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Guinness: Conservatism age-old marketing model

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IMAGE: Guinness Nigeria plc »


According to African folklore, a long time ago when animals spoke and lived like humans, the Tortoise committed a sacrilege. By the law of the land, the punishment for such an offence was a public whipping for the culprit from sunrise to sunset.

When the day arrived for the said public whipping, some women set out for the market that morning as the Tortoise began to receive his punishment. They were unanimous in criticising him for his offence and equally remarked that the punishment served him right.

However, as the women headed home from the market that evening, they were displeased to find that he was still being flogged and they immediately murmured among themselves, asking: is the flogging not enough?

This anecdote fits perfectly with what is going on in the brewery industry. Guinness, Nigeria, a brewing giant has been complaining in the recent time of marketing anomalies in the industry.  The complaint is either it is been de-marketed on some of its brands or another firm has engaged in ambush marketing against the multinational brewer of, among others, Foreign Extra Stout, which Nigeria was in 2012 the largest consumer after Scotland.

In a recent advertorial which played up Guinness’ feelings, a non-governmental organisation; Consumer Rights Advocacy Network of Nigeria (CRANN) raised an alarm that pirate marketing was going on in the alcoholic beverages industry. “Yes, we have also seen the campaigns placed by the group and it aligned with what we have seen in the market in the last few year,” Sesan Sobowale, Guinness company secretary said in a report.

During the 2014 World Cup, Nigerian Football Federation defended Guinness, the official sponsors of Nigerian team by accusing Nigerian Breweries of engaging in ambush marketing which is a situation where a company ‘arrogates’ the status of official team sponsor to itself in the build-up to and during the World Cup. The NFF wanted to ensure Nigerian Breweries did not reap where Guinness sowed.

Analysts are already faulting Guinness’ complaints especially on de-marketing. Some have said that the company was looking for an excuse for its declining performance in the last financial year. In a report, Adebayo Afolabi, the chief executive officer of Political and Administrative Resource Centre, who blamed “pseudo marketing by CRANN and its sponsors”, said rather than resorting to such complaints, “what Guinness should have done was to go back to the drawing board and re-strategise.”

In the market, Guinness appears to be a whipping boy or a scapegoat. If not, what is the result of the complaints on de-marketing and ambush marketing issues? Guinness can equally answer this question.

Instead, Guinness appears to be taking the backlash and counterattack. Some other organisations will get the listening ears of the authorities and Nigerians, even to the extent of setting up a panel of inquiry. Maybe Guinness is not channelling its complaints appropriately to the right quarters or are merely crying wolf.

Perhaps, Guinness needs to re-examine itself, its marketing strategy and its engagement with various stakeholders including its teeming consumers and the media. The Diageo subsidiary seems to be too cautious and conservative with its engagement with the public in an internet-dictated world when the youth, with its large population wants to bubble.

Time was when manufacturers decided what to produce, push the product to the market and it sells. Engagement with the consumer was almost zero. Now technology has reversed all that and Guinness needs to embrace this concept.

With technological evolution, reliance on yesterday’s strategy for marketing today will create disaster for any company that does not want to embrace change. Simply said, the internet has revolutionised a lot of practices including marketing. With the emergence of digital platforms and social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram among others, marketing communication has taken a new look.

Lugard Aimiuwu, marketing and management expert, said recently that “Technology is now constantly disruptive in a very dynamic way; it is constantly reversing all the key elements and aspects of the marketing function. Organisational flexibility will therefore be the key to business sustainability. So it’s all about adaptability – this will be the core strength of any organisation that will exist into the future.”

Similarly, Kola Oyeyemi, president of Advertisers’ Association of Nigeria (ADVAN), said: “Technology is reversing age-old marketing conventions. The era of competitive advantage is gone. I would say that today, we should be talking about temporary competitive advantage.

“Technology is now increasingly having a huge influence on marketing, because technology innovation is redefining the role of the CMO and remoulding the marketing management function globally because technology is so disruptive, companies at best can only plan for 18 to 24 months ahead.

“The youthful profile of the Nigerian market is redefining how companies sell their products and services. How to speak to, attract and sell to these young chaps is a new challenge for firms. The young folks of today were born to the technology era. If we are going to serve them then we will have to unlearn a lot of things…mobile and social devices and systems including Big Data analytics tools and technologies will certainly help us to achieve this.”

As Guinness tries to recruit more youth to its flagship brand – Foreign Extra Stout, the newly introduced Origin, one of the greatest innovations in beer category which won ADVAN innovation award recently and which is doing well in the market with its bitter taste, needs strong market activation to continuously keep it upbeat.

The risk of poor or lack of activation is that if another competitor comes with similar beverage with much hype that will key-in the youth, the market may face another round of complaint on de-marketing.

It is acknowledged that Guinness is a respected multinational brand who takes some of its marketing strategies from the centre for other markets but it needs to step up and rejig its consumer-engagement drive in specific countries like Nigeria with locally developed ideas and country-specific concepts that will engage and resonate with consumers.

Analysts see the latest Madeofblack campaign as largely ingenious, again coming from the centre and they are watching its ability to drive more consumers. Current Nigerian consumers need engagement, they need fun and excitement. Guinness has the capability to engage them.

It is not clear why the Malta Guinness Street Dance Competition, which debuted with ‘Top of the World’ vitality and excitement in 2008, was rested. This is the type of programme that connect with consumers. Guinness needs to speak the language of the current consumer – fun, entertainment – to reverse its dwindled fortunes.

Marian Salzman et al in ‘Harness the Power of Influence and Create Demand’ quotes Amy Finn, marketing strategist in San Francisco, as saying that buzz marketing as a term has evolved. “It used to mean anything the marketer does to make people talk. It was about people on the streets, street teams and stunts. Now I think it means something more thoughtful and strategic than that. Buzz marketing is about creating strategic, compelling programmes that hit people emotionally and credibly. It is about creating relationships between people and brands that influence the choices they make and making them want to embrace the brand.”

Like Tortoise in the folklore, Guinness has over-flogged this issue of perceived de-marketing against its products by the competition; those who sympathised with the multinational at the ‘sunrise’ of the complaints, are now taking another look at the issue, insisting that the brewer needs to stop flogging a dead horse and start singing another tune.

As Guinness retraces its steps in reclaiming lost grounds, it needs to think outside the box and create programmes that will resonate with the public the way ‘Udeme My Friend’ did. Guinness’ sports engagement is not enough. The days of conservatism in marketing are over. This is the time for the youth. They need appropriate engagement to connect properly with the brand.

Article Credit: Businessdayonline

Updated 4 Years ago

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