Nigerian business environment is indeed very unique not your typical business atmosphere in the develop world of Europe and America. The same way that when you are doing business in Asia you have to put the uniqueness of the Asian environment at the back of your mind, the same apply to Nigeria, you have to know that you are in Nigerian part of Africa. Factors such cultural background, religious practices, geography must be included in your strategic master plan for penetrating the market. There are over three hundred and fifty (350) ethnic groups in Nigeria, different religious practices and varied climatic conditions from the rainy rain forest in the south to arid climate of the extreme North. Likewise the distribution of wealth between these diverse areas is not evenly distributed, while the North is full of poor peasant farmers, the South is crammed with semi employed graduates. While the average Hausa man in the North get most of his news and entertainment from radio, an average Yoruba man prefers to read the daily paper for the same benefits; but for an Igbo man in the South TV is more important to all these. If anything he wanted to watch his favourite Nigerian film. While a typical northern elite is politically inclined the northern poor is not as he is more of a farmer; as for Yoruba elite he/she is more of corporate individual and for his lower ranking tribesman he/she is a civil servant. But for the Igbo elite he is a successful businessman who transform into a politician, while his poor Igbo brother is a trader. In the North religion is an important barometer in measuring any brand, but in the South religion play a lesser role as cultural and economic considerations compete with it for prominence. Corruption is endemic in the Nigerian public sector making some big brand names to go out of their ways in order to get government approval of the products or services they are selling.
There are hundreds of brands in the Nigerian market; some very popular brands in Nigeria includes Dangote, GTBank, First Bank, Nestle, MTN, Glo, Coca Cola, Cadbury, PZ Cussons, Unilever, Zenith Bank, UBA, Thisday, Daily Trust, Oando, AP, Total, to mention just a few. Like in any other economy around the world building a brand is not a one day affair, as it takes years to build a strong brand. None of the brands I have mentioned above has been built in less than 10 years in the Nigerian market. Some like First bank are over a century old, while others like the telecommunication giant Glo take about a decade to built their brand; but take a lot of hard work, creativity, and money to achieve that. In all of these brands, the vision is long term not short term profit; for example, Daily Trust a newspaper that originated from the Northern town of Kaduna in 1998 and later moved to Abuja, has the long term vision of being a world class media company that earns public trust. To be world class and earn public trust cannot be achieved in one day or even a decade; some of the biggest media companies in the world like the Economists magazine of London and the New York Time have been in existence for over a century. Dangote brands in the Nigerian market are known for their superior quality, like wise the goods produced by Nestle. An ordinary Nigerian consumer value quality over everything, this is because of the economic conditions they found themselves that made valuable commodities to be very scarce and important leaving consumers with no option than to look for value for their scarce money resources. But, there are certain contexts in which the Nigeria consumer manages with goods of lower quality because of the price charge for high quality goods or services.
The position a particular brand has in consumers’ consciousness and the impression it made on them is very important for brand long term sustainability. As if it is a religious obligation an average Nigerian value word of mouth very highly, if a friend or neighbour says that he has tried a particular product and found it very good, the impression last in his mind. He keeps the same perception of that what others said and what he himself tried, even when others brings counter idea about the usefulness of that products. Many brands names have used that to continue to maintain their market lead; take for example first Bank, many Nigerians believe that First bank is the safest bank in the country; they don’t care much what the current Central bank supervisory report says about the bank. The same is true of Panadol, the pain killer; people still believe that if a pain killer is not Panadol then it is not a pain killer. Even when there are other new tablets that perform better than Panadol, which I am sure was what the makers of the product noticed in those years that made them to come with their more powerful pain killer called Panadol Extra( a kind of brand extension). Some major Nigerian brands made it because they are the first in that particular segment of the market; this is where Panadol comes in again. All paracetamol are called Panadol irrespective of their brand names. It is normal to hear an average Nigerian entering a pharmacy to ask ‘give me Panadol’; the shop attainder know that what he means was paracetamol, and therefore, gives him any brand of paracetamol. Another product which is first in the market and its name has become synonym with goods in that segment of the market is OMO a powder detergent. Today in most part of the country every kind of detergent is call OMO, whether it brand name is Klin, or Elephant. Who is first to enter the market, like in all other market around the world, still has important role to play in building a brand. That also explain why late enters find it difficult to get establish in that market segment, unless they come with something very innovative.
We now come to the role of communication in this whole agenda; as the most populous country in Africa with over 160 million people a brand needs a widespread mediums to take the story of its brand to it potential customers. Like I made mention in the first paragraph of this article, each region or tribe in the country have it popular medium of receiving information and advertisement. Radio dominates in the north, TV and newspapers in the south; though as the economy of the country grows this line of distinction is blurring. There are over twenty national newspapers and magazines in Nigeria; some of the big ones include The Guardian, The Punch, Daily Trust, Thisday, Vanguard, The News, The Tell, News watch, The Sun, Leadership, The Nation, People Daily, National Mirror, and Blueprint. Likewise TV and Radio stations, there are over sixty of them from Lagos to Kano, and Port Harcourt to Abuja. There are also satellite channels that are coming on stream, as well as many internet mediums for advertisers to sell their brands. Of the major brands mentioned here, for example, MTN, Glo, GTBank, and First bank are among the major advertisers in the country spending billions of Naira in advert budget, and using most of the mediums mention here including outdoor advertising to achieve their goals. It is not surprising; therefore, that these brands have become what they are today looking at the diverse strategy they are using to communicate their brands messages to their target audience. Newspapers in the country make billions of Naira from advert annually making it their major source of revenue more than what they realized from sales. These big brands also sponsor major programs and events such as sport (MTN and Glo), entertainments shows (MTN, Glo, and Etisalat), Carnivals (Dangote and Etisalat), Musicals (MTN, Glo, Etisalat), and foundations (Dangote and MTN). The marketing communication industry in Nigeria is yet to mature like is seen in the developed countries, but it is playing an important role in the brand communication program in the country. There is no way a brand can sustain it appeal in Nigerian market for the long run without involving the media, looking at the competitive nature of the Nigeria market environment.