Strengthening Friendship through Consumer Activation



As the world Celebrates the United Nations’ World Friendship Day, Raheem Akingbolu writes on how brands have continued to leverage the global event to sustain consumer engagement.  

The long and illustrious history of the World Friendship Day, also known as International Day of Friendship has recreated relationship as well as provided opportunity for brand owners to bond more with consumers. Initially proposed in Paraguay in the year 1958, the friendship day is celebrated across the world, particularly in several Latin American and Asian countries.

In the early days of the celebration, it was heavily promoted by greeting cards company who wanted to increase sales by giving people a reason to buy cards. However, with the growth of social media, World Friendship Day is slowly becoming a global phenomenon and it’s easy to see why.

Of all the special days recognised globally for celebration, the World Friendship Day, could be said to be unique because of its tone of generality.

Unlike the Children’s Day or the Fathers’ Day, the International Day of Friendship is neither gender bias nor targets of a section of the society. That is why some analysts often describe it as the only day that unites all, regardless of sex, race, age or status.

Clearly, friendship today, is the greatest possession of life because it involves mutual affection between two or more persons. More than ever, the world today is in dire need of friendship to address challenges such as poverty, violence and human rights abuse.

Perhaps, Joyce Clyde Hall an American businessman, founder of Hallmark Cards, who started Friendship Day in 1930, did not know that his business strategy would create a marketing opportunity for so many brands. But today, right from FMCGs, to media houses and e-commerce players – everyone has turned to Friendship Day as a lucrative marketing opportunity.

As a result of its significance in bringing friends together, business owners with hindsight on how best to position their brands do leverage on the occasion to connect with consumers.

The connection between brand positioning and the International Day of Friendship could be linked to William Shakespeare’s definition of a friend.

According to the literary giant, “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still gently allows you to grow.”

However, marketing experts have since tweaked this to mean, “A brand is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still gently allows itself to grow over you.”

To this end, the World Friendship Day has thus become a marriage of convenience between brands and consumers.

At the beginning

The original idea for a day of friendship came from Hallmark cards in the 1930’s. Originally celebrated on 2nd August, the day was largely viewed cynically by the public as a money making exercise, sales of friendship day cards did not take off in Europe and by the mid-1940’s the day had faded into obscurity in the USA. The idea of a day to honour friendship was, however, adopted by a number of countries in Asia where it remained a popular custom to reserve a day for celebrating friendships and the exchange of gifts between friends

Today, with the way brand owners are falling over one another to use the event to deepen relationship with consumers, in no distant future, the International Day of Friendship, would become a convergence of all consumer engagement activities.


Living the talk

Unlike other memorable days, the World Friendship Day is given but little prominence in Nigeria and it doesn’t get the kind of following the February 14th Valentine’s Day enjoys in some countries.

However, last year’s edition was different as promoters of the “33” brand from the stable Nigerian Breweries, threw their weight behind an initiative that helped friends bonded together for good.

At the heart of these celebrations are brands like “33” that have built its entire brand DNA around the spirit of comradeship. It’s no surprise that this year “33” Export is once again celebrating July 30th with consumers across the country.

Over the years, the brand has been revered for creating platforms that celebrate bonds and friendship. These include the widely acclaimed “City of Friends” initiative, as well as the recently introduced “33” Connect experiences.

The ‘City of Friends’ initiative was conceived by ‘33’ Export to provide its consumers with unique connect experiences by creating opportunities for them to bond, party and create memorable moments. The event which first held in 2016 has indeed become a major staple event for friends and fun lovers around the country.

At the 2017 “City of Friends” held in Uyo and Lagos, both events were a 72-hour non-stop friendship celebration which featured musical performances from top Nigerian artistes and Disc Jockeys such as Femi Kuti, 2Baba, 9ice, Phyno, Flavour, Seyi Shay, MI Abaga, Cynthia Morgan, Small Doctor, DJ Neptune, DJ Lambo among others.

The event in 2018, among other notable events, saw the brand extend its value proposition by introducing a writing competition tagged “PenDown For Friendship” which rewarded winners with training grants to study at a media and communications school in Nigeria. The City of Friends Party also featured a consumer engagement activity tagged “That One Friend” where “33” Export consumers were given the opportunity to also share their Friendship memories.

For 2019, the brand introduced the “33” Connect parties’, a new experiential platform aimed at bringing people together to celebrate shared interests and moments in a convivial environment. The event travelled to 33 cities across the country including Lagos, Jos, Uyo, Aba, Makurdi, Benin and Akure. In these cities, they connected with consumers, giving them avenues to networking, enjoy games, comedy, music, and win fantastic prizes while enjoying the refreshing taste of ice-cold “33” Export with old and new friends.

With these unique activities and more exciting ones planned for the future, ‘33’ Export has firmly established its place in the minds of its loyal consumers as the No 1 friendship beer brand that cares about the relationship it shares with them and their friends.  It’s no surprise that the beer brand was at the center of the recent social media campaign that helped music superstar KCEE, reunite with his long-lost friend. Few other brands have been as consistent as “33” Export in the last few years, and with its impeccable record of exciting friendship themed platforms, it’s easy to see why the beer is loved by its loyal consumers.

As friends all over the world come together to toast to another Friendship day celebration, “33” Export remains firmly positioned as the go-to brand for buddies and fun-loving friends looking unwind. This is a well-deserved title and confirmation of the brand’s position as the Number 1 friendship beer in Nigeria.