I am not here to sell groundnuts!
A few years ago, some domestic airlines served Koh Kae brand of peanuts on their flights. Later I discovered in one of the hotels I stay in Abuja that a complimentary pack of that snack is usually put in the fridge for guests. Later, I realized that Koh Kae is a global brand. The peanuts “are wrapped in a coating that is as crispy as it’s tasty, and that means that young and old alike are just crazy about the peanut snacks” says one of their promotional messages. Very true. That is why the Koh Kae peanut brand, originating from Thailand, is exported to more than 50 countries worldwide. In the Philippines, a conglomerate known as Duros Group is a multi-million dollar family business which started in 1987 “from selling peanuts”.
An insignificant amount of money is called “peanuts” while in this country, selling peanuts is synonymous with perpetual poverty. A groundnut seller is an epitome of perennial hopelessness and a symbol of never ending want. This is an irony, because a few decades ago, groundnut was big business in this country. Many of us old enough remember pictures of the famous groundnut pyramids but many youths have no idea what the groundnut pyramids were all about.
The statement “I am not here to sell groundnuts” metaphorically sums up our foolish “get rich quick” mentality. That mentality is why our nation is in such a mess today. It is the reason we are not building brands. Rather, we are either trooping to the synagogues praying for miraculous breakthroughs or resorting to scams and other criminal activity to achieve the elusive breakthrough. We have an endemic aversion to good old hard work and a genetic allergy to honest perseverance. Yet we shout to the high heavens that things are not working in our country. We are like the proverbial fools who live by the river bank yet complain of thirst. We are too lazy to take the water, filter it and bottle it. No. We are waiting for foreigners to buy the water, filter it, bottle it and brand it, so we can import it and boast that we drink imported water. When shall we open our eyes and see that there are brands to be built from everything around us, including groundnuts?
We are always in a hurry, yet we are not getting anywhere. Which is not surprising, because brands are not built in a hurry. We must cultivate the patience that brand building demands. All the resources that should have given birth to great brands today disappeared because of our foolish impatience, native stupidity and unrivalled naivety. Otherwise, our groundnut pyramids should have given birth to famous brands of peanut snacks, proudly made in Nigeria and happily consumed in more than 50 countries around the world. Our palm trees should have given birth to innumerable brands of food and beauty products proudly made in Nigeria and exported to more than 50 countries around the globe. Our cocoa trees should have given birth to some of the world’s best brands of chocolates proudly made in Nigeria and happily relished in more than 50 countries around the world. And our crude oil? I will spare myself some heartache.
Those who are willing to brave the odds and build brands from the scratch are in a pitiful minority and they are daily frustrated by the gang of crooks who hold sway, supported by the legion of morons who hold political offices, having not the vaguest clue about brand building, because nation building is akin to brand building. We must deliver ourselves from this evil clan and liberate our nation and our future from the shackles of backwardness and arrested development. We must unleash the unlimited potential of this country and take our rightful place in the global scheme of things. We must make our nation a conducive place to build brands and it will help if we jettison our self-deceit and false sense of wisdom. We must roll up our sleeves and get down to the serious business of nation building through brand building. Because I do not know of any great nation in the world today that is great without great brands. Except maybe our poor Nigeria, which is only great in adverts and slogans. We must come down to earth and stop calling this country a great nation. It is not. Sad but true.
True brand building begins with soul searching and being true to yourself. You must accept the reality of your situation instead of living in denial. Greatness is not achieved by simply saying it. Neither is it achieved through miracles. There is no great nation in the world today which attained greatness through miracles. The only miracles are molecules. The rest is science and hard work. God has given us the raw materials to work with. We must put our hands and brains to work and build brands we can be proud of. We must stop deceiving ourselves. There is nothing great about us until we have done great things. And right now, it seems regular electricity is even too great for us to accomplish. Seriously, we need to get serious.
We need to move from raw materials to the finished article. We need to move from grandstanding to brand building. We must develop the mentality of brand masters. That mentality is to see brands in everything and to see everything in brands. Brand whatever you do and do whatever you can brand. This is the secret to enduring value creation.
I know a waiter. He always serves customers with a smile. And each time he serves your order, he tells you “Enjoy it”. Some of my friends reading this know the person am referring to. After a while, people started to call him “Enjoy It”. That became his nickname. Unlike his colleagues who see their jobs as a belittling chore, he takes joy in his work. He adds value simply by smiling and telling you “Enjoy it”. Consequently more people prefer him to the others. And of course, he gets more tips. In his own little corner, he has applied some basic principles of branding to gain competitive advantage. Branding is not rocket science. It is simply the process of value creation. But when you have a culture of constant expectation instead of value creation, what happens is a rapid erosion of value as we have witnessed in our country. It is never too late to make a fresh start. We may have a thousand miles to travel, but we don’t make any progress by closing our eyes and expecting to wake up at the desired destination. We must take the first modest step and start moving in the right direction. And if the impatient tell you “I’m not here to sell groundnuts” remind them that if you brand your groundnuts, you’ll earn much more than peanuts.
• Muyiwa Kayode is CEO at USP Brand Management and author of The Seven Dimensions of Branding
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