JUNAID ABIDEMI is Creative Director with Kantar Nigeria. In this interview with Research Intelligence, he says to have an advertising or communication that relates with consumers, you need to test it to see that this is delivering on consumers’ expectation. In view of this, what brands need to focus on will be in terms of being consumer centric.
PLEASE CAN YOU SHARE WITH US THE HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR MARKETING RESEARCH JOURNEY SO FAR?
Thank you very much for that question. I started my research journey with Research International. I did some years there and proceeded to Communication and Marketing Research Group. I did another three years there and moved on to (MRC) Market Research Consultancy as head of Adhoc study. I did not stay much there before Kantar started searching for me. Actually I was in Lagos Business School for a short course where I met with a MillwardBrown (now Kantar) representative, we had a lot of discussions before I joined them as initially as a Research Executive and I have grown through the ladder to become who I am today.
CONGRATULATIONS ONCE AGAIN.
Do brands in Nigeria appreciate the relevance of market research and what more do you think we should do or focus on?
I would say in the last decade, brands with exception of global brands have come to see the essence and importance of market research. I will say global brands appreciate and do what they can to implement those research results. Having said that, I would say the local brands do a lot more in terms of how they incorporate research framework in their own organogram and in terms of their brand building. That is one part; the second part you asked is what can they focus on? What they need to focus on will be in terms of being consumer centric. As we all know, consumers are evolving, they are changing and as such at times we need to change alongside the consumer’s change in lifestyle. The other aspect to note is that while changing or innovating, you need to be strategic in understanding what the white space mappings are because there may be some holes. As consumers are changing, there will be new lead so as a brand, you need to be able to fit into those white spaces. So, white space, essentially, are the gaps that are available as consumer needs are changing. The gaps could be in terms of innovation, it could be in terms of product development, or in terms of a new brand entry; those are what we call white space. Are there gaps that current needs are not fixing on ground, so you need to fix them? Research will provide the strategic idea and the information, but it is left for brands to be able to say based on this information available the next steps to take.
WHAT ROLE DOES EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION PLAY IN BRAND BUILDING?
If you look at the journey of brand. One of the critical tools that we have as a brand is the power of communication. If you don’t communicate, consumer will not know what you stand for. There’s what we call brand positioning. For consumers to be able to know which position you occupy in the marketplace, you need to have communication put in place saying this is what I stand for. Now getting to the question on what the role of communication is? The number 1 role of communication is to help you effectively position your brand in the minds of consumers. So, if you look at it what you are doing is to create predisposition in the minds of consumers. Those predispositions are what gets registered in the mind or the psyche of the consumer to say this is what you stand for. So, when there’s need for a consumer to peep into your category, what you have been able to communicate reinforces and we call it brand asset. You need to create those memory structures in the mind of the consumer with your communication.
YOU ARE REFERRED TO AS LINK EXPERT IN AFRICA … WHAT IS THAT ALL ABOUT?
You must understand that Kantar is the largest market research consultancy in Africa and because of that, we have created solutions and domains which make us experts in different fields that we occupy. Creative communication which is advertising is one of the fields we occupy. In creative communication, we play the role of helping marketers have effective return on investment. How do we do we achieve this? We give strategic advice to which aspect of your communication works and which aspect doesn’t. The aspect not working we will help provide solutions on what will work so it becomes more effective as you don’t want to play on the rule of the thumb when it comes to your advertising investment. You really want to know your return of investment when you invest a certain amount. What we have seen on our data base of communication studies and the norms for clients is that they are able to get ten times return on investment when they test their advertising. When you talk creative communication, our role in Africa is to help clients have better return on investment with advertising that works.
WHAT ARE THE KEY INGREDIENTS IN ADVERTISING AND HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE A GOOD ADVERT?
Before I go into the ingredients of advertising, you need to know what the critical points in terms of success of advertising are. Look at advertising based on objective, then consider if the communication able to deliver the message? If the communication delivers the message, you know that it’s doing what it is meant to do … would it cut through the clutter.
In today’s market, you see a few advertising or brand communication coming out. The question you then ask yourself is, will consumers be able to relate with your advertising? We call it brand impact- will it be able to get that branded impact which hinges on two pillars. One is on short term sales; will that advertising drive sales and on the long run will it build equity for your brand and finally whatever advertising you are doing is not measured in terms of entertainment, the bottom line is to deliver on the brand.
