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By Eric Eghaghe
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As the world changes at an increasingly rapid rate, as companies continue to seek new ways of reaching out to consumers in order to move their products and gain upper hand in a globalized economy, what are the next “Big Things” in engaging the Nigerian consumer? This was the question that a marketing colloquium at the Lagos Business School (LBS) sought to provide answers to on the 14th of February.

Organised by the LBS Alumni Association in partnership with Proximity Communications as part of the 5th year anniversary celebration of the rapidly growing company, the seminar was themed “Engaging the Nigerian Consumer: The Next Big Things” and had heavyweight speakers in the Nigerian marketing communications space. Moderated by Idy Enang, the former Managing Director of Samsung Nigeria, the speakers included Austin Ufomba, current Marketing and Innovation Director of Guinness Nigeria, a post he previously held at Coca-Cola Nigeria, Kachi Onubogu, the Commercial Director of Promasidor Nigeria, and Enitan Denloye, the Brand and Communications Director at Etisalat Nigeria.

In setting the ball rolling, Rotimi Olaniyan, the Managing Director of Proximity Communications, articulated the reason behind the colloquium. Noting that it was very rare for marketing professionals to gather together for intellectual discourse, he saw the gathering as an opportunity to have a “collision” of ideas that can accelerate the growth and development of the marketing practice in Nigeria.Reminding the audience of the importance of brand building, he noted that brands are the ultimate social construction and their success is largely measured by the ways they are communicated to and engaged by consumers.

In ending, Mr Olaniyan charged the speakers to throw light on a number of key questions that address the central issue of engaging the Nigerian consumer in the post-modern age that we live in. These include the next areas of focus, the challenges faced by brand owners, and the opportunities arising from the digital age.

In his presentation, Mr Denloye highlighted the increasingly youthful outlook of the Nigerian consumer and the disparity in male and female buying power. With roughly half the Nigerian population below the age of 15, he sees growth areas in the use of smarter technology, online shopping, fashion, music and entertainment. With this scenario, he foresees a situation where growth of a very educated and discerning consumer leads to an exponential growth in the market as leading international brands scramble for the Nigerian consumer. In addition, he opines that consumers will be spoilt for choices even as companies focus more on improving consumer experience of their brands.

In the same vein, Austen Ufomba gave a graphic picture of the changing demographics of the Nigerian consumer. Using statistics, he demonstrated that the Nigerian population remains largely young and youthful with a growing affluent and middle class. Based on this, he believes that growth will be driven by a willingness to re-invent the marketing space. For him, key areas where this will happen include a change in focus to “finding” the consumer in his/her comfort zone. Others will be the need for brands to seek value in “Earned Media” (especially on social platforms) rather than the traditional “Paid Media” platforms of TV, Radio and Press. Other big areas for growth in his analysis will include digital media and experiential marketing especially as consumer experience becomes crucial in driving growth.

Addressing the theme from a completely different and philosophical angle, Kachi Onubogu sought to define the key words in the theme – consumer and engagement. In doing so, he posited that brands should imbibe the keys that bring consumers “alive”. These he listed as the feelings of being loved, appreciated, understood, protected, and fulfilled. For him, brands that engage consumers and facilitate such feelings are already on their way to big things in the future.

While reviewing all the presentations, Mr Enang paid glowing tributes to all the speakers. He noted the cross fertilization of ideas, similarities in identified focus areas especially in digital media, experiential marketing and consumer experience, and brilliance of delivery. In closing, he advocated an even more extensive discourse on the topic, especially in the face of the changing political and cultural climes of the country.

Earlier, in his welcome address, the Director of the LBS Alumni, Henry Onukwuba, had welcomed participants and thanked them for finding time even on a Valentine Day. True to his words, the evening proved a fully enlightening and rewarding one for attendees. Little wonder that part of the discussion at the post seminar dinner was about the next edition of the marketing colloquium and the need to make it a regular feature of the LBS activities.