Nigeria. Africa’s most powerful brand

HKLM’s second annual Business Leaders’ Forum was held at The Oriental Hotel, Lagos on Monday, 22 June and attended by a diverse cross section of senior management and marketing executives.

Three keynote speakers explored the role and interdependency of national, city and private sector brands in building and sustaining a competitive and unified Brand Nigeria – Africa’s largest and fastest growing economy.

Simon Willar, General Manager HKLM West Africa, unraveled ‘nation branding’ underlining its strategic importance in positioning and differentiation in a global market with 196 competitors. “Nation brands face the same challenges as their commercial counterparts – with the one notable exception being the vast number of competitors – I’m unaware of any private sector brand competing in such a hotly contested market – and where all are vying for the same declining share of FDI, export opportunities and tourism dollars, to cite a few.”

Decisions to invest in or trade with a nation are influenced typically by five broad-based criteria:

  1. The nation’s values
  2. Ease of doing business and financial regulations
  3. Living and working standards
  4. Law & order
  5. Culture

Perceptions influenced by global media reporting play an added role in decision making and if not managed carefully, can cost a country billions of dollars in lost revenues.

Breadth and depth of nation branding and marketing was highlighted as crucial in addition with case studies from India, USA, Australia and Myanmar being unpacked.

“Long gone are the days when general awareness created by a single television commercial will work – A multilevel strategy supported by specifically targeted business and marketing initiatives in online and offline environments are merely the ticket to the ballpark in today’s market. And after that, the heavy lifting starts” Willar stated.

It is clear that Africa as a continent, lags far behind the developed nations in terms of ranking on the Country Brand Index where South Africa is the continent’s top ranked at #40 and Nigeria, despite being the largest economy, is positioned at #75 – last of all nations indexed. There is a tremendous amount of cooperative work to be done at continent, regional, national, city and business levels.

“As soon as Africa realises that it can overcome its challenges collectively and without relying on the 1st world nations, the sooner and better the outcome will be.”

Dr. Sean McCoy, CEO HKLM Group emphasised the importance of city branding as an integral part of nation branding, illustrating the positive impact it has on brand image and FDI inflow.

“Modern, successful cities are using the City Brand Hexagon and similar models to reposition themselves and in so doing, contributing significantly to their country’s brand image.

Amsterdam has successfully turned its image around from being associated with the red light district to a major European city with vision, culture and the business capital of one of Europe’s most innovative business-oriented countries. Melbourne was cited as an example of a city that has repositioned itself – In this case as a creative, vibrant and cool business city that by association, helps Australia change its old tiresome image as a mining and sheep-farming country.

Lagos is beginning to show similar signs – The development of Eko Atlantic, a smart city in its own right and the introduction of a nearly completed light rail system are two examples of positive brand change in the making. One quick win required is the improved experience at Murtala Muhammed International Airport – Nigeria’s gateway. First impressions count and impact directly on the nation’s image.

We should not underestimate the ripple effect that city branding is capable of producing – It impacts on the state, the nation, region and Africa as a whole. When one African city leads by example, Africa benefits. Brand Lagos has a crucial role to play in Brand Nigeria’s success.”

Mr. Femi Ayeni, entrepreneur, CEO and founder of Ultima Studios gave a Nigerian SMEs perspective on the role in helping build Brand Nigeria.

“We cannot wait for Lagos State or the Federal Government to step in and help us at a micro level. That is our job, surely?  If we want things to change, and they are already doing so, then we must become the catalyst. When individuals, SMEs and large organisations are proactive, it rubs off on local and national government with the outcome being; job creation and security, increased tax revenues with attendant benefits for all. That’s what our role is,” said Ayeni.

The audience’s participation in the Q&A closing section, was aligned with the general presentation sentiment – Better and improved education, focus on tourist facilities and tourism, improved business facilities, more business-friendly regulations and deregulation and a cohesive branding initiative.

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