Yesterday, Adam Lanza, a 20-year old boy with no previous criminal records entered into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, USA fully armed with four fire weapons weapons and shortly opened fire on school children as well as teachers. A total of 28 lives were lost to the attack, most of whom were children.

As I ruminate on this sad occurrence, I am compelled to reflect on some of its touch-points. My thoughts are expressed below:

1. We must never seize to thank God for the gift of life because day by day, we come to the rude awakening that if there's anytime that we lost control of the next moment, it is NOW. If there's ever a time when life seems to have more bad than it has good, we should try changing our perspective. There is always something to be grateful about.

2. As a fallout of yesterday's shooting, President Barrack Obama cut short his engagements to swiftly address the Nation on television while struggling to hold back tears. He lead the nation in mourning by inspiring hope and mobilizing the entire nation to rally round the families of the victims. The impact of the president's move on the emotional stability of the nation can not be over emphasized.

On his own part, Dan Malloy, the governor of Connecticut led a vigil last night to pray for the victims and their families.

Back home here in Nigeria  we have had series of National accidents and incidents; plane crashes & terrorist attacks that have claimed several lives, but its a shame that we have never seen our political rulers show the slightest regard for human lives as expressed by these American leaders. What stopped the president of Nigeria from addressing the nation immediately the Aluu 4 killing in River's state made the headlines? Recall that even the President's wife did even cut her party at the Oriental Hotels Lagos when the Dana Plane crash was announced. Oh please! Being a developed or underdeveloped nation has nothing to do with a leader playing his emotional roles as a leader.

We must make concerted efforts when the time arises to enthrone leaders who can play the fatherly role in our nation and not politicians who are just there to play lip service while they feel no emotional pores about our plight as a people.

3. In USA, I see a nation of diverse people that are quick to set aside religious, political or ethnic differences to mourn or celebrate as ONE people when the occasion demands. We must emulate this strong virtue if we should stand a chance of continual coexistence. We must as a people value ourselves. We must not wait for our leaders to lead us in this direction as it obvious that they often throw out the religious and ethnic cards to satisfy their personal agendas shredded in greed and corruption. We can lead them to lead us aright!

Finally, my heart reaches out to the parents and families of those who lost their lives to yesterday's incident and by extension, all those who have lost their loved ones to one incident or accident in Nigeria in the recent past. May the good Lord grant them the fortitude to bear the irreplaceable losses.

Pause and ponder!
 
 
"If you are passionate, you also have to be proactive. Passion alone will never get the work done."

I registered my first business in my 2nd Year at the Federal University of Technology Owerri. With just my meager pocket money for the semester as my start-up capital, I was able to grow the venture to a point where it could sustain me and I no longer relied on my parents back home for upkeep. My entrepreneurial drive was so intense that as at my 3rd year in the school, I had become a major stakeholder in the biggest privately owned computer school on campus at the time - CAD NETWORK pioneered by my good friend, Darlington Onyeagoro. This was an extra source of income aside my privately owned business.

It became clear that on graduation, I was unlikely to pick up a "paid" employment as I was already consolidating my corporate brand equity. However, it was not totally so because fortunately, 2 months after my NYSC in 2008, I was offered a job in one of the biggest multi-national manufacturing companies in Nigeria. Shortly after that, I got a "bigger" offer from a leading commercial bank at the time. However, cummulatively, I did not spend up to 18months on both jobs as the "entrepreneur" in me kept yearning for expression. Even on the jobs, I was an entrepreneur in my right because I took ownership of my function and carried out my tasks within the organization as though it was my private business. This endeared me to my uplines in such a short period that it was somewhat a hard decision to leave one of the jobs to pursue my passion - Brand Communication.

But I knew I had to move, I just had to pursue my dreams so I fueled my passion...Today, I am glad I did. As the CEO of a fast growing Brand Communication Company - identita Brand Concepts Ltd., which by the grace God has served and is still serving leading corporations in Nigeria and beyond, I can tell you from an experiencial stand point that starting and sustaining a business in Nigeria today can be challenging and sometimes discouraging. However two factors that have helped me in my quest aside from my unwavering faith in God and my determination against all odds are my propensity to investment in knowledge and access to sound business mentors.

I reckon that we all face daunting challenges both at work and in business, but it is imperative that we surmount these challenges to build sustainable enterprises if we must stand a chance to liberate ourselves and our nation from economic stagnation. The two ingredients I mentioned above - expanded knowledge and access to sound business mentors - are major catalysts to achieving success in business and profession.

It is on this premise that I invite you to the EMERGING BUSINESS LEADERS RETREAT 2012 holding on Saturday 17th November at Radisson Blu Anchorage Hotels, Ozumba Mbadiwe, Victoria Island, Lagos by 9:00a.m prompt.

