Walking down memory lane sometimes is like taking a walk down the corridors of the J. Paul Getty Museum. Like the artworks of Cezanne, Monet and Van Gogh on the walls of this esteemed art house, so are the pictures of some great commercials that have been shown over the years on the walls of my mind.
Taking the lead amongst these timeless advertisements are Coca cola’s like, “come to the festival with me”, “when the music starts to play”, “I am the future of the world” and the one for world cup 2006, where the chicken hugged the cook who wanted to kill it after a goal was scored.
MTN, is also absolutely magnificent when it comes to commercials, I particularly like their yellow Christmas, “I will be your hero baby” and the latest one making the rounds about their new number. It is amazingly melodious.
Beyond advertisements, what these two companies have in common is that they are both strong multinational brands worth billions. Their products saturate our world like mist on a foggy morning.
Strong brands bring in foreign exchange and make a country richer. I dare to say that one of the reasons Nigeria is stuck in the rot and rut of poverty and delayed growth is because we lack very strong indigenous brands.
A country like Japan is much smaller than Nigeria and does not have as much natural resources but comparing it’s GDP to ours is like comparing Aphrodite to an old, scabies infested, arthritic hag. But this reality would not wow even an infant considering that Japan has some of the greatest brands in the world, for example, Sony, Toyota, Honda and so on.
But what befuddles the mind is why a country like ours with the plethora of human and natural resources we are inundated with lack indigenous brands that can compete with some of the world’s best.
The reasons for this economic malady are like the ugly head of Medusa with its hair of multiple hideous snakes.
If you take a walk into most Nigerian companies, it will be noted that there are more vision plaques than there are lianas in the rain forest, yet most of these institutions grope in darkness. Reason being that in this part of the world, we cling to the routine and perfunctory like a drowning man to a life boat without ever understanding the essence of why we do the things we do. People are infected by the Lemming effect and join the band wagon, without having any notion of where they are headed. Eventually these outfits fizzle out the way Sir John Franklin and his men died after getting lost in the arctic. I am sure you know a few cases in point over the years. Vision is beyond the mere scribblings that are inscribed in golden settings as big as castle doors. Vision lives, it’s like a heart beat that pumps life into the existence of any corporation. It is not a mere recitation, it is a force. it is infectous. It is like a map through which an explorer travels to new worlds and explores new territories and opportunities. But the sad thing is that around here it is usually sacrificed to greed and ostentation like a baby to the abominable fiery maw of Moloch. Can you imagine a business owner with a vision of global dominance spending his initial profits and part of his loan on a jet liner with marrying a second wife to boot? That company will soon pass on without a whimper. This is the kind of scenario that exists in this society.
When the stock market was still roaring like a Guy Fawkes’s bonfire, one of the big eateries around town had an IPO that brought in millions but instead of the company expanding, it has become a husk of its old self and its food has become deplorable. Whatever happened to all that money? I bet some people moved all the dough into their own private coffers. Irrespective of how big their plaque is or how beautiful the calligraphy of their vision, they are more blind than bats and will die in stygian darkness.
Following the burst bubble of the stock market, it is becoming clearer and clearer that duplicity is a main feature of our companies. Most companies cook the books better than a French chef cooks exotic cuisine. Most financial reports can only be ingested with a pinch of salt. A country where the bourse is regarded with suspicion cannot raise world class brands because that’s like the engine room where funds are generated for growth. A closer look behind the doors of some of the supposedly strong brands will have them toppling like Humpty dumpty.
Greed also prevents most of our companies from carrying out social responsibility, aside from the little they do to minimize tax payments. In a place like India, which has become a breeding ground for world class CEOs, corporate social responsibility has been attributed as part of the reason for the development of these world leaders. It has been confirmed that they are guided more by a bigger goal than by the bottom line. Now we have Indians in the top echelon of brands like Motorola, PepsiCo, MasterCard, Harvard Business School, which is more than I can say for our own compatriots. How many companies are still standing strong after they were indigenized to Nigerian outfits? A number of great brands have been destroyed in this nation over the years while in some of our neighboring countries; they still thrive like wheat in the Nile delta.
Selfishness is another snake wrapping itself around our establishments. Most owners will gorge and feast on the profits while leaving the crumbs to their workers. This creates an atmosphere without motivation, leading to fraud, high turn over of staff and poor financial results. The workers have no sense of ownership. In Japan and first world countries, employees are given a sense of entitlement by motivation through stock rights and other incentives. Such benefits make the workers give their best because they see the firms as theirs and will be ready to sink or swim with the enterprise. They take ownership and responsibility because they are partners who are affected by either the profit or loss of the business..
Strong brands are associated with great customer service, but to many corporate structures, service is as arcane as hieroglyphics to an unschooled villager. Business owners usually feel they are doing the customer a favor instead of the other way round.
Unless like Perseus, the holders of these syndicates get a mirror to check out the reflection of their dark state, use a sword of decisiveness and change to cut off the head of the Medusa freezing their businesses into cracked stony edifices of the Jurassic Era while global brands speed past at dizzying speed into the future, developing universal brands will remain as elusive to them as an exotic butterfly being chased by a tottering toddler.