COVID-19: How prepared is Nigeria’s IMC for the ‘new normal’?

In her review of the nation’s economic outlook, recently, in Lagos, the president of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mrs Toki Mabogunje, expressed strong reservations about the state of the nation’s economy. The ravaging Coronavirus pandemic, she stated, had begun to take its tolls on individuals, businesses and corporate economies, with a research, carried out by the Chamber, recently, showing that 81 percent of the Lagos business community had been severely affected by the pandemic, with a median daily revenue loss of N500,000.

But despite the obvious destructions and disruptions the pandemic had caused individuals and businesses, the LCCI boss is of the belief that there are opportunities to be explored and exploited, if only businesses would brace up for the ‘new normal’, likely to be determined by technology.

One of the numerous ways of bracing up for such, she added, would be the readiness to imbibe technology as a means of driving small, medium and big businesses. Brand owners, she counselled, must be ready to think out of the box, too.

Interestingly, not a few experts had canvassed this line of argument, in the past few weeks, especially since the advent of the highly contagious disease that has continued to ravage businesses and economies of nations around the globe.

For instance, many  believe quite a number of  businesses would go under, not just because of the decline in fortunes, being experienced in both global and local economies, but for the simple fact that many a sizable numberof business owners  are not bracing up for the eventual change and the ‘new normal’ business world, largely powered by technology, such change might bring.

While the opportunities would be there, practitioners in all sectors of the economy, including marketing communication, must be ready to avail themselves of such opportunities.

Not a few experts are of the belief that, in the days ahead, countries across the world may place technical embargo on exports of essential goods in a bid to meet local demand and as a way of managing disruption to global supply chain.

But, scary as that may sound, many believe the situation provides an opportunity for the country to stimulate and promote import substitution, that is creating an economy that will not only produce significant proportion of its major commodities (intermediate and finished goods), but equally competitive on a global scale.

This, they however argue, makes technology imperative for businesses desirous of availing themselves of such opportunities more than ever before.

For instance, in a recent interview with Brands & Marketing, the President of the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria (NIMN), Mr. Tony Agenmonmen, believes a lot of things would definitely change in the business space.

According to him, COVID-19 would, without doubt, throw up its own opportunities. The caveat, he added, is whether brands in this part of the world are ready to leverage such opportunities.

Curiously, Brands & Marketing’s checks within the industry revealed that the answer cannot be conveniently answered in the affirmative, for now.

For instance, while it is becoming increasingly clear that technology will dictate the much-touted new normal business environment, the world is likely to experience, post-COVID, only a few agencies, and business managers in the industry, can be described as adequately ready for such change.

A marketing communications practitioner, who would not want his name in print, argues that before the advent of COVID-19, the sector had been ailing, adding that what the pandemic had come to do was to simply make the situation more obvious.

“Many agencies that you see around now are only existing in bricks and mortars. People believe they are still active just because of the beautiful physical structures they maintain in the choicest parts of the city, while in actual fact, they are not in business,” added the practitioner.

According to him, the pandemic might have come to sound the death knell of such agencies, which are quite high in number.

Interestingly, another practitioner in the industry and Chief Executive Officer of Next Media, Mr.Dada Ajai-Ikhile, puts this more in perspective.

He believes the industry is not ready for the technologically-induced ‘new normal’, likely to be experienced post-COVID.

According to him, the number of viable advertising agencies in the industry has continued to nosedive, with those standing not really sure of their footing.

“So, in that case, can we say we are really prepared for the new change?  For me, I will say we are as prepared as we were when digital media overtook the marketing communication industry.  And if you understand what I’m trying to say, it simply means we are not prepared.

“These days, when I meet some of my colleagues, and they ask me ‘how is business’?  I simply tell them there is no business. They will say, ‘what do you think about the industry’?  I’ll say there is no industry. Why? The number of advertising companies have been cut down to less than 25 percent of what we used to have. What we probably have more, now, are individuals that are very good at graphics, and who are also tech-savvy, who now quickly take advantage of the new approach to brand communication.

“So, if we are to see it from that prism, I can say we are not prepared. But the fact remains that for those who are slow to adapt, this pandemic would force a lot of such people to either adapt quickly or die fast,” he stated.

The Next Media boss however agrees that the pandemic will throw up a lot of opportunities that only the tech-savvy professionals will be able to leverage.

“I see COVID-19 throwing up opportunities. The pandemic is not all about negatives. But how prepared we are?

“For instance, despite the stay at home directive, people and companies have been having virtual meetings, and they have been achieving results, with such meetings. But practitioners, who are not schooled in such process would definitely lose out at the end of the day,” he argued.

While Mrs Bunmi Oke shares some of the sentiments above, she is however of the opinion that the industry is not really averse to the ‘new normal’ the world is about experiencing, since practitioners had already commenced the process of achieving that.

The Chief Executive Officer of Ladybird Limited, a thriving Lagos-based marketing communication agency, argued that the industry had gradually begun to use technology to power its process, though it had become imperative for it to quicken its pace now.

“Already, people have been doing online banking, online communication with their clients and sending e-mail online. We have been sending even correspondences around the world, online; same with creative contents.

“What we are likely to see now is that that is going to be the standard. Unlike before, when they would say ‘we must meet, physically, to discuss all the presentations’. Now you discuss online, via Zoom, video conferencing and others.

“You find out that now, you have to prepare for a meeting in a different way.  You have to send, may be, your creative ahead. You would have given them everything online because you are not going to have as much interaction as before. You are not going to have as much face–to-face interaction as before. So, you have to be as explicit as possible. So, I can say the industry is preparing itself for the ‘new normal’ business world out there,” the former president of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), stated.

She also believes that the positives in this for the marketing communications industry are numerous.

“I think this is even better, even for clients and businesses because it will remove the unnecessary subjectivityof a face-to-face meeting. Since it is virtual, it’s going to be more business-like. When it’s digital, everything is measured,” she stated.

While the Ladybird boss believes the new world will see more businesses converge and carry out business activities online, she however counselled marketing communication practitioners and brand owners desirous of surviving in that era, on the need to be vast in relationship management.

“If every business is going online and carrying out their activities online, what it simply means is that any brand or agency that messes up can as well kiss that account or client it has messed up, goodbye; since the opportunity of a second chance might not be there, unlike when the interactions were physical,” she stated.



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