#Endsars Protest: How Brands Use Empathy to Earn Consumer Loyalty, Build Reputation
Just a few days after the Nigeria 60th year independence celebration was greeted with noise and displeasure on the logo and alleged plagiarism matter, the country in another twist of event got itself immersed in a public protest calling for the ban of a unit of the Nigerian Police Force, the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS).
The calls were hinged on records of the incessant illegal activities of the members of this unit of the police force ill-famous for extortions, harassments and brutality. They are, often times, accused of killing innocent citizens on the pretext that the victims are or profiled as fraudsters or criminals.
Though the #Endsars protest campaign started as a virtual protest in 2017 on Twitter, the youth, however, took it beyond the norm as they hit the streets on Tuesday, October 6, 2020, demanding for the immediate disbandment of SARS.
Influence of Social Media on Decision:
The internet and social media contributed in no small measures to the decentralization and democratization of information, breaking the bottlenecks associated with the transmission of information.
The speed, wider reach and high level of engagements made social media the most outstanding revolutionary tool of the 21 century. The Arab spring rebellion of 2010 which started in Tunisia is a case in point.
The democratisation of information has also given consumers power even to interact with brands directly, criticize, review a brand’s activities and in some cases ‘knock’ brands within the public space without any snag or hindrance. Consumer power allows for trawling the brand for good or bad. This is possibly a result of the instant feedback, engagement and power to influence the decision of others through the social media. Facebook, Twitter amongst others social media score high in this regard.
The above is perhaps instrumental during the recent #Endsars protest. Some brands stepped out and up to rallying support for the citizens’ position albeit against the government as the former observed their fundamental human right as the brands provide assistance in logistics, food donations and more to the protesters.
Though seen as a risk, but a bold step taken in the right direction to play on the side of justice, curry consumers’ loyalty and earn the public trust.
In the early days of the protest, Chicken Republic was outstanding as the Food Concept’s company distributed food items to the protesters at key locations of the main protest in Lagos. While this could be a delicate decision, as the brand could be tagged by the government as ‘aiding disruption of public peace’, this show of empathy by Chicken Republic, no doubt, earned the company the trust of the people.
Similarly, to show support and empathize with the #ENDSARS cause, payment solution company, Flutterwave Inc announced the opening of a public fund to cater for the medical bills of those injured during the protest.
According to the co-founder of the company, Olugbenga Agboola while declaring the donation opened to the public to raise more funds, he said the company had already raised 2 million internally for the purpose.
We've raised 2m so far, and the team decided to open it up to the public.
We are 100% against all forms of violence & brutality and we need to band together to put an end to this.
— GB 🦋 (@TechProd_Arch) October 9, 2020
While speaking at a webinar session organised by BrandCrunch during the Covid-19 pandemic on theme: Reputational Capital for Brands in time of Crisis, the Managing Director of Absolute PR, Mr. Akonte Ekine maintained that crisis though is unusual, unexpected and often a difficult situation, but brands that think of the consumers during such difficulty will be remembered after the crisis. “Brands that are able to take advantage of the crisis, be concerned about the consumers’ feeling and how they can get along and ahead of the crisis, are brands that will be remembered after the pandemic”, he intoned. Chicken Republic and Flutterwave as unorthodox brands fulfill Akonte’s archetype for building reputational capital.
While it’s not possible for all brands to be daring as Chicken Republic, the early birds to the cause, the ‘cautious’ ones however, managed to show their presence on the scene, as many more played the cash-ups as it becomes obvious that the government had its tail tucked between its thighs.
An analyst who pleaded anonymity, explained the ‘cautious’ brands moves thus, “they want to empathise with the public, but without ruffling feathers or risk being inked into the black book of the government”.
Though the peaceful protest was largely mismanaged by the government and its agencies, the uncharitable activities of hoodlums resulted to looting, burglary, accidents and deaths. Despite these and other grave inconveniences and denials as a result of the resultant curfew and business lockdowns, consumers vividly remember brands that stood by and support the public during the protest.
As the tension of the protest begins to subside, consumers remember the brands’ good deeds and it’s a payback time for the very daring and maybe the less daring too. This is evident as consumers, especially celebrities and influencers are taking to their social media handles asking for friends, followers and the public at large to support those brands. Such tweets are often liked and “retweeted” hence, lending to building the brand and arrogating enormous equity to it.
