It is great to read about all of the success stories of businesses making it in Africa, because our terrain isn’t easy.
Most of the time when we read articles we are exposed to the entrepreneur, idea, opportunity, capital and execution, but never the winning strategy.
A large proportion of a company’s success is about the brand, how it communicates and penetrates into the market and its management there afterwards.
As Africa is a ‘happening’ market we need to observe that industries are quickly being saturated with businesses offering the same or similar services. The real success indicator is revenue and brand equity. I believe the two co-exist, however, many focus on sales rather than building and positioning a brand.
You need to intentionally think about your brand, its values and objectives and pull together a plausible strategy that will ensure your brand is:
- Top of mind
- Considered as a thought leader
- Seen and regarded as innovative
Engaging your audience, coupled with people testifying about your business, is a recipe for brand success as people hear, see and have confidence in your business.
So you’ve launched a new company into the market, the press have reported, the industry has attended your launch, people talk, you get a few enquiries and possibly a bit of business. The first couple of weeks seem great and you’re on top of the world, but then what?
Well, for starters you need a brand.
I define a brand as ‘a composite compromising of your company values, beliefs, character, personality, thoughts’.
Your brand is like a baby – you need to know what you’re going to feed it? What knowledge are you going to bestow upon it? What values are you going to infuse? What your baby is going to look like? What language will it speak?
Once you have decided what you want for your brand, you then need to nurture it to grow. Then when it’s grown, you need to ensure that it never dies and it has the right support (brand ambassadors) to stay strong, relevant and evolve throughout generations and across boundaries.
Think about Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nike, IBM etc. their parents have passed away yet their brand still lives on. Your brand is a living, breathing, speaking, visible entity that is sent out to your market to make people look at your offerings and decide whether they want to engage with your company.
I think you get the idea of what a brand is. Now you need to think about where it is best placed to have the impact on your world (your industry), as you require. This is the positioning.
The great thing about a brand is that it can be replicated and exist in numerous spaces at different times. So it is important that you:
- Identify your audiences touch points
- Know what you are going to say/show
- Know how frequently you want to engage and the best times to do so
- Keep your brand identity
The latter needs to be implemented, repeated and reviewed over time as your brand positioning takes form. Reviewing is part of the management of your brand, ensuring that the right things are being said, with the right tone to the right people.
MySpace used to be a social media platform where people would share pictures and post updates. With the emergence of Facebook and other interactive social media platforms MySpace evolved into a social music platform where aspiring artists would share their music and albums, promote launches and so on.
If as a brand you were once on Myspace to be visible among your audience in a socialising capacity, within a couple of years you would have found yourself standing at a rock concert with nobody listening.
Another element to brand positioning is to ensure that you are measuring activity reach, effectiveness and response in order to know your brand equity – your brand’s worth.
Knowing your brand equity is important to your company as it allows you to know your positioning and power in the market which can ultimately influence your price point, product offerings and much more.
A final factor to mention in the importance of brand positioning is to understand that it takes time.
Companies shouldn’t be in the rush to be number one. I am not saying don’t strive to be number one, I am saying don’t rush to be number one. There is a lot to learn in the process of becoming a top player and I guess the idea is that you don’t aim to stay number one for a season, but rather to stand the test of time.
Remember your brand is your mouthpiece. If you don’t talk, you won’t be heard. If you can’t be seen, nobody will knock for you. Companies need to be intentional about their brand, its positioning and its success in the market.
Nadia Takyiwaa Mensah is CEO of Sixth Sense Manifesto, a brand management agency with offices in Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.