Ekine:Consumers should take responsibility for validating products that deliver value
Akonte Ekine is the Managing Director of Absolute PR Ltd, a foremost reputation management firm. He is also a Co-founder and Managing Director of Consumers Value Broadcasting Ltd., a multi-channel platform for celebration of brands and people.
In this interview with CHIJIOKE IREMEKA, the convener of Consumers Value Awards says consumers should take responsibility for validating products that deliver value.
What’s the idea behind Consumers Value Awards and how can it improve on consumers-manufacturers’ relationship?
CONSUMERS Value Awards is an opportunity created by Consumers Value Broadcasting to create value-based conversation between consumers and service/product manufacturers in the market that would serve as a mechanism to celebrate brands that keep to their promises. A concept like this in the developed world would make brands to wake up, but here, it is almost like the brands don’t care about the reaction of the consumers so long as they sell.
It is, therefore, an attempt to draw quality conversation on consumers’ experiences in the market, which would also influence and shape the behaviour of service providers and manufacturers in the country. We think it is time for conversations around consumers to make headlines from subjects of value and total brand experience. We want to celebrate brands and people from promises made and kept. What this will do in the market is to wake a consciousness within the stakeholders. It is time we all get real value for money.
Look at what is happening across board in the market, it is almost a case of the manufacturer forcing the consumers to take it or leave it. I think that shouldn’t be the case.
As consumers, we have rights that must be respected by the manufactures and service providers. How can you package a product with oversised material and yet be happy to place the product in the market? That’s deception.
There are many other issues that would emanate as we celebrate brand excellence from the perspective of the consumers, which is the reason we are asking consumers to vote for brands that delivered on brand promises. We do hope that knowing that consumers are validating brands would enhance the consciousness of the manufacturers to deliver better products and services.
When you say conversations around consumers, what does that entail?
Conversations around consumers mean everything around people that involves transactional activities from the exchange of values between people and products, good or bad. Once we have a conversation that is around value exchange, it becomes a topical content for us and among us the consumers.
For instance, a bank with red colour in this country is presently doing things that could be described as terribly bad, affecting a consumer’s reputation, but that story is not making the headline, because that bank is a major advertiser with a series of platforms or the bank is too big to be challenged. That is a worthy conversation that should affect the news.
Does this award address the issues you have raised, especially poor services and products churned out to the consumers in Nigeria where the consumers’ rights are almost not in existence?
The first thing here is to understand that consumers have been dealt with the short end of the stick with inferior and fake products, as well as poor service experiences in various sectors of the economy. Our goal is to raise the voice of the consumers to the extent that product manufacturers and service providers will start working on ensuring that the products claims match the brand experience.
For instance, a product comes in big package, which means that the consumer looking at the product is buying a big product, but when he paid for the product and got to his/her house, the content of the product is half the size of the big package. In this situation, where does he or she go to register his disappointment? Now, if one consumer with that experience comes to the Consumer Value Broadcasting channels to narrate that experience, it becomes a warning to the entire market of the new fraud of the manufacturers in the market and conscious effort would be in the open by consumers to avoid such a brand.
Our goal is to educate and influence consumers towards enjoying the eight rights of the consumers. The award will mark the commencement of statement of validation and badges of honour for brands that are sincere and this would save the consumers from buying fake and wrong products.
Again, look at what is happening with pharmaceutical industry, where we have fake products, yet the consumers don’t have alternative. They buy and suffer the pain of such consumptions. We are saying that with this award, consumers should take the responsibility of validating products that deliver value. We can go on and on to the extent that you can go.
Also look at the telecommunications sector where the data you bought was sold to you to last certain number of days, but alas, you don’t even enjoy it for 24 hours, which is not right. If my experience does not tally with the brand claim, I should be a gatekeeper to the next consumer to be aware of that and therefore, the company responsible would wake up.
Again, look at the airlines, you are penalised for missing your flight, but when these same airlines canceled or delayed flight, you don’t even get the ‘sorry’ word from them appropriately. People are messed up at the airport; kept for almost 24 hours waiting for flight and behold nothing happened. We can’t continue like this; we must hold brands responsible and accountable based on promises they made to consumers.
