You cannot brand your way to good reputation – Boye Adefila

Boye Adefila is a marketing coach and PR expert. The MD/CEO of Down-to-Earth Marketing Services has taken a swipe at several campaigns by current and previous administrations in Nigeria, aimed at branding Nigeria, noting that the brand reputation of the country has dwarfed the creativity and good intentions of the campaigns.

Providing answers to MARKETING EDGE enquiries on the branding efforts of past and present Nigerian governments during an interview, Adefila went down memory lane to recall several campaigns by past and present administrations in Nigeria to brand the country. The PR expert was quick to admit that with all the creativity and resources deployed by individuals and government into such campaigns, not much has been achieved in terms of image laundering for the most populous black nation in the world. This much he alluded to the inability of the brand custodians to live up to the brand promise.

Hear him: “There have been several campaigns aimed at branding and rebranding Nigeria. Campaigns like Heart of Africa, Good People Great Nation, Not in My country (Akin Fadeyi) and the likes. The problem with these campaigns has never being the quality of the messaging, be it the form or content. No! The problem is that these campaigns are like putting lipstick on a pig. As a messaging expert, I can’t be telling the world Nigerians are ‘Good people, Great Nation’, while all the actions of the Nigerian brand itself (as represented at all levels of the government and its agencies) depict impunity and corruption, to mention a few. It’s like wearing an expensive perfume and wearing dirty, rumpled clothes and not having had a bath since 1960!”

Adefila averred that it is not just enough to relate a great idea, living and activating such idea is also germane. To buttress his assertion, he cited an analogy: “Let’s take a simple scenario of a jollof rice restaurant, whose rice now features stones and is becoming over-salted or undercooked. Customer patronage goes down drastically, and so she asks her daughter, who happens to be an advertising expert, for help. And the daughter develops a very appealing campaign that creates massive awareness and love for the restaurant brand.

“Now, the former customers would definitely snigger at the sight of this campaign because they know, via first-hand experience, that the restaurant is ‘useless’. So, their opinion, especially in the comments section of such adverts, would dissuade many potential customers, yet, some new converts would visit the restaurant out of curiosity or because they feel the commenters are haters. But the Day of Judgment comes soon enough, and beyond any doubt, the restaurant convinces the new converts that, indeed, this is the home of useless food!”

Expatiating further, the marketing impresario noted that nation branding goes beyond mere rhetoric. “The idea that Nigerians are great people and not corrupt is a proposition, or a brand promise. The Akin Fadeyi anti-corruption campaign is beautiful and laudable but it is what it is, a citizens-driven initiative. Human beings, well, Nigerians, are not that unselfish to do good whilst the majority of their leaders are reaping from doing bad! No matter how much good-PR the likes of Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the Super Eagles, Sunny Ade, Sade Adu, Seal, Anthony Joshua, Stylebender, WizKid and other goodwill ambassadors garner for the Nigerian brand, the likes of Invictus, HushPuppy, their despicable  ilk and the various money-swallowing snakes and elephants, not to mention illegal detention of citizens and the widening disparity between the minimum wage and the wages of lawmakers, would continue to rubbish such goodwill.

Adefila noted that where there is a big disconnect between brand reputation and brand message, the consequences for the brand may be more dire than imagined. He cited an issue that recently trended on Twitter: “Just recently (Tuesday, 17th of November) the popular ride hailing brand, Bolt, formerly known as Taxify, trended on Twitter for the wrong reasons because the platform’s public was enraged with its sponsored influencer-advertising campaign which claimed that Bolt was safe before during and after the ride. Now, this is contrary to reality of many users in the past months. So, naturally, there was not just disconnect between brand reputation and brand message, there was also consumer angst!”

On how to ensure an effective and result-oriented brand campaigns, Adefila said: “The first thing for us to do is to live up to the brand promise! Who are the brand custodians? All of us – yes, but the leaders must lead by example! Marketing is a respectable profession but practitioners must choose their CSR battles carefully. A bad product is a challenging brief and I love working on such products, but on one condition, besides getting paid on time, the brand custodians must change for the better.  You cannot brand your way to a good reputation!


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