Nigerians should leverage the power of Internet for productivity, says Adekanmbi
Adebayo Adekanmbi is Chief Marketing Officer of MTN Nigeria. He combines multi-disciplinary competencies as a Brand /Marketing Strategist, Consumer Insight Data Analyst and Business Intelligence professional. He joined the MTN Group in South Africa where he was responsible for global brand strategy, customer insight and Analytics support for its 21 operations. Adekanmbi, who spoke to ADEYEMI ADEPETUN, examines marketing within the ICT landscape, the recent launch of the BetterMe app, and the need for Nigerians to leverage the power of the Internet to improve their lots. Excerpts.
MTN introduced the Next apps Store and followed this up with the launch of the App Developer Challenge as well as the partnership with CCHub to create the MXLab. What are you trying to achieve with these interventions and partnerships?
Applications or Mobile Apps as you know are largely short-cut icons to the world of the Internet. We have realized that in Africa, mobile is the easiest and most dominant platform to access the Internet. Many people cannot afford personal computers. If 90 percent of access is coming via mobile devices, then we need to make the access simpler, easier, and better. When you use a browser to access the Internet, you need to type in WWW plus the web address into the browser. How many of these addresses can they one remember? This explains why the developers of the Internet ecosystem saw the necessity for apps. Apps being shortcuts to pull the web for you and make it easier to access the Internet without much stress.
For us at MTN, one key driver is our resolve to make the lives of our customers better as we enrich their lives by making access to the Internet easier, simpler and faster. This was why we created the MTN NextApp store – we look for content that are life-relevant and have been properly curated and archived and so with one click you can download, access and see what you wanted to see. But we also realized that there was a need to increase local content. If we need the man on the street to use the Internet, then there must be content that is relevant to their experiences. There are over three billion websites on the Internet. How many of those are locally applicable? What will make an ordinary trader in Ibadan log on to the Internet? You need to talk about their amala recipes or some herbal medicine or other things that are of interest to them. It may even be a platform to review Yoruba movies or a place where they get to read the latest gossip about their adored actors and actresses in the vernacular – these things have a direct bearing on the man in the street and that’s what he wants to see online.
We appreciate the dominant Nigerian press, which is more nationalistic, but there are a lot of local issues that people want to read about. What we have done as a business is to partner with Nigerian content developers. Our bigger vision is building the ecosystem of local information sharing in local languages with multiple content creators.
What informed the launch of the Betterme campaign?
This journey started about two years ago with the Be Better campaign, which was our digital brand-positioning message to the market. We were saying that people need to leave good behind and look for the next frontier enabled by MTN’s vast digital portfolio. In brand strategy, there is always an evolution, which is a journey the brand takes and that journey is how to become more relevant to the reality of the market on a consistent basis. We saw that the Internet was a game changer for an average Nigerian, though voice has done a lot. An average Nigerian teacher for example must have access to content like a teacher in America, with the only difference being your location. Since all the content needed for a teacher is already on the Internet, why not promote it and let people know about it? It is still a part of our quest to make information available to ordinary Nigerians. We felt that you as a person, plus the Internet, will deliver something, which is BetterMe.
BetterMe is a simple equation, myself as an ordinary Nigerian plus the power of the Internet that is the leverage, the connection and the opportunity that comes with the Internet will make you become a better me. BetterMe for us is a new social lexicon that defines an ordinary Nigerian who leverages the power of the Internet to do extraordinary things. It is that ordinary mechanic by Obalende Bridge who has become a master in fixing Honda cars, not because he has gone to any school, but because he knows how to go to the Honda website and check the latest trends from Honda, hence attracting more customers, reducing the time he serves the market and making more money for himself. With the My2015 BetterMe app we are bringing the Internet down to the level that every Nigerian can understand and not just talking data. A young lady who is a hair stylist for instance, can post the hair she does on Whatsapp, as a platform to attract a new clientele base. This also speaks to our strategy why small and medium scale entrepreneurs should have their own websites. Going forward, you are going to see instances like www.chukwudiandsons.com, where more Nigerian businesses position themselves for global opportunities. Why should a business use Gmail.com as a corporate email address? There are companies that even disqualify a firm from competitive bid when emails are not sent from official emails like email@example.com. MTN enables this with ease. The my2015 BetterMe app dramatises the role of the Internet powered by MTN in the lives of ordinary people and the resultant effect of the transformation that comes through the power of the Internet.
We understand that the BetterMe app was developed by a Nigerian. Did you do a lot of hand-holding, or the app was ready for the market when it was introduced to MTN?
For us at MTN, the issue of co-creation and collaboration is very critical to our success. In doing this, we help build local businesses which is very strategic and important to us as a responsible corporate player in Nigeria. We have a mandate around that. The my2015 BetterMe app came to us as an already-built concept and we felt that there are a lot of things we can do with it by way of customizing it to meet consumer needs. Looking at the application, there are some MTN products there and of course that was not part of the original prototype, which means that the app has been subjected to a lot of fine-tuning and refinement for relevance, applicability to multiple platforms and also to ensure its size is friendly for small byte browsing This has been a collaborative experience and we give the originality to Neo2, the company that developed it and we are also proud of their achievements as a Nigerian company.
Lots of young entrepreneurs have a fear of approaching large multinational corporations like MTN with their business ideas and plans. Are these fears justified?
At MTN, we run an open door policy because we serve 60 million customers and we won’t pretend that we know it all. As a learning company, our biggest source of learning is our customer and our ecosystem. We want to learn and gain fresh insights. If you are a young man out there looking for a platform where you can share and express your ideas, MTN is the place to go. There are many content developers who have taken the risks to come to MTN. Some people have lost out because they are afraid of their ideas being stolen when they put them forward. For us at MTN, as a responsible organisation, we have succeeded based on our ethical values, which we treasure so much and have placed at the core of our operations. We respect every idea of our partners and anyone that comes to us. If you can’t come directly to MTN, we have created a proposal platform online where you can drop your ideas.
Secondly, you can also walk in through our ecosystems via vendors and suppliers such as advertising and events agencies who work with us and share our values. They can help put your ideas forward to us. You can also bring in your ideas through organised knowledge groups like CCHub. I know that there are various clusters like that around. CCHub has a working relationship with us. They come around and we share learning, we show them our strategy and they understand our focus and where we are going as a business. They in turn aggressively seek content that serves those purposes.
How prepared is MTN and the Nigerian consumer for the required culture shift that follows from your new positioning in embracing a “digital first” approach to customer engagement ?
They are very aspirational and the most sophisticated people you’d find anywhere on the globe! You find maiguards on Facebook or a tailor who uses Whatsapp to chat. We are always at the centre of global evolution and always in touch with happenings all around the world. We are aligning with this quintessential Nigerian spirit to configure a digital first platform that correlates with the driving force of our customers. We are responding to the fact that customers are always on the move, seeking for the next frontiers. In view of this, our subscribers should be sure that their mobile operator, MTN, is proactive, relevant, available and always developing solutions that optimally deliver on their passion, meet their aspirations and even exceed them. That’s our commitment as the market leader.
In terms of how ready the Nigerian consumer is for the required culture shift, I can say that Nigerians are one hundred per cent ready. Looking at how social media platforms are used in Africa, Nigeria is one of the fastest growing. SocialBaker in recent data actually indicated that Nigeria ranked as the No 1 country with the highest social media penetration as a percentage of the population. Hence, we have a ready market. From a consumer perspective, the right drive is there. For us at MTN, we are serving over 60 million subscribers and we have done this so well in the last 14 years.
What other innovations are we to expect from this network going forward?
Firstly, there is a need to reinforce the fact that one of MTN’s core values is innovation – it’s in our genes. From the work ambience, to the working methodology and our philosophy, what drives us is innovation. It is in our culture to create things that change the lives of people every day, every second, every hour. Innovations come naturally to us at MTN. To answer the question of what’s coming next, there are lots of things already in the pipeline and more things are ready for release. From the customer perspective, expect things that make every second of your life count, innovations that enable you to enjoy every moment through simpler, more productive, richer and more exciting solutions.. We are putting customers at the centre at MTN and profiling everything that makes for a better life. I can boldly say that with our collaborative customer intelligence roadmap, we can anticipate and articulate what the future is going to be and we are already creating it through our innovation.