The rich line up of speakers at this event include:
•    Dr. M.J.Yinusa, the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Dunlop Group in Nigeria.
•    Mr. F.O. Adetola MAQS, MRICS, FNIQS
•    Mr. Taiwo Otiti, Country General Manager, IBM West Africa
•    Terese Mbama
•    Mr. Chima Nnadozie, Head, MSME Banking, Diamond Bank Plc.

The event will also feature an enterprise round-table with the following discussants:
•    Mr. Chinedu Okpareke, Oando.
•    Mr. Kayode Fasanya, Director at Africa Trade Portal
•    Dcns. Stella Eberechi Uche-Opurum, MD at Rehoboath Microfinance Bank
•    Mrs. Nene Olaoluwa, Julius Berger Nig. Plc
•    Mr. Kayode Ajayi, Insight Communication

The highpoint of this event is that every participant will be connected to a business mentor at the event. These business mentors, men and women of proven integrity and professional excellence will keep interacting with the mentees even after the retreat.

This is a rare opportunity and the first of its kind so I encourage you my friend to embrace the opportunity. Let's develop ourselves to build sustainable enterprises and stimulate economic growth. I look forward networking with you and other young professionals and entrepreneurs.

Click here to access more details about the event or call: 01844 3816, 08066654702, 08098505674 for more information.
 
 
In the past few days, I have watched with keen interest the debates and analysis that have ensued as a result of the recent ban of commercial motorcycle riders (popularly called "okada") on some major roads in Lagos. Quite unlike me, I have carefully avoided the very controversial debate maybe because somehow, I share the feelings and the reasons of the major parties involved in this development; the Lagos State government on the one hand and the large population of okada riders on the other hand.

You will recall that the state recently passed a law restricting okada riders from operating on 475 major highways, roads and bridges in the state. However, just as you will discover in the course of reading this piece that my submission on this issue is based on the timing of the action, I therefore reasoned that the piece itself needed to adhere to the "timing" principle.

Anyway, straight to the point! "Lagos State Government banned okada on major roads in the state, so what? Yes...so what?"

Well, that's obviously not me speaking, I was re-echoing the attitude and utterances of some of the officials of the state government and by extension, sympathizers of the party in power in the state. I definitely do not agree in principle with that kind of attitude. I agree that leadership is about making decisions, sometimes hard decisions for that matter. But I also believe that the modern day reality of leadership presupposes that the success of leadership is to a large extent hinged on the ability to feel the pores of the followers even when making these decisions.

Don't get me wrong, I believe in the Lagos State Government's ability and capacity to drive the engines of development and I acknowledge her giant strides so far. It is evident that Lagos state is no longer what it used to be.
I probably would have just stayed my sentiments with the state government and not bring to fore my salient arguments against the position of the government of the state if not for a recent statement I read in one of the National dailies on this issue, credited to the Speaker of the state Assembly, Mr. Adeyemi Ikuforiji. Apparently, the statement was in reaction to a recent violent protest by the riders. He said if the riders did not stop the vandalisation of government properties, the lawmakers of the state might have no choice but to ban their operations outrightly in all parts of the state.

Then I began to wonder and ponder, could this just be a threat? Or could the speaker actually initiate the process of outright ban? Then I ask myself again, what influences the laws that our lawmakers make, is it a need to ease the the burden in society in order to make society better, or could it be based on a seemingly "powerful" politician's feelings per time? Of course I do not support the rider's action of vandalising public infrastructure, but will we further impose hardship on the generality of Lagosians based on the violent actions of a "minute" minority on one road. Well, I don't intend to dwell on the statements of the speaker, but the effect of his statement is that it has pushed me to express my own views on the recent ban and what I think the state government should have done.

At the recent Lagos Economic Summit (Ehingbeti 2012), the state transport ministry made a fantastic presentation revealing the huge transportation gap to be filled in the state. According to them, commercial transportation still remains a challenge as the daily demand still far outweighs the supply. Which is why the state is trying to open up new transportation channels and have actually done well in increasing the transportation capacity on the waterways to complement the land transport. It will interest you however to note that this presentation was done to justify the need for more investors in the transport sector. So the key fact here is that, as we speak, transportation demand still far outweighs supply. I also know that, the state is investing massively in the light rail system. Hence, I think for the fact that commercial transportation capacity is yet to significantly improve in the state, the government should have delayed the implementation of the ban until the state could guaranty improvement in the transport capacity outside the operations of the commercial motorbikes.

I reckon that the two arguments of the government in this regard are safety & security. While I agree, but I also think there could be creative ways to go about it without necessarily having to subject Lagosians to this hardship. First on the issue of safety, there is no gainsaying that most of the bikers are rough riders. Like the governor would say, they just come into Lagos from their villages, pick up a bike and begin to ride commercially, risking the lives of their passengers. However, in my opinion, the ministry of transport could collaborate with the Okada riders association and run a road worthy certification training for all those who intend to ride on these major roads. Of course the certification training should be rigorous and after that, successful participants are awarded a special licence by the state to operate commercially within these roads with some safety conditions which could include having safety vests and crash helmets for both the rider and the passenger. Of course, not every rider will afford this and this will be a good avenue to sieve. It will also be easy to track any of the certified riders that commit traffic offences on these highways because their complete data would have been imputed in a database...Well, just my thought.

On the security end of it, we need to call a spade a spade and not a farm implement. The police is simply not doing it's job! I have been robbed by these men on bike before and the truth about it is that for those who have had the experience, they can tell the actual spots that you are likely to be robbed by men on the bike. I have personally tried to get the police to lay ambush on these highlighted spots (especially on Ikorodu road and Anthony area) but they are never interested. One begins to get tempted to accept the argument that those robbers on bike collaborate with the police and sometimes they are policemen..(sshhhhhh!!!! I didn't say so o!). But I think the solution to that issue could be found in better policing, shikenah!

On the health front, I believe the state government did not think critically about the health impact of this ban on Lagosians before taking this action. This past week, I saw more than triple the number of people waiting at bus-stops for buses before and after work. That mad rush for buses alone is a stressor that can break people down. Imagine having to go through that rush in the morning to find your way to the office. You eventually get to work successfully, maybe not in good time and as such you get queried by your boss and then after the hard days work, you have to contend with the mad rush again to get back home. You eventually do get home say at about 9-11pm and then you have to do one or two domestic chores before hitting your bed to wake up 4:30am the following morning. That's some huge accumulation of stress that I think only our medical experts can interpret the long term implication. Often times, these bikes ease the stress, you just do not know.

Finally, has anyone in the state government made provisions to employ these latest "jobless" folks? If not, are we at least equipping the police to tackle crimes? I do not prophesy doom, but we all know that the relationship between joblessness and crime rate is directly proportional so I'm just reminding the state government incase their mathematicians didn't do the permutations right.

I have just stated my own ideas about the way and manner the state government could have gone about the whole saga given that in my opinion, the timing was wrong. Fix 3rd mainland bridge, provide more lag buses, improve water transportation, increase commercial transportation capacity (aside okada), possibly wait for the completion of the light rail project then BAN OKADA OUTRIGHTLY. Otherwise, there are other creative ways around it... Like I said, it's just my opinion!

Eko o ni baje o!
 
 
If there is any battle that brands must fight today, it is the battle of relevance. Brands must continually remain relevant or close shops. We presently live in an over-communicated world where millions of brands are jostling for attention and patronage; each fighting to win a share of the consumer’s pocket. While some Brands have fallen by the way side, some are dying gradually yet some ironically are thriving and expanding their frontiers. It is a matter of how relevant each brand has remained in the ever dynamic market terrain. It is important to correct the erroneous impression that Brands die because theyhave stayed long in the market,they only die because they have failed to remain relevant in the market. Brands like Coca Cola, Gala, Maltina, Star, Guinness, First Bank and UBAhave spent decades in the market and are still waxing stronger yet some Brands did not live to celebrate their first anniversary in the market,the missing link cannotbe over-emphasized,they stopped being relevant too soon.

The undoing of many Brands is that they have adopted the “siddon look” approach in the market, they are comfortable with their performance (probably because they are enjoying near monopoly), and hence they rest on their oars and tell themselves they have arrived. The market terrain changes, the consumer changes, the media changes (all with little or no warning) but such Brands still remained the same. They consider themselves as doing well in the market simply because they still have Brand loyalists, but unknown to them those consumers remained loyal to the Brands due to lack of viable alternatives. Then suddenly from the blues, a competing product storms the market, with better offerings and via contemporary media and totally takes over the market sending the ‘siddon look’ brand to its grave. The will power to fight back is non-existent because the erstwhile Market leader has rested on its oars and was caught unawares. Some dominant brands(case studies include Indomie noodles, Coca-Cola and Peak Milk) have however survived several onslaughts from new entrants into the market who have come with the intention to send them packing, simply because they were not caught sleeping when the onslaught came, they remained relevant and have continually evolved and adapted to the dynamic terrains of the market.

In order to remain continually relevant:

Brands must keep talking: Some brands only talk when they see competition in sight while some talk all of the time. Brands that must remain relevant should not wait for competition to force the words out of their mouths; they must keep talking all of the time so they can retain their TOMA (Top of mind awareness) with their consumers. Indomie noodles kept promoting its brand aggressively across media even when it had no competition in the noodles sector of the market, hence when the competitors launched their onslaught, it was not just able to survive it;today it keeps waxing stronger in the market.

Brands must engage: the era of “talking to” consumers seems to be gradually fading away while a new era, that of “talking with” consumers is rapidly taking over. Brands must create platform for feedbacks from their consumers, they must continually engage them. Brand Communication in present days cannot continue to be one-way or vertical; it must be a continuous dialogue. Only Brands with listening ears will survive the coming years. Engaging the consumer is a viable mean of understanding how the mind of the consumer works. It also gives them a sense of belonging.

Brands must ply the digital route: It is rather disheartening to note that some brands have refused to accept the digital revolution and failed to leverage on it to boost their fortunes in the market. The Internet still remain the greatest singular invention that has changed the face of every activity in the world (my opinion). Every business that wants to be relevant must be on the internet making use of websites, Social media marketing (Facebook, twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn etc.), Blogging, E-mail marketing and so on. Brands that still believe that all they need to do is only erect billboards all over town, air TV Commercials, produce a Radio Jingle and place a Press advert will soon find themselves in the dustbins of history.

Brands must continually check on their USPs: The USP (Unique Selling Proposition/Point) of a brand is what separates it from the pack. It is that unique reason why that Brand is preferred over other competing Brands. It however ceases to be a USP when other brands can also provide that same offering. What used to be a USP has the tendency to become commonplace with time. Cowbell milk stormed the market years ago with the USP of being the first milk brand in sachet in the Nigerian market hence engendering affordability. It will however be foolhardy for the custodians of that brand to still hold on to that as a USP because milk in sachet now is a norm rather that an exception. When your USP has become commonplace, the logical thing is to come up with a new one.

Brands must go experiential: Conventional advertising has been likened to shooting into a crowd while experiential marketing is shooting at a target. Experiential marketing takes the Brand to the target audience so they can experience it first-hand. The Brand is not waiting for the Consumers; it had decided to go lay ambush for them where they congregate. Road shows, Town/Market Storms, Brand Activation, Sales Activation, Sampling, Events etc are viable experiential tools that help to induce trial and first purchase by the consumer. They are also good avenues to educate consumers on Brand features/attributes. Experiential marketing helps to generate word -of –mouth- buzz around a brand and facilitate mind recall for it.


Seye Farotimi is a Brand Communication Expert; He is the Lead Strategist at SPISH Concepts, a Brand Communication Consultancy based in Lagos, Nigeria, he can be contacted via seye.farotimi@spishconcepts.com.ng/08074725402 


 
 
It was a great privilege to be called upon to present at the 1st online meeting of the African Business and Communication bloggers, a social network of Business, brand and social media commmunication experts scartered across Africa. Being a group driven by new media, it therefore explained the choice of Skype as the platform for this all important meeting that drew professionals from across Africa.

My brief presentation and discussion was centred on the "Nuggets to help you make the most of Social Ads". The aim of the presentation was to share 3 crucial nuggets that I have found out from research and of course my Social media expereience that are vital in maximizing returns on investment as regards Social Media Ads.

A summary of these nuggets are as follows:

1. The Arrow-head principle
This principle states that in running your social ad campaigns, narrow your message to difference audience rather than just mass-messaging. Customizing your message to fit each group will not only ensure targeted audience respond fast but it will also expose to you which group responds best. If you target people according to a specific interest—say, “soccer” or “entertainment”— make sure you mention that interest in the text of the ad. It’s worth taking the time to think of all the possible keywords that relate to your product or business and then testing to see which ones are most effective.In effect, you could create as much as 5 different Ads for a single Ad campaign.

2. Guage and Engage
Since social actions have been identified as key incredients for the success of Facebook Ads, this point promotes the enrichment of your facebook page with interesting activities, creative multimedia and apps that will engage and systematically "lock-down" traffic linked from these Ads. This will drive a virtuous cycle between users’ interacting with the Page and clicking on your ads.

3. Be Unique
Incidentally, this is the brand driver for our organization (identita - www.identitanigeria.com). This point encourages Ad creators to create Ads that stand out. There should be a good doze of creativity in social Ad design. Your Ad shouldn't look like everyother Social Ad but should stand out in clearity and creativity. Just as Kenny Badmus (Chief Imagination Officer at Orange Academy) says, its time to turn on the "magic" in Social Ads.

Indeed it was a great interaction with fellow professionals and I look forward to subsequent sessions.

If you have questions or opinions, feel free to post your comments on this blog.

Ugochukwu Ezeagwula
me@ugochukwuezeagwula.com