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United We Brand
Adopting the philosophy of unified brands may be just what African and developing countries need if they want to fulfill their dreams of achieving international brand recognition for some of their local brands.
This strategy could be successfully linked to concurrent nation branding efforts by their home governments. There is a common ‘brotherly bond’ that unites brands in distant markets. Brands from the same countries that may be owned by different companies may be more willing to cooperate and share experiences when faced with a commonly identified ‘adversary’ or competitor. Managers of such brands wish each other well in such circumstances because the ‘bad guys’ would be well-established competing global brands.
When brands seek common refuge under the ‘one nation’ umbrella, they benefit from the resulting ‘country of origin effect’ popularized by Simon Anholt. That could be the strategy being pursued by Nduka Obaigbena and his team at Leaders & Company Ltd (owners of the ThisDay newspaper group in Nigeria).
Nduka could best be described as a media mogul, entrepreneur and, more recently, a show business impresario. His deft touch has turned many projects his ThisDay brand has launched into gold in the past. He is a man driven by the desire to succeed and he craves success as mortals crave food. He does not seem to be bothered by the criticism of his detractors who have called him a megalomaniac, a showman, a glamor boy and a political godfather.
The ThisDay brand has briefly risen to the top of the Nigerian media scene, solid proof that the man his associates call ‘the Duke’ is very much in touch with the waters they swim in every day, shark-infested waters – swim or be swallowed. The ThisDay brand is now a successful and credible media brand in Nigeria capitalizing on the complacency of the Guardian newspaper and the demise of other titles, notably the Daily Times and National Concord. ThisDay newspaper has now established an enviable position in the market as the number one newspaper of choice among A, B, C demographic readers. The simultaneous publication of two editions a day in Abuja and Lagos has ensured that the logistical difficulties faced by other competing newspaper titles are now a thing of the past within the newspaper group. What ThisDay is doing in Nigeria is what the Guardian was doing in the 80s, but Nduka and his team have gone a step further by launching other social and money-making projects that have further expanded their brand identity.
Success has its price though; Nduka Obaigbena and his ThisDay media group have seen many of them. They became embroiled in controversy over the 2002 Miss World religious riots when ThisDay published a now infamous article about the Prophet Muhammad that suggested he might have chosen one of the Miss World beauty pageant contestants had he been alive. Soon after, Nduka burned his fingers when, backed by a war chest the size of a bank vault, he invaded the exclusive but lucrative South African media market, becoming the first Nigerian media company to go truly international, a success that would have spurned other ventures around the world. This was at a time when such corporate and financial relocations favored South African companies that have since taken over half of the Nigerian economy. The project failed after a year. ThisDay ran into another controversy in 2006 when it accepted and published a controversial all-out advertisement by a faceless organization endorsing Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo for an unconstitutional third term, against the general sentiment of Nigerians at the time.
Such humbling experiences are not new to the father of seven children. He became the youngest publisher in Nigeria in the 80s when, as a twenty-something, he launched This Week magazine, a clone of the Newsweek magazine he previously worked for. His efforts were a brush with those of Nigeria’s elite gang of magazine publishers at the time, such as Chris Okolie of Newbreed magazine and Dele Giwa et al. from Newswatch magazine. This week, despite all the promises, he ended up dying.
Now that he has survived the publishing game, Nduka’s other social projects such as the annual ThisDay Awards and the ThisDay fashion and style weekend have since become prominent features on the Nigerian social calendar attracting A-list celebrities and power brokers from Nigeria and beyond. Earlier this year, the ThisDay group launched the ThisDay Nigerian Universities Ranking, a social project aimed at honoring 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 practice in Nigerian universities, while at the same time challenging universities at the bottom of the rankings to improve their practices.
At a time when the current mood and debates in the public and private sectors revolve around the issue of branding the nation and the accompanying economic benefits, Nduka and ThisDay have scored another winner with the first edition of the ThisDay Music Festival, a project that even impressed Ben Murray Bruce, the King of Nigeria of show business who noted that ‘the show is one of the biggest things that has happened to the image of Nigeria at the moment’.
It is not surprising to see why the show which was held in Lagos over two days over the weekend of October 7 and 8, 2006 continued to attract accolades far and wide. It will indeed do a lot for the brand image of Nigeria. Launching an annual music festival with the help and sponsorship of local businesses is a strategic move for all interested companies, and especially for ThisDay, which currently has an annual turnover of 35 million dollars. Also, the presence of government officials at the event will help project the image of the ‘united brands’ – comprising Brand Nigeria, ThisDay and other participating brands.
The music festival could not have come at a better time, to divert attention from the negative reports being generated in the international media regarding the travel warnings regularly issued by the US, British and other Western governments to their citizens, mainly affecting the security and stability of Nigeria. In 2005, the US government predicted that Nigeria was a failed state that would collapse within 10 years.
ThisDay Music Festival is indeed a public relations masterstroke for Nigeria and Nigerian brands. The show featured the likes of Beyonce and lover Jay-Z, and other artists such as Ciara, En Vogue, Snoop Doggy Dog, Missy Elliot and Busta Rhymes. The stage was also set for 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 event, Nduka Obaigbena said the ThisDay music festival was “to show that good things can still work in Nigeria. We are here to show that if we work together we can achieve big goals and surpass unattainable goals”.
Hats off to him and his team for making Nigeria and Africa proud, we hope this will bring better confidence in Brand Nigeria from the international community.
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