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United We Brand
Adopting the philosophy of united brands may be what African and developing countries need if they are to realize their dreams of some of their local brands achieving international brand recognition.
This strategy could be successfully combined with the simultaneous national branding efforts of the domestic governments. There is a common “bond of sisterhood” that unites brands in distant markets. Brands from the same countries, perhaps owned by different companies, may be more willing to cooperate and share experiences when faced with a commonly identified “adversary” or competition. The managers of such brands wish each other well in such circumstances, because the “bad guys” would be the well-established, competing global brands.
When brands seek common refuge under the umbrella of ‘one nation’, they benefit from the resulting ‘country of origin effects’ popularized by Simon Anholt. This could be the strategy pursued by Nduka Obaigbena and his team at Leaders & Company Ltd (owners of the ThisDay newspaper group in Nigeria).
Nduka is best known as a media mogul, entrepreneur and more recently a show business impresario. His deft touch has turned many projects for ThisDay’s brand into gold in the past. He is a man driven by the desire to succeed, and he craves success as mortals crave food. He seems unfazed by his critics, who have called him megalomaniac, showboy, glamor boy and political godfather.
In no time, the ThisDay brand rose to the forefront of the Nigerian media with strong evidence that the man his peers call “Prince” has a connection to the shark infested waters they swim in daily. – swim through or swallow. The ThisDay brand is a successful and credible media brand in Nigeria, capitalizing on the complacency of the Guardian newspaper and the demise of other titles, particularly the Daily Times and National Concord. ThisDay newspaper now has an enviable position in the market as the number one newspaper among the A, B, C demographic readers. The simultaneous publication of two daily editions in Abuja and Lagos has ensured that the logistical difficulties experienced by other competing newspapers are now a thing of the past within the newspaper group. What ThisDay is doing in Nigeria is the same as the Guardian did in the 80s, but Nduka and his team have taken it further by launching other social and money-making projects that have further expanded their brand identity.
However, success comes at a price; Nduka Obaigbena and the ThisDay media group have seen a lot of them. In 2002, they became embroiled in the Miss World religious riots controversy when ThisDay published the now infamous article about the Prophet Muhammad suggesting that he could have been chosen as a contestant in the Miss World pageant if he were still alive. Not long after, Nduka burned his fingers when he was backed with a war chest the size of a bank vault and penetrated the exclusive but lucrative South African media market, becoming the first Nigerian media company to go truly international, the success of which spawned other projects around the world. . This was at a time when such corporate and financial relocations favored South African firms, which have since taken over half of Nigeria’s economy. The project collapsed after a year. ThisDay became embroiled in further controversy in 2006 when it accepted and published a controversial sweeping advertisement by a faceless organization that, contrary to the general sentiment of Nigerians at the time, endorsed Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo for an unconstitutional third term in office.
Such a profound experience is nothing new for the father of seven. He became Nigeria’s youngest publisher in the 1980s when he launched This Week magazine at the age of twenty, a clone of Newsweek magazine, where he had previously worked. His efforts followed the trail of the then elite group of Nigerian magazine publishers such as Chris Okolie of Newbreed magazine and Dele Giwa et al of Newswatch magazine. For all its promise, this week ended up dead.
A survivor of the publishing game, Nduka’s other social projects such as the annual ThisDay Awards and the ThisDay Fashion and Style Weekend have since become highlights of the Nigerian social calendar, attracting A-list celebrities and power brokers from within and outside Nigeria. Earlier this year, the ThisDay group pioneered the ThisDay Nigerian Universities Ranking, a social project aimed at recognizing the teaching and research efforts of Nigerian universities. Modeled on the popular Times UK University Rankings, the ThisDay rankings are expected to promote and celebrate best practices in Nigerian universities while also challenging universities at the bottom of the rankings to clean up their act.
At a time when the current mood and debate in the public and private sectors is about branding the nation and the economic benefits that come with it, Nduka and ThisDay have scored another winner with the first edition of the ThisDay Music Festival, a project that is still Impressed Ben Murray Bruce, Nigeria’s showbiz kingpin who noted that “the show is one of the biggest things that can happen to Nigeria’s image right now”.
It’s no surprise why the show, which took place over two days in Lagos on the weekend of October 7 and 8, 2006, continues to attract praise from far and wide. This really does a lot for the Nigerian brand image. Launching an annual music festival with the help and sponsorship of local companies is a strategic move for all companies involved, especially ThisDay, which currently has $35 million in annual revenue. Also, the presence of government officials at the event will help build the image of the ‘united brands’ – including Brand Nigeria, ThisDay and other participating brands.
The music festival could not have come at a better time to distract from the negative news in the international media about the travel warnings regularly issued by the US, UK and other Western governments to their citizens. it is primarily about the security and stability of Nigeria. The US government predicted in 2005 that Nigeria was a failed state that would disintegrate within 10 years.
ThisDay music festival is truly a PR masterstroke for Nigeria and Nigerian brands. The show featured the likes of Beyonce and loverboy Jay-Z, along with other acts like Ciara, En Vogue, Snoop Doggy Dog, Missy Elliot and Busta Rhymes. Also on stage were Nigerian acts like King Sunny Ade, Weird MC, TuFace, Majek Fashek, Seun Anikulapo-Kuti, Asha, Dare Art-Alade and D. Banj to showcase their talents.
Speaking at the launch, Nduka Obaigbena said the ThisDay music festival aims to “show that good things can still work in Nigeria. We are here to show that if we work together, we can achieve great goals and surpass unattainable goals”.
Hats off to him and his team for doing Nigeria and Africa proud, hopefully this will increase the international community’s confidence in Brand Nigeria.
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