Also, I would say that the key ingredients of advertising in Nigeria based on our solution on what works in Nigeria will include one, simple messaging. You need to have a message that is easy for consumers to relate with; that means you need to work with their brain. When you work with the brain, consumers can get your message in a simple way because they think they are doing you a favor when they are looking at your communication. So simple messages are very key. The other thing you also should consider in Nigeria is that your advertising should be vibrant in terms of music and of colors because it is that vibrancy that will induce enjoyment. It is that vibrancy that will make consumers to get actively involved when they watch your communication. So those are the key ingredients. Another thing also is that it should be relevant to the consumer needs. We call it relevant in everyday situation. If you give an advert that is not relevant or have benefit to consumers, they won’t be happy in most cases watching such advert. This goes also for adverts that speak to the aspiration to consumers; if you look at some of these adverts that recognize who we are as a people, those are the kind of adverts that are successful in Nigeria.
WHILE LOOKING AT NIGERIA YOU HAVE SEEN SO MANY ADVERTS, HOW WOULD YOU RATE OUR LOCAL ADVERTS COMPARED TO FOREIGN ONES?
I would like us to look at it from who we are. Nigeria is a diverse nation, multi- dimensional in the way we look at things and as such the way we perceive advert is totally different from the way foreign adverts are perceived .What we are seeing in terms of how we receive advert is also in that complexity of who we are and as such foreign advert may not necessary work in Nigeria without the local nuances. We need to look at the local nuances to see how to bring it in, we call it Ad transference and what we have seen is that it’s only 43% of adverts in other countries that are successfully transferred to Nigeria. This is so because of the complexity of who we are.
SHOULD WE CONTINUE TO SPEND MONEY ON ADVERTISING?
If you want to remain relevant on your investment on brand building… let’s look at it from this point of view; that I have known you ten years ago, after which you have not told me anything again. I would still have the knowledge of who you were ten years ago but when you continuously talk to me, telling me; I have done this , I have changed from this to that, that’s where you will see product development, there will be new packaging. It is through advertising that you can tell consumers this is the new me; this is the journey I want you to follow with me. If you don’t do that then consumers will have the old knowledge of who you were. Take for instance, you do product optimization and you need to let consumers know that you have improved in terms of your nutritional benefit or your flavor variety. So those are reasons why you need to continuously invest in communication so that consumers can follow your journey rather than they look at you from who you were in the past.
WHAT DO YOU SAY ABOUT THE COST OF ADVERTISING IN NIGERIA?
It’s not necessarily the cost of advertising in Nigeria but I would rather ask how do you utilize your resources? and one of the ways you can better utilize your resources is to determine that the advertising you want to use will definitely work for your brand and that’s the reason we say you need to work with our solution so that you are able to determine that advertising or communication will bring return on investment. If you know that that advertising is going to bring times ten ROI , you can then invest in it but if you are not sure and you don’t really know whether that advertising is going to deliver then you think; then it’s a waste of resources. When you have the percentage that the advert is going to bring return on investment, invest as you will certainly gain more resources.
WHAT DIFFERENCE WOULD YOU SAY YOU HAVE SEEN WITH HOW WE RELATE WITH ADVERTISING IN COMPARISON WITH FOREIGN MARKET?
The major thing is in terms of testing, this is done before the advertisement is put on air… but in this part of the world what we are seeing are people gambling with advertising, if I may put it that way or people using the rule of the thumb. They are not sure that the advert will work. They just want to put anything on air which is not the best approach. The best approach is before you invest, use about 5%-10% of that investment to determine that this investment is going to bring return.
GENERALLY, HOW WOULD YOU SAY ADVERTISING IS PERCEIVED IN NIGERIA; BOTH FROM THE BRAND ANGLE AND THE CONSUMER ANGLE?
I will say from brand point of view that most brand owners understand the fact that advertising is an investment. They understand the fact that they should put in resources behind the communication so that the brand can penetrate. It’s like they are supporting the brand. If you don’t say anything, nobody will know what the brand stands for, but it’s a big different from the consumer point of view. The consumers watch advertising doing you a favor and if your advert is not engaging enough the next thing is that your consumers will switch off, so your investment to actually support the brand is not effective because what you want consumers to pick out when they have already switched off they are not able to take that out. In two ways for you to have an advertising or communication that relates with consumers, you need to test it to see that this is delivering on consumers’ expectation.