Apart from Flutterwave and Chicken Republic, other brands that gave support to the movement include, BIGI, Fearless Drink, Domino Pizza, OAK Logistics to mention but a few.
Arise TV and Channel Television also played leading roles in covering the protest. For their roles, the government has slammed the stations with huge sums of fines as the two may have failed the government’s “cautious brand” test mentioned above. Fortunately for the TV houses, the public has taken up the fight through advocacy campaigns – on social media, publications, online and offline – on their behalf as a sign of solidarity, and trust to the brand, as well as to reward their loyalty to public cause.
During the protest, online protesters voluntarily mentioned and promoted supporting brands in their tweets and social media messages. A few examples are reproduced below:
A subtle Reminder
Day star is our church now
Chicken republic the best eatery in Nigeria
Use flutter wave
Shop at spar
Arise news the only news channel
We only stream Falz,wizkid, davido,runtown, Burna boy peruzzi
Use oak logistics
Retweet and add urs#TachaTitansAreBack#falz pic.twitter.com/le4eq8Y13D
— Avril (@Avrilesq) October 23, 2020
So, I was out with @igbinigiefrance and we decided to get some food. Sweet Sensation and Chicken Republic in that location are side by side.
She was already walking into sweet sensation when I dragged her out.
Na eatery wey support #EndSARS protest we go patronize. We move!!!! pic.twitter.com/lpiwr29nGd
— Igbinigie osaye (@Osaye_peace) October 17, 2020
Watch Arise Tv
Shop at Spar
Use flutter wave and Cowrywise
Download davido, tems, Wizkid, burna new music….. pic.twitter.com/ULg4JjDVRE
— Mademoiselle Telles 🇫🇷🇳🇬 (@SisterHuncho) October 22, 2020
Watch AriseTV for all local news. Bank with Kuda. Eat Dominos Pizza. Use Sterling. Which other brand did I miss?
— Uncle Celestine (@cyberomin) October 23, 2020
Though Spar, an online retail store was looted by hoodlums during the protest, the brand’s show of empathy to the struggle was well applauded by members of the public as the brand turned a hitherto ugly situation to a quantum leap in brand equity for the chain stores brand.
To set off this chain reactions, Spar had announced on its official twitter handle ‘’Our Lekki store has been vandalized and looted. But, we acknowledge that this is only a setback compared to the larger issues we are all facing as a nation, and our thoughts and prayers remain with Nigerians everywhere, and for a peaceful resolution to various issues at hand.’’
In another tweet on 21st of October, the brand tweeted again, ‘’Rebuilding a supermarket is hard. Rebuilding a nation is even harder. We stand with you Nigeria. Stay focused. Be the solution’’, it advises the protesting Nigerian youth population.
Rebuilding a supermarket is hard. Rebuilding a nation is even harder. We stand with you Nigeria.
— SPAR Nigeria (@SPARNigeria) October 22, 2020
This show of concern made consumer go online and volunteer to help and assist the organisation in rebuilding their ‘’brand’’
According to a twitter user, named Onyinye@Iredeadunni ‘’
Spar. I cannot speak for everyone, but ME? You will see my money every time I can. You have been rockstars through and through’
Another users, Ikenna Ronald Nzimora@ronaldnzimora on his own asked for support in helping the brand clean up its store that was vandalised ‘’Guys, after the curfew ends, can we mobilize and go help the folks at @SPARNigeria clean up the Lekki store and surroundings at least, and for free?’’
Likewise, NdubuIsI of London@norquer, another twitter user offered to render a free labour for the company when needed to fix the damages
‘’Hello SPAR, I am a builder and a project manager. Whenever you’re ready to fix what’s broken, I can help you with some of the labor work. I can bring my work men to fix some of the damages for free (labor only).’’
Like they say, a good turn deserves another. Without requesting for help or any advertisement placement, these brands were able to get support from the consumers.
This is a short but worthy ‘lesson’ that business isn’t only about profit but about people.
Building a brand requires hard work but maintaining a solid brand image requires smart works and consistency which give character to the brand. The import of this is that creating a memorable brand experience or encounters and consistently following these up pales out millions dollars investments in advertisement as moment of truth will determine the overall success of the brand.