Nigeria, Ferdi Moolman

Raheem Akingbolu writes on an MTN Nigeria campaign focused on touching lives

To build legacy and sustain brand equity, top corporate bodies in the Nigerian market are daily reviewing their giving back activities. Beyond the larger picture of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) that will impact the generality of the society, a few organisations are looking at initiatives that would enable them impact lives individually without considering commercial gains. Perhaps because CSR has suddenly become another means of advertising to some organisations, consumer centric organisations are thinking out of the box to develop a concept that would devoid of praise singing.

Towards the end of 2017, when Nigeria was crawling out of the recession that almost crippled the entire nation, some lucky individuals got unexpected gifts through a campaign tagged; Season of Surprises’. Through the campaign, some motorists got unexpected free fuel at petrol stations; some got free buses, trains to their various destinations during the festive periods and it also placed food on the tables of thousands of people at the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), camps across the country.

To achieve its objectives, the promoters of the campaign –MTN Nigeria, didn’t give prior notice before hitting the streets with their goodies. By the time the 2017 edition would end, 277,000 lives had been touched across the country. Aside other good attributes of the gesture, it was specially commended by many observers because it targeted all Nigerians, whether they were on MTN network or not.

Speaking to THISDAY on how the initiative was conceived and its objectives, Senior Manager, High Value, MTN Nigeria, Idowu Adesokan, said the whole idea sprang up in 2017, as the company was looking for ways to cushion the effect of recession among Nigerians.

“The country just got out of recession and the MTN family wanted to introduce something that would be like a palliative measure to cushion the effect of the recession. It was a time when everybody was like tight-fisted and we thought we could make a difference by reaching out to people with unexpected gifts. We believe that no matter how little the gift, we feel that if we give somebody, regardless of whether he or she is on our network or not, such a person will appreciate it. That was the background and the feedback from the maiden edition in 2017 was encouraging,”

With the cheering feedbacks from those who benefitted from the initiative in 2017, MTN closed its business in 2018 with the grand finale of its Season of Surprises, where it touched nearly 400,000 lives in 21 days. The 2018 edition was heralded with an unannounced visit to Giwa Barracks in Ikoyi where staff of the company led by the Chairman, Dr. Pascal Dozie showered gifts, including foodstuff, generators and more on officers of the Defence Head Quarters and their families.

According to Adesokan, as a result of the successful venture in 2017, MTN decided to take it a notch higher in 2018 by widening its scope and impacting more people. He also pointed out that last year’s edition covered at least 10 unique activities.

“To extend the frontiers of the campaign, it was segmented into 10 activities. They include; visit to IDP Camps, through which we attended to the need of displaced people in the society. There was what we called yellow train, through which MTN team visited 90 different locations; towns and villages and gave out gifts to different people. Items distributed are; 300 bag of rice, 300 bottles of oil and 100 cartons of noodles in each location.

“We were also in 10 public primary schools, where we gave top range bags and things that pupils would need on their resumption in the New Year. We were in 15 cinemas and we did bus and train transport fare payment. The campaign also took care of the domestic flights of some air passengers. We were also in 30 general hospitals, where we gave out provisions like Milo, Milk and antiseptics products to patients. It also included surprise visits to petrol stations, super markets and campuses, where quality gifts were given out,”

Speaking further, the senior manager, said in 2018, the company introduced a top-up card that enabled it gave N2000 worth of fuel to motorists at some selected petrol stations across the country.

“We didn’t restrict it to a particular vehicle or class of people; whether you are driving motorcycle or SUV or commercial bus, we gave it out on equal basis. It was 50 cars per petrol station and we made it a pan-Nigerian scheme. The train also visited campuses, where we showered surprise gifts on students. In our approach, we did something different in this regard. The common thing when brand owners target campuses, is to visit the first grade institutions but in our own case, we took it to Colleges of Education, Polytechnics and Universities across the country. For instance, we were at Emmanuel Alayande College of Education in Oyo. We were at Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, the team was in Asaba and it was in Kano,”

Target audience

Two things singled out the campaign; the fact that it targets all Nigerians, irrespective of their networks and the fact that it factors in both the rich and the less privilege people in the society. Two months after it has ended, experts have continued to describe the fact that it took care of all interests as the icing on the cake.
Speaking about this, Adesokan pointed out that in 2017, the team went as far as going to pay for people’s transport fares as they were going for yuletide celebrations in their various states in the eastern part of the country and other places. The same gesture was also said to have been extended to people going to Kaduna from Abuja by train on 24th of December, 2017.

“In 2017, we took care of the fare of passengers aboard the train going from Abuja to Kaduna and they were excited. In 2018, we still did the same thing but we raised the bar. We did more busses, we did more trains and we now went to airports, where we did five planes in Abuja and Lagos by paying for the flight of people moving to their various destinations for Christmas and New Year celebrations.

“What do we want to achieve with this? We just felt there was a need to celebrate with and appreciate Nigerians whether you are our customer or not, we are all Nigerians. With it, we wanted to deepen that culture of giving and encouraged others to appreciate such gestures as a way of lives to impact the live of their neighbours. Another thing we notice is that when the issue of giving is raised, what comes to mind is the less privilege in the society. In MTN, we said no, everybody can be touched, status notwithstanding. To us, we believe everybody appreciate when you give,”

The brand expert explained that in many societies, the rich has been alienated when it comes to giving as everybody wants to take from the well to do people in the society but nobody is willing to give them anything.