WE WANT TO TALK ABOUT ADVERTISING CHANNELS, WHAT IS NEW IN THE INDUSTRY?
In recent times, you would agree with me that social media engagement has been at the top front given the level of technology development that we have seen. You will see most brands are now on social media platforms, trying to engage consumers. Our advice to clients is, have an integrated media strategy so you don’t just push the traditional channel away saying social media is perfect. No! It is a gradual process and what we are saying is that brands that can effectively integrate both the traditional off-line and online social engagement are able to get better return on investment.
IT APPEARS THE FOCUS OF ADVERTISING THESE DAYS IS ON THE YOUTHS, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
I would say that the focus of advertising generally will be based on your target audience. For instance, your target audience is not the youth there is no way you will be targeting the youth, so it is basically based on who your target audience is/are? Once you discover your target, then the focus of your advertising will be on that. Then, it is assumed that the youths in Nigeria, constitutes a significant proportion of the nations’ population so you see a lot of brands are targeting and as such we see some brands targeting the youth because that is their focus.
HOW WOULD ADVERTISERS AND RESEARCHERS RELATE?
I think that is the new thinking. The thinking now is that advertisers and the researcher or consultant should not see themselves as enemies rather they should see themselves as partners in progress and we encourage that a lot with most of our clients. What we do is that, when we get a brief with the communication teams we tell them we will also like to meet with their media agency so that we are able to get from them the intention of the communication then we are able to advise them. So, research is not saying what you are doing is wrong, research is helping you to optimize the results for better gain.
WHY ARE BIG BRANDS NOW PLANNING MORE, WHAT SHOULD BE THE NORM?
That should not be the norm, but I will start by saying that you cannot effectively evaluate or measure yourself, you still need a research partner that will give you an objective evaluation of you yourself. For instance, I cannot develop these things and I am the one evaluating it, I won’t tell you it’s bad but if you have an objective assessment that will help ascertain if you are going in the right track or not. So, we will not subscribe to having a sole check or assessment. It is not advised that you who developed a product will also evaluate the product, rather it should be a collaboration where you have an independent assessment of your communication.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE IN TERMS OF CAPACITY BUILDING? WHAT DO YOU THINK SHOULD BE DONE TO ENSURE THAT MARKET RESEARCH HAS A FUTURE?
Thank you very much for that question. In the past, we mainly collaborate with the government; we would go an NYSC camp to get fresh graduates, we would go to the universities to get interns so that we are able to build them from the scratch. We also organized trainings; one of which we called the Flourish conversation so we could continue providing an enabling environment for people to develop and optimize their potentials.
In the future my personal view of what we can do is to take market research to people especially at the university level. We need to have a situation where graduating students already have an idea of what market research is all about so that they start considering it as a career they would like to pursue. For example, I knew nothing about market research while in the university. I believe we need to catch them young especially in terms of making market research a career that students will want to pursue rather than starting out as an intern.
DO YOU STILL HAVE SUCH OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE ENTERING THE PROFESSION NOW?
We have opportunities that are available to everyone regardless of your status or position. Recently, we had an opportunity within Kantar that allowed 8 staff members share knowledge across markets in different parts of the world; to have a real-time feel of what is happening in other markets and as well learn the cultural differences in those markets.
ADVICE TO YOUNGER ONES WANTING TO PURSUE A CAREER IN MARKET RESEARCH
My first advice to younger ones is, be hard working, if you are not hard working nobody will want to invest in you. You have to exhibit the attitude and character that you are trainable, that you are ready to learn because it’s only when you are ready to learn that you exhibit that character resonating I am willing or I am ready to learn so the company will invest in you. So hard work, consistency and integrity are important. When I started my market research career, I met people who approached me saying they needed some data from studies conducted and were offering me a lot of money and resources but you know it is against the ethics of market research for you to do such a thing so you need to uphold the ethics of market research and with that I think the company will be willing to invest in you.
IS TECHNOLOGY THREATENING YOUR PROFESSION?
I will say that technology is enhancing our profession. Prior to this time, we were using pen and paper, but technology has helped us to the extent that you can be here in Nigeria conducting interview across the world via mobile, so you can see how technology is revolving our industry. We appreciate the importance of technology in what we do. Recently, I was part of a conversation where we talked about data analysis where you need to bring a lot of data fund to help your client in arriving at the bigger picture, so technology is a blessing to the market research industry.