In this interview with Brands & Marketing, the Chief Executive Officer and Publisher of Marketing Edge, Mr John Ajayi, explains the motives behind the publication’s annual marketing and awards event, noting that the time has come for stakeholders in the industry to support the business of brand building.
Your publication, the Marketing Edge, recently organised a summit with a thematic thrust woven around technology and marketing practice. What exactly informed the theme?
We decided to go with the theme: ‘Positioning Brands in a Digital Age: Challenges In the Developing Market,’ for this year’s marketing summit for some key reasons. First, our concern is how to encourage brand owners find their compass in brand-building, especially in the digital age.
The world is becoming digitalised. We are moving up to new level of interactions, with the consumers using the social media. The conventional media has given way to a new social order through the revolution of the new media. In those days, 10 newspapers would reach a population that would look important to the average brand owners, but today a single social media platform would reach more than 200 per cent audience that 15 newspapers can reach. In other words, the consumer is now at an advantage to access messages almost at regular intervals. It therefore calls for real action on the part of brand owners to see the significance of digital age to optimise the visibility of their brands and also boost profitability for the business.
Therefore, brand owners cannot afford to be lethargic; they can no longer depend on the old ways of interacting with the consumers. In fact, the new thinking about the consumer is that there has been a paradigm shift in the communication of marketing business. This paradigm shift now comes in form of interaction. The digital age has thrown up a lot of dynamics which brand owners need to be aware of so that it can help them in a number of ways to achieve profitability both in the short and the long term.
How would you describe the industry’s response to the summit since it began few years ago?
It has been wonderful so far. What we do at the end of every summit is to ensure that a communique is issued. This then serves as a reference point to brand owners and other relevant stakeholders. And when they see it, it guides them in their projection and planning. We are happy because the industry has shown acceptance of our initiative. It is more or less a CSR initiative, but overall, the acceptance has been shown through active and robust participation by players in the industry.
Of course, we are aware that both the micro and macro-economic situation in the country is very challenging, but we cannot shy away from thought leadership project. As a leader in the industry, we are looked upon to provide the right compass by initiating exciting conversation that will take the industry to the desired height and next level.
How would assess the nation’s marketing communications industry, especially this year?
I will say without any equivocation that it is not yet uhuru. The industry, like every other sector of the nation’s economy is facing a very challenging moment. It is a challenging moment for the manufacturers, the brand owners, as well as service providers, such as the creative agencies and all other players in the entire gamut of integrated marketing communications.
A situation where the downturn in the economic system, which had been brought about by the crash in the price of crude oil, has adversely affected the fortunes of the country, you would expect the industry to share in the pain because most of their businesses come through the manufacturing sector.
There is this question of creativity as a major tool for brand building. As a brand analyst, how do we establish the nexus between the two?
Creativity is at the heart of brand building; it is the bed rock of brand building. Creativity is the crucible of marketing and marketing is the crucible of creativity. Both marketing and creativity go hand in hand. A creative product will definitely make a successful marketing outing, and by extension support brand building. Creativity helps a long way to determine the lacuna that exists in a particular market category.
Some relatively new agencies are gradually standing up to the older and more established ones in recent times, fuelling the fears that some of these older agencies may go into extinction. How founded are these fears and how does an established agency, desirous of surviving such challenge, weather the storm?
The trend in the Nigerian advertising, regarding old and new agencies, is like the fall of empires. Great empires sometimes get to their peak and later eclipsed. Of course, there may arise newer cities, and fiefdoms that will become kingdoms. That is exactly what we are witnessing in the nation’s advertising business today. We are witnessing a situation where older practitioners or agencies have been unable to regenerate or reinvent themselves, and it is a common knowledge that those who refuse to reinvent will definitely go into abyss or eclipse. Remember the younger ones are determined to make a statement.