IBITAYO SALAMI is Chief Client Officer, West Africa Cluster at Ipsos. She gave insights on brand identity and what makes brands stand out in competition saying that a brand must have a purpose in the life of a consumer that differentiates it from competition, something that is unique to the band alone in this interview with Research Intelligence .
How you started your career in the industry
This was not planned, being that I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy. As a kid, I wanted to be a pharmacist, but life happened, and I followed a different path.I joined Glaxo in 1994 as a medical representative, and shortly after I was involved in an accident. Following this seemingly unfortunate incident, I ended up starting my marketing research career in 1996. Initially, this was a steep learning curve for me, but I learnt the ropes and, have not looked back since. This thus far has been a fulfilling ride.
Which market research industry have you worked for?
Ipsos is the first market research company I am working for. I have always been on the client side in my 20+ years of working in the corporate world.
What positions have you occupied?
I have held senior roles that cut across Consumer planning/ Research, Sales, Strategy, Brand marketing, and Innovation in West and East Africa.
This has revealed a lot for you about the Nigerian consumer. What insights have you gained working on the client side about a typical Nigerian consumer?
We Nigerians are unique people and three things really stand out for me about the Nigerian consumer–
The first one is our level of optimism about life. No matter how bad things are, we always look forward to a better tomorrow. This optimism is no doubt rooted in our religious beliefs. If you walk down the street you will see a lot of churches and mosques – we put God in everything we do, and I think that is what gives credence to our optimism about tomorrow.
The second one is that an average Nigerian aspires to own luxury or premium brands – we use it as a measure of affluence, accomplishment or success. We like to flaunt a few designer brands (even if it is fake) be it clothing, drinks, cars, fashion accessories etc.
Thirdly, we are very big in our pursuit of progress in life. The positive energy we exude in service of taking steps in the right growth trajectory is amazing. As Nigerians, we never give up at what we do no matter how small or how big. We keep at it until we break through.
What informs consumer preferences in a depressed economy?
In a depressed economy, money in your pocket determines what you eventually buy. For every naira they spend, they want to be sure they are getting the best out of it. You will notice that several manufacturing companies are also trying to offer what gives the most value in a bid to retain their customers. Affordability is key!
While working on the client side, what were your expectations from research suppliers who handled your briefs?
That’s an interesting one. When I was on the client side, I got the feeling that most of the research agencies did not spend enough time to understand the bigger picture. They think it’s about the project, about the delivery, the proposal, the execution and then giving me the report. A tunnel vision of sorts. On the client side of the business, we needed more than just those transactions. We needed the relationship as a starter and not just any kind of relationship. I needed someone that could hold my hands and help me deal with some work-related issues that would keep me awake at night, no matter how trivial. This can only happen if the supplier has the bigger picture of the macro, business, my agenda etc. A big picture view is key!
What is brand identity and why do I need one?
Some organizations call it brand identity while some call it brand asset. It is such a powerful tool because that is what helps drive recognition for our brands especially with the consumers. Usually, most marketers take it for granted and the interesting thing about the consumer is that they don’t really have time to think so much about our brands especially at the point where they are making purchases. They have just few seconds to spend on looking through an array of brands – making a decision on what this brand is and what that brand is not. What really helps is what really makes them recognize the brand. When you talk about brand asset it could be colours, logos, it could be patterns, audio, or even ambassadors of the brand that help drive recognition. Most times this association stays in the memory of the consumer often in their subconscious, and it is only at the point of making decision on choices of brands that this comes to the fore. No matter how much work you do as a marketer if consumers are not able to recognize your brand in split seconds, you’ve just wasted money. Instant brand recognition is key!
On the aspect of why I need one?
Because you need to be considered at the moment of choice. You need to be at the top of the mind of the consumer immediately. They don’t have to start thinking whether it is this brand or that brand. You need to be recognized and chosen immediately.
Having worked on both sides of the divide, how do you think client-supplier relationship could be improved?
There’s a lot to be done in that regard, like I mentioned earlier, we need to move away from transactional relationships. We need to make sure that what we are doing is valuable to both parties –you are adding value to me and I am adding value to you. Adding value to me is not just about routine projects but it’s about really understanding what the personal and career agenda is for both parties. It must be mutually beneficial. A symbiotic relationship is key!
How does a brand stand above competition?
I have heard that question many times. To stand above competition is about differentiation. A brand needs to be clear on what makes it different from others and be confident to flaunt it. The brand must offer something unique to the consumer that meets the consumer’s need. Brands that have not been able to differentiate eventually die. If your brand does not have a purpose to fulfill in a consumer’s life, which is the same thing as what differentiates the brand, the brand will struggle to live long. In summary, a brand must have a purpose in the life of a consumer that differentiates it from competition, something that is unique to the brand alone. Fulfilling a unique purpose is key!
If you were not in the market research industry, where would you have been?
Apart from Pharmacy, I would have tried a lot of other stuff e.g. I could have been an actress, a pilot or even a shrink.
I would love to run an NGO for less privileged children. I have a natural passion for kids, especially before their teenage years. I love to play, laugh and grow with them – they just soak in everything innocently. They are so much fun to be with. Spending time with kids are great moments and I am sure I will still get to focus on it someday. Edutainment in a way.
Is there any future for marketing research as a profession in Nigeria?
I must say, in this part of the world there is little or no data / insight on many necessary areas of interest. There’s an opportunity for this industry to grow and help every other sector of the economy with information and meaningful insights. You cannot compare the research industry in Nigeria with what it is in other developed countries. The research industry is still untapped!
Would you like to comment on the transformation going on in the market research industry looking at it from where it was in the past five years, where it is now and where it is going?
Like I said there’s potential for growth for the industry and we see that in the past few years, there has been some growth in market size and players. The industry will continue to grow, driven largely by demand from end users or increased investment by various research organizations. Growth is the future!
How has technology contributed to this growth?
Technology has been the big driver of change across the world and the research industry is not left out. There’s a lot of new ways and approaches to conducting research nowadays leveraging technology e.g most researches are conducted on mobile devices now. Increased access to information, mobile phone penetration, social media explosion etc will continue to grow and drive how the research industry evolves.
How do you improve the market research industry as a professional body in Nigeria?
There are registered market research bodies in Nigeria e.g. NiMRA. I think we need to get more people to participate, we need to revamp NiMRA. We need a transformational focus on driving the awareness, governance and ensuring it delivers on set objectives. Driving the awareness is key!