The Nigerian Obsession With #Power_4_Real Marketing – Please Make It Stop!
Do these hashtags look familiar?
If like me, you have been a regular lurker on Twitter over the past decade, you would definitely have come across more than one of these “Trending Topics” between 2015 and 2016.
If you woke up on a random Saturday morning and grabbed your phone in 2016, chances are once you opened your Twitter app, the Trend Board would have some variation of #Power_4_Real_by_Eze on it.
When someone wants to promote a client or their offering to a large number of people in a short space of time without putting much work in, we referred to the Marketing/Advertising/PR dark arts employed as “#Power_4_Real”.
#Power_4_Real – Does It Work?
The meaning of #Power_4_Real to marketing industry insiders is that if there is something to share with the world, they can bypass traditional gatekeepers like content standards (is it actually any good?), content ownership (do you know what you are talking about?) and organic talkability (do people really find it worth paying attention to?), and blast it to hundreds of thousands of eyeballs after paying a few people.
Like in the South Park episode “Night Of The Living Homeless”, the average person’s experience of going about their everyday business online or offline then becomes polluted by hundreds or thousands of enforced and unwanted interactions with people who want something.
Never mind making information more democratic – social media has actually made it more possible to literally force information on millions of people.
Going back to #Power_4_Real_Eze, what this means is that after recording a song, an artist can decide (without any feedback mechanism) to force information about the song’s existence on every Twitter user in Nigeria.
That’s about 2 million people. All they have to do is pay one of a multitude of “Social Media Influencers” with their Tweet Decks and multiple accounts and Bot followers and voila! For as long as the Twitter hustlers get paid, your content will appear as a “Trending Topic” on Twitter in Nigeria. Nigerians apparently are “talking about your product!”
To a content creator or marketing person, that may sound like the dream, but is it really in practise? Does it work?
Well the curious side of me decided to find back in 2016, so I YouTubed “Power 4 Real Eze”. It turned out that there were just 8 comments on a song posted over a year before I looked it up.
Upon closer examination, it became obvious that all 8 comments were written by one or two people. Its total number of views? 364 views since November 2015.
This after nearly 10 months of almost-constant Twitter bombardment, a VEVO YouTube artist page, a feature on NotJustOK and presence all over Nigerian Internet landmarks. All of these have been paid for.
Yet that expenditure could not buy Mr. 4RealEze any kind of reasonable traction or return on investment. 364 views. In 10 months.
One reason why this sort of brute-force content marketing approach does not work is that the assumption that the audience wants to interact with material regardless of its quality or intrinsic value to them is false. As someone who used to be a full time marketing operator, I have made one clear observation over the years: Consumers. Don’t. Care.
A marketing practitioner’s job is to make them care. They make them care by getting them emotionally invested in their material. In plain language that means they have to like it. The content actually has to be good!
The song used as a case in point was truly terrible – a poorly produced amateurish sound check experiment that should never have left the studio. Yet the decision was made to release it and try to force feed Twitter users in Nigeria with it. This brings us to the second basic problem with #Power_4_Real marketing.
It assumes that audiences will eventually spend their money, time or data bundles on material that is godawful just as long as it is constantly pushed in their faces. #Power_4_Real assumes that Twitter users will eventually click and download a song if it is pushed on them hard enough.
That Facebook users will eventually click on that sponsored post – they just need to see it in their news feeds another 40 or 50 times. That if the marketer is persistent enough, the gentleman coming out of work at 6PM who is ambushed with flyers will eventually agree to set up a payment plan to buy a plot of land in an estate at Ibeju Lekki near Dangote’s refinery…
In reality, we are all selfish. A marketing person is not really trying to change a customer’s life. They are trying to hit their targets and create value for themselves.
Likewise the customer is not interested in how great the offerings or the brand are, but in what is in it for them. The job is to find out what their customer wants and likes, and then devise a means of plugging into that.
Read also: Marketing lessons from the fashion industry
An Alternate Approach
In other words, marketing professionals need to tell their audiences stories that they will voluntarily engage with and respond to. In July 2015, Gulder unveiled a new TVC campaign called “Be The Man”.
As part of the campaign, the brand wanted to push YouTube views of the ad. There were two possible approaches: The #Power_4_Real approach which would mean using the video as a YouTube advertisement, or an organic approach to make people voluntarily click on the video link.
The #Power_4_Real approach would have inflated view count figures to the hundreds of thousands, but you can be sure that most of those views would be from disinterested people waiting for the 5 second YouTube timer to expire so they can click “Skip”. Gulder chose the organic approach and briefed the agency I worked at to come up with an idea.
The solution I came up with as Head of Content at the time was to create an actual story loosely based on the ad and place it on a high traffic platform with the video link at the bottom. The story titled “The Day I Met A Goddess – A Story by David Hundeyin” was featured on Linda Ikeji’s blog where it amassed 118 comments and more than 100,000 views.
The result was that in just under a week, the view count on the video rose from a little over 2,000 views to more than 40,000 views. Yes, the placement on Nigeria’s largest gossip blog may have had an element of #Power_4_Real tactics, and the tongue-in-cheek link bait strategy did not necessarily amuse everyone.
However, it achieved the desired goal – it made the audience voluntarily interact with the content and make an engagement decision of their own volition. Gulder thus gained brand equity with existing and potential customers who believed it was their own idea. What sponsored Twitter hashtag could have achieved this in that situation?
In a market which is officially in recession, brands and content marketing entities are becoming painfully aware of the reality that #Power_4_Real marketing strategies just won’t cut it anymore.
In the face of economic challenges, audiences are disinterested and increasingly less liquid. Marketing budgets are being slashed across the entire country, reducing the reach and scope of brute force marketing. Viral marketing is having to learn how to actually be viral and not artificially stimulated and evaluated.
If marketing practitioners do not have interesting and relatable content to engage audiences with, they will only end up doing the marketing equivalent of what some artists do when the crowd at a concert is standing still staring at them.
You know that thing when they start jumping around onstage screaming “ARE YOU READY?!” and “PUT YOUR HANDS UP IN THE AIR!” to a disinterested, slightly embarrassed audience?
There’s a term for that now.