It will come as a real surprise to many to learn that Africa has eight countries with a higher GDP per capita than China and about 15 higher than India. Not surprisingly, a recent survey confirms that 94% of South Africa’s CEOs expect growth from the rest of Africa this year.
However, despite the progress made to expand into Africa by South African companies, they have been slow to realise the real and massive potential of the region – particularly its growing middle-class sector and its combined purchasing power estimated by economists to exceed $1-trillion.
By population Nigeria is the most difficult to ignore with an estimated population of 170 million and phenomenal growth rate over the past 10 years of around 7%. As a result, marketers are scrambling to get into Nigeria given the success of early adopters such as Guinness, Shoprite and MTN.
The burning question then, is how does one create success in the Nigerian market?
Leftfield Advertising, based in Cape Town, has some succinct answers. This boutique full-service agency has created phenomenal success for two leading milk brands, Peak and Three Crowns, part of the Dutch dairy giant, Friesland Campina, the world’s fourth biggest dairy company. Between them, these two brands have 76% of the dairy market in Nigeria.
Founding member Jono Swanepoel, strategic director of the agency, explains that it’s been a real achievement to grow these brands over the past four years in what is an extremely competitive category.
“Essentially Peak milk is the category leader with 52% share so our challenge has been to grow a stagnating brand that is constantly under attack from other big players and of course a multitude of cheaper, new entrants from China and elsewhere. Despite these challenges we’ve helped grow the brand’s market share by 5%,” says Swanepoel.
Start in Nigeria
“Not only has Nigeria’s economy been tipped to surpass the size of South Africa’s by 2025 but Nigerians also spend the most on consumer-packaged products whereas Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya spend least. The Nigerian economy is one of the most developed economies in Africa. According to the UN classification, Nigeria is a middle-income nation with developed financial, communication and transport sectors with the second largest stock exchange on the continent so it makes fiscal sense to start here.”
Really know the target market
He explains that much of this success is thanks in part to the agency’s strong belief in pre-emptive consumer research, which is then linked to bold creative execution.
“Part of this success was due to client innovation in new line-extensions but we’ve also done our homework with consumers and then looked to shift the brand out of pure above-the-line and move it into many more consumer touch points including activations, radio shows, TV shows, shopper marketing and increasingly into digital and mobile.”
What is unique about Leftfield is their belief in using ‘pre-search’ as they call it, not just research, to get the inside track on what consumers are thinking and how to get brands into the hearts and minds of Nigerian consumers.
“Pre-search is in-depth pulse and consumer research done before we begin strategic work on any major campaign. Anyone can buy research from AC Nielsen, but if you really want to get it right you have to be seriously pro-active and do your own consumer immersions before you develop strategies and creative campaigns. Agencies talk it to clients, few deliver on the psychographic insights,” says Swanepoel.
Given Leftfields’ results in Nigeria and the fact that their ads consistently track in the top 10 percentile, shows that this approach is working and explains why an agency based in the heart of Cape Town can so deeply connect with consumers in Nigeria.
Africa is a continent, not a country
Graham Marshall, Nielsen’s business leader for strategy development in Africa, says most companies have a continental-wide strategy for Africa. But the local level of execution was even more important than this.
“What works in Kenya won’t necessarily work in Ethiopia,” he says. This was reiterated by Nielsen in its recent The Diverse People of Africa report, which says, “Even a single country like Nigeria has over 250 different ethnic groups and over 500 languages.”
No doubt Swanepoel refined the ability to get on to the inside track of consumers during his time as creative chairman at Leo Burnett and regional creative director on the Friesland Campina business in South-East Asia. “The regional job required understanding Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian and Malaysian consumers to create campaigns that could work for all four of these markets equally well – you learn the right research approach pretty fast when you’re faced with this diversity of culture. The same holds true for Africa – each country needs to be given due respect to gain understanding.
“Nigeria is generally misunderstood by South Africans, tainted by the bad rather than the good, yet Nigerians are better educated per capita than we are as a nation; they are one of the most optimistic nations in Africa, have bigger internet penetration and usage, are extremely hard-working, ambitious and future focused. It’s a great market but if you want to succeed as a marketer, go in with a knowledgeable partner that knows the situation on the ground, that’s the best advice I can offer.”