9MOBILE CAN SAVE THEMSELVES GOOD $$$ IN PROMOTION, BUT WILL THEY...?
In the ideal sense, or even near-ideal, your Marketing budget should allocate more to designing excellent service quality and far less to advertising. Then spend very little to directly connect with your customers; give some time to your consistency and you'll be everywhere before long ctsy of free advocacy by happy customers. Time for advertising would later come. This is a formula I will choose not to detail in an article.
There is a level of aggression in advertising that a company embarks on I becomes what I call desperate self-aggrandizement. It's either they have access to near-unlimited investment capital or they have something sinister they're paying to keep concealed. It could be their customers have become their competition, and they really want to sound louder than the complaining publics.
What could've been cheaper would be to redesign the service to meet the publics' needs.
That's hard to find in Nigeria and most underdeveloped economies, especially where transparency is subsumed and corruption is fanfare.
However if there's a company that can save themselves good money at the moment, it is 9.
Firstly, almost everyone who knew Etisalat presently associates 9Mobile with Etisalat. They'll need a research to disprove this.
1. The popular change of name: The UAE consortium giving their Nigerian partners a deadline to drop the name Etisalat generated wide publicity, which, thankfully, the Nigerian partners quickly followed up by announcing the name 9Mobile.
2. The name 9Mobile psychologically resembles the 0809ja initiative of Etisalat. They both connect with the popular youthful 9ja identity: another evidence of latent popularity. In fact current advertorials of 9 actually is promoting 0809ja.
3. Their logo didn't go far from that of Etisalat.
So one wonders, what exactly are they advertising heavily for right now? To get new subscribers? To retain the existing ones? Threatened by Etisalat UAE? To make the media happy?
Secondly, everyone has but one bitter complain against all the mobile services providers in Nigeria: poor connectivity. Just like 'NEPA'; there's just one serious problem. Solve that one and you're everyone's darling.
If you like, be available everywhere like MTN; it doesn't solve this one problem. If you like, like Glo, buy endorsement from all Nigerian celebrities - who actually still complain of your service - it doesn't solve the problem. You may want to share out data bundles and credits like the same Glo; it could get people to buy your SIM cards, but then they curse you later.
Advertising: The Glo Example
I've never seen a business model as interesting as that of Glo. They spend a humongous, grotesque amount on buying fame. They pay CNN and other media so much you think they're beauty merchants; they pay celebrities so much you think they're Entertainment promoters; they throw 'awoof' offers at the market so much you think they're charity. But their service quality in terms of connectivity is the worst in their Industry. It's so talked about they don't need to research into it.
Some times I like to joke that I need to learn Yoruba so Glo could work for me. Yes, for I only find them in places Yorubas live in. Imagine that in a place like Akwa Ibom, they took their 4G network to Eket first - where the wealthiest Yorubas in that region work at Oil Servicing companies. A place like Enugu is not even listed among locations where you can find that service, perhaps because you hardly find Yoruba speaking Nigerians there.
Nothing wrong with targeting your users based on ethnicity, actually.
Advertising: the Buhari, Goodluck Example
When APC decided to produce a rival for Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 presidential elections, they were faced with the choice of the best fit opponent. Settling for Buhari was a huge risk because, this gentleman was not articulate, he wasn't emotionally temperate, he could not face the modern day media, he was already known for making ethically divisive comments, he resembled more of a religious fanatic than a democrat. His antecedents from a first stint at the presidency as a military man were still very awkward. But then APC saw flaws in Goodluck Jonathan's offers and decided that Buhari was the best to use in exploiting those opportunities. And it worked for them. Poor Nigeria.
Now, to manage the disqualifications of Buhari, APC channeled finances into advertising the man. They rebranded him; they put his handsome smile in everybody's face. They made sure he did not attend any debates. They wore him a suit and put him in an office for photography sessions. They took off his traditional hat and we saw his bald head - the image of a loving grandfather.
They took a picture of him with a palm top computer to connote his comfort with trending technology. They simply spent a lot on his image, especially as they couldn't spend a dime on his personal capacity to lead Nigeria.
We'll, today, is Buhari successful? We have to wait to judge. Is he failing? Then APC and all who invested in window-dressing this very product have lost big time.
Goodluck Jonathan, on his part, voted heavily for advertising, but was either too dumb (sorry) or too limb to ensure those funds went to promote the few lofty achievements of his administration. Where he had some sound programmes with a track record of successes to offer, he paid too little in attention to the quality of his advertising.
In his case, advertising was in order, but something more strategic and thorough.
His accomodation for impunity and self serving acquaintances was his downfall. His handlers did not bother their heads with how to creatively bring out his achievements, programmes and policies in order to win over his electorate. They saw a safe of money with no padlock and chose to feast. It backfired and today, they're all busy defending themselves.
9Mobile Could Be Spending Double
Issues like these leave 9Mobile with an amazing opportunity to take over the market that, I believe, they desire. Whatever fresh investment they've received to enable them reinvent the brand, it should be spent on improving the product and not on buying fame.
If they insist on advertising to impose a new identity on the minds of the market, they should know that they'll have to spend twice: first on erasing Etisalat - which they're not even doing - and then to establish 9Mobile as just another Telecoms brand on those minds.
While it's good to be known and easily recognized as your own Identity, it is far more profitable to satisfy your existing market and, through free-of-charge recommendations, acquire new markets. Otherwise, eventually - sooner or later - there will be another investment crisis.
Uduak Umo is a PR Professional, business developer and public interest researcher. He wrote this in from Enugu.