It’s the season of rewarding best marketers
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.