Marketing to Africans: The Villager to the Rescue
The African consumer is a special breed. Marketing to Africans using the construct designed for the Western world has been the bane of some marketing managers and international conglomerates’ below par performances and consistent failure for some international brands in the African space suggests The Villager.
In this book, The Villager – How Africans Consumes Brands”, the Author painted a graphic picture of two conglomerates which deployed their home (country of origin) nuances in communicating with the Nigeria markets and in those instances the concerned products were seen to fall short of holding attention, trust and patronage of the local market and consumers.
Starting off his marketing career as a research person, relevant population statistics, the multi-faceted African culture and nuances mean a lot to the Author in discussing and proffering solution to the issue at hand. He did not mince words in asserting that the Nigerian market with a population in excess of 180 million – is the go-to, frontier market. It has propensity “to dust the population of the United States of America by 2030”! He further described the alluring Nigerian population as being split into a “perfect pyramid” of approximately 5 percent Upper Class, 25 percent Middle Class and 70 percent Lower Class. This trend is noted to be peculiar to all African markets.
In the book, The Villager, is not seen as the physical space any longer since the consumer has left there. “It is a psychological construct that defines the African consumer. It is his world view, the essential filter through which he engages products and consumer brands”, Feyi Olubodun, CEO, Insight Publicis declared in the new book.
Armed with these data and more, his presentations on ‘marketing to Nigerians, and Africans’ in general at different international fora have earned him the recognition as a thought leader while the subject gains traction with businesses and marketers willing to do business in Africa. Reason is that, this appalling rate of failure needs be curtailed. Hence, the urge for new knowledge and a shift in the paradigm deployed in marketing to Africans, prevailed on Feyi to put his impressive presentations and further thoughts on the issue into a book to serve as a guide into the African market.
The motivation for him is to get CEOs, CFOs, Heads of Marketing and senior Brand people to discourse, “why the way they are marketing to us is wrong and why the current framework is actually faulty”.
Vaunting a better framework to attain success for brands as espoused in “The Villager”, he deployed unique concepts like staying cultural, community affirmation, community sanctions, community rituals, herd mentality, the value of the enemy, Pillars of religion and signaling your journey; to x-ray and explain the make-up of the African consumer and what propels and motivates him. “Anytime, I talked about these with different audiences, it’s almost like the scales fell from their eyes”, he said on the book at an interactive session.
For instance, in “Value of the enemy” as a sub-theme, the Author faulted the age-old “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” as it concerns marketing to Africans. “It does not apply to us, it’s a Western construct. It applies to societies that are individualistic in nature while the African society is a collective society, a “we” culture and not an “I” type of culture”, he pointed out.
Against this backdrop, the Author believes that what actually helps Africans when it comes to success, is the “need to have an enemy”. “The enemy you are trying to prove wrong is more important to you than the friend that believes in you”. The Author illustrates this with his experience with a Congolese barber he met in South Africa, who while sharing his life story, re-affirmed that when one wants to achieve something great in life, there are always enemies that are determined to stop him. The caveat here is that the enemy has to be defeated. This encounter which aptly captured the real African actually provided a chapter (7) –The Value of an Enemy- in the book.
Also in “Signaling your Journey through life” the book posited that as Africans, as you progress through different levels of economic advancement in life, you have to “show you have arrived”. “We are not Warren Buffet that has been driving same car for 10 years, you cannot be a millionaire and do that in Africa, “the devil is a liar”, he added jocularly. Or you have been promoted at work and still wearing the same clothes, it doesn’t happen in this clime. Mark Zuckerberg uses the same type of clothes every day, that is Oyinbo lifestyle, it is un-African. These were some of the Author’s quick illustrations that show a huge difference between Africans and other races.
To drive the Villager concept, the Author declared, “Nobody is a self made man in Africa. If you lose your father an uncle will train you. The expectation is that when you are doing well, you contribute to bringing others up. The society here is both contributory and participatory”. At another instance, the Author also noted, “We are a shame based society and not guilt based”.
These are some of the thoughts put together in the book to provide a lens through which you could see why things are the way they are especially in the African nay Nigerian marketing environment. These assertion adds to the how’s and how not to market to Africans.
In sum, the book as the ‘lens’ provides that the African is a more of an aspirational consumer, this predisposes his desires towards “social mobility and generational mobility”. Hence, to guide the marketer, the Author posited three characteristic African impacts on consumption. These are futuristic consumption; symbolic consumption; and realistic consumption. The marketer needs to dig deeper on these.
“There is always something in every market that will make people consume almost any brand we can imagine. Marketers just need to have the lens to see the ‘something’ so they can win with their brands”, posited the Author, pointing out further that the “lens” lies at the confluence of commerce, culture and the consumer.
Based on its relevance and the obvious yawning gaps it hopes to fill, the book has been receiving incredible responses across the world. The Author asserts that marketing practitioners and entrepreneurs have been showing enthusiasm. “People write from the UK, US asking where they can get copies. From Kenya and Ghana, we receive letters offering to support us to do a launch in their respective markets”, he revealed. This demonstrates immediate acceptance and subject relevance.
For now, the kindle copy of the book is available on Amazon though not the hard copy. What is paramount in the mind of the Author to roll out in all these countries as the year rolls out. The plan is to launch in Nigeria on the 19th of April. This is coming on the heels of the South African media tour and launch which held a couple of week ago. The 146-page book, an essential reading for Brand owners wishing to conquer new markets especially in Africa, is one of the first hands-on problem solving books on marketing from Nigeria. It is published by Tracy McDonald Publishers, South Africa.