It’s the sea­son of re­ward­ing best mar­keters

The Star (Kenya) - - News - CHRIS HAR­RI­SON Chris Har­ri­son leads The Brand In­side www.the­brandin­

It’s awards sea­son in the field of mar­ket­ing in East Africa – a time of con­trasts. Next week sees the first Kenyan Advertising Awards com­pe­ti­tion to be held in over a decade. We should wel­come its re­turn. But we should ac­knowl­edge that its long ab­sence is a sad re­flec­tion of how lit­tle value mar­keters place on the value of orig­i­nal­ity and cre­ativ­ity th­ese days. They’ve kindly asked me to join the judg­ing panel and I can’t wait to form a com­pre­hen­sive view on con­tem­po­rary cre­ative stan­dards.

By con­trast, last Fri­day saw yet another an­niver­sary for an ini­tia­tive that goes from strength to strength – Su­per­brands East Africa. Ini­tially de­cried by some as a van­ity pub­lish­ing ex­er­cise, Su­per­brands is in fact a global move­ment to en­cour­age peo­ple who build busi­nesses to build brands at the same time. Busi­nesses ap­ply for recog­ni­tion; are short­listed by a panel of ex­perts drawn from a va­ri­ety of back­grounds in busi­ness and so­ci­ety. Brands that go for­ward are tested in con­sumer re­search by lead­ing re­search agency TNS.

Be­ing one of the panel, I was asked to con­sider 958 brands on a va­ri­ety of cri­te­ria. In sum­mary, we are asked to look for brands that have es­tab­lished strong rep­u­ta­tions and have ac­tively dif­fer­en­ti­ated them­selves from their com­peti­tors. Reg­u­lar read­ers will know I don’t have much truck with busi­nesses that lack a clear pur­pose and fail to com­mu­ni­cate a value propo­si­tion to their mar­kets. Nor of busi­ness peo­ple who think hav­ing a logo gives them a brand.

So I was able to rate 228 of the 958 as wor­thy of be­ing con­sid­ered by con­sumers in the re­search that fol­lowed. My fel­low pan­elists con­trib­uted their rat­ings in­de­pen­dently, so I have no way of know­ing whether they were kin­der or harsher than I. But I know that at the end of the process, 53 brands had been awarded Su­per­brands sta­tus.

So, is it work­ing? I would say on bal­ance yes, on a num­ber of counts.

In our lists we’re see­ing es­tab­lished brands con­tin­u­ing to fight to make them­selves rel­e­vant to new au­di­ences: M-Pesa, Par­ents mag­a­zine, Tusker, United Millers, Bata and Brook­side. We’re see­ing the emer­gence of fast movers like Art­caffe, Equi­tel, Daawat, Emi­rates and Du­ra­coat. Cred­i­ble in­sti­tu­tional brands like Kenya Red Cross and Strath­more Univer­sity. And we can see some­thing of the fu­ture in brands like Sport­pesa, Ena­shipai Re­sort and Car­refour. Lo­cally cre­ated busi­nesses now out­weigh in­ter­na­tional brands in the listings. (But bank­ing and fi­nan­cial services, ICT, travel and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals are largely un­dif­fer­en­ti­ated .)

The sta­tus of the com­pe­ti­tion is growing, and this year the awards cer­e­mony was graced by the at­ten­dance of Kenya’s First Lady Mar­garet Keny­atta. Let’s face it; any­thing that el­e­vates brand in senior busi­ness discussions is to be wel­comed in our growing mar­ket economies.

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