You mentioned eight consumers’ rights but didn’t explain what they were. Could you throw more light on what these rights are?
Okay, the first one is the right to satisfaction of consumer’s basic needs and that has to do with access to basic, essential goods and services, such as adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, public utilities, water and sanitation.
The next is right to safety; that is to be protected against products, production processes and services that are hazardous to health or life. There is the right to be informed. The consumers have the right to be given the facts needed to make an informed choice, and to be protected against dishonest or misleading advertising and labelling.
Consumers have the right to choose or be able to select from a range of products and services offered at competitive prices with an assurance of satisfactory quality. There is the right to be heard and that is to have consumers’ interests represented in the making and execution of government policy, and in the development of products and services. Of course, there is the right to redress; to receive a fair settlement of just claims, including compensation for misrepresentation, shoddy goods or unsatisfactory services.
We cannot forget that there is the right to consumer education; to acquire knowledge and skills needed to make informed, confident choices about goods and services, while being aware of basic consumer rights and responsibilities as well as how to act on them. And finally, the consumers have the right to a healthy environment to live and work; an environment that is non-threatening to the well being of present and future generations.
How does this award work and how transparent is the process?
Consumers Value Awards is the initiative of Consumers Value Broadcasting, a multi-channel platform created to celebrate consumer related activities. The company is young and dynamic with broadminded people with wide experiences in conversation and reputation management. It is a very transparent initiative under the workings of technology. A website was created for the public to vote for brands considered to have delivered value to the customers and to be able to vote, you have to register your email address based on prompting of the site. This would lead to the generation of a One-Time-Password (OTP) number that would confirm your details.
This confirmation means you are registered to vote within a category and if you want to vote in same category again, you will not be allowed. However, you are allowed to go through same process of registration on another category to be able to vote. The essence is to discourage multiple voting using different devices. It is 100 per cent transparent and we think the people that came to the site are happy with it.
Does the award come with cash reward or just a mere recognition from your company?
We are trying our best to encourage consumers to vote for brands they considered good enough for the recognition. We are only giving a badge of honour to the winners as a statement of value for them to take to the market.
Who is considered for the award? Also, who can vote and be voted for?
All brands are considered for the awards. However, the only way the brands can be validated as a worthy brand is when the brands get the right level of numbers in the voting process done by the consumers. We created a platformand requested for consumers to vote for brands based on experiences.
For three full month, May all through June 2022, we were encouraging the public weekly to visit the site and vote for brands that were listed based on consumers observation in the market and a couple of focused group initiatives conducted in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano and Abuja to nominate brands that could be considered as brands of value for money within various segments of the market. The only brand that is not considered for the award is the brand that didn’t get the right level of votes to win.
Anyone with the Internet or a phone good enough to access the Internet is eligible to vote. So, as long as you are able to fill in the details expected, you are good to vote. Once you are a consumer of a product, you have the right to vote for or against the brand. For a start, we created only about forty different categories based on the baseline research we conducted at inception and from there; anyone that is interested can come online to vote.
Has any company been rewarded before now or is this the maiden edition?
This is the very first attempt of doing consumers value awards from our understanding.
We have presented a list of brands to the public for evaluation based on experience.
To ensure higher degree of participation, we wrote to all companies listed to campaign for their brands, we specifically stated in the letter our objectives and the reason these brands were listed for consideration. At the end of the day, after three months of voting, we are planning to announce the result. This is a comprehensive result, because we announced the first result after the first month of voting in major national dailies including The Guardian.
At the end of the second month, we also announced the result of the voting, hoping that brand owners would see the need to push for votes from the perspective that they have a good product in the market place, a product they are proud to celebrate with the consumers.
How does the voting works and when is the award?
Again, it is fairly simple for anyone that can use a telephone or any other device. Visit the consumers value platform and cast your vote within any of the categories listed and that vote will give value to the ratings of the brand as a value for money brand.
The award is scheduled for August 24, 2022, at the Radisson Blu Hotel Ikeja. We have done our part and the stage is set; we expect brands to appreciate what we are doing for them to get the right attention